Patagonia, Arizona

Patagonia, Arizona, that is, in particular Patagonia State Park.

Still reading: Dominguez-Escalante Journal


September 24th & 25th

It’s time for me to relax and camp by myself for a day. So from Tombstone I drive to Patagonia State Park in southern Arizona, not far at all from the border at Nogales. The town of Patagonia itself is an interesting and rather pretty place with much greenery. To learn more, look here. And for pictures look here.

I arrive in the late morning and find a campsite. I have to pay for a full hookup to get the campsite I want, an isolated one near the lake, but it’s worth it:

1_Campsite 1

If you look hard, to the right, you can catch a glimpse of the lake.


More views of my campsite…

2_Campsite 2

…that evening…

3_Campsite 3

…and the next morning…

4_Campsite 4


A few views of the campground, from my campsite, as the sun comes up.

5_Campground 1_morning


I’m nearly alone here. The nearest neighbors are way over there…

6_Campground 2_nearest neighbors

…and in the morning light I take a picture of my silhouette:

8_Campground 4_me_shadow

I’m starting to take a real interest in photography.


Here’s a view from my campsite, towards the east, taken that evening…

10_View_evening 1_east

…and towards the west, taken the next morning:


Again, you get a glimpse of the lake down below.  I promise you I’m taking you there soon.


But first here’s a view of the evening sky, to the west…

12_Sky_evening 2_west

Desert sunsets are terrific…

…as are the sunrises:



Now, at last, down to the lake, and to my new swimming hole:

14_Lake 1_to shore & swimming hole


Swimming is allowed at most points on the lake.

15_Lake 2_evening_west


The view across the lake in the morning…

19_Lake 6_morning across

…and here’s my swimming hole again. I swim a lot while I’m here.

20_Lake 7_bank


Patagonia Park is rich in wildlife and is of particular interest to bird watchers. The trail you see here in the background is a nature trail leading to the far eastern end of the lake and is designed for birding. The cactus we see here is called a barrel cactus or a fish hook cactus. I’ve seen one before, at Dirk’s place. In this picture it looks as though another plant is growing out of the top…

26_Plants_barrel cactus 1

…but this picture gives you a better idea…

27_Plants_barrel cactus 2

…and this picture, taken at Dirk’s place, shows some of the spines that look like fish hooks, hence the name fish hook cactus:



If you follow the birdwatcher’s trail for a ways, you see a lot of plants typical in the region:

25_Plants_ with a tree


When I first arrive here, I take a long hike along the birdwatching trail and then through the rest of the campground area.  I don’t take any pictures, though, as the sun is directly over head.

Closer to my campsite, and in the morning, I find a lot of  interesting photo opportunities, such as this cholla…

30_Plants_cholla and tree 2

…and these berries…

32_Plants_red berries 1 33_Plants_redberries 2

…though I have no idea what they’re called…

34_Plants_orange berries


I find a few flowers too…

22_Flowers 1_white

…and some wild morning glories:

23_Flowers 2_morning glory 1 24_Flowers 2_morning glory 2

There are a lot of morning glories in the area and I take a lot of photos, but most of my photos don’t look very good. I experiment with the zoom a lot and I have a lot to learn.

I’m happy at this campsite and at this campground, and I figure it’s worthwhile to pay for a full hookup even though I can’t really use it with Van. When the sun goes down I can plug in the computer and work through the evening without fear of running down the battery too much, right? I’ll get all caught up with the blog, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! As soon as I try to turn on the computer hordes of inects descend upon both me and the screen.  And I do mean hordes.  By eight o’clock in the evening I give up and go to bed. The sun goes down early here, which is a good thing in this heat, but eight o’clock is early to go to bed. I don’t mind going to bed so early, but I do mind waking up so early, like 4 a.m. I can read in Van, but in this environment, even there, my light attracts a lot of bugs.

Otherwise, I’d like to stay here for another day or two. But Van has an appoimtent to be serviced, so I must be on my way after just one day.  The next stop is Tucson.

Portal, Arizona

September 20th to 23rd

The community of Portal, where my friend Dirk lives a good part of the year, is located in the extreme southeast of Arizona. It’s a small place, but it’s big on scenery. This is Portal Road, that leads from Highway 80 to the Chiricauhua Montains…

1_road to Chiricauhua Mts and Portal from Hiway 80

…where we find the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon:



I’ve mentioned that Cave Creek Canyon, Portal and its surrounding areas have been very hard hit by the recent heavy rains in the southwest. This is one of the National Forest Service buildings in the Portal area, just a short way up the canyon:

3_NFS building near Portal


And this is the view today just across the road, where the rains created a raging torrent a few days ago:

4_view of Cave Creek from road


A nearby road is closed…

4b_nearby road is out

…and doesn’t look like it’ll be open again soon, to the great concern of the community:

4c_and not likely to soon be repaired


Upstream and down, the same devastation…

4c_upstream 4d_and  down, the same devastation

…under continually menacing skies:

4e_under ever menacing skies


A ranger allows us to drive up to Sunny Flat Campground. I say “allows” because this road, too, will soon be closed to traffic…

5_Sunny Flat campground up canyon; will save the...

At first glance, things don’t look too bad. Notice the heavy vegetation below the rock formations, the tall trees in particular:

6_notice the heavy vegetation... 7_birding...

The vegetation here, and the shelter of the canyon, make this area one of the most attractive bird watching areas in the world. Indeed, “birding” brings people here from everywhere. Scientists too, come here to study the riparian habitat of this very unique canyon.


But let’s leave the devastation for further investigation tomorrow. Here’s the sunset from Dirk’s house:

9_sunset from Dirk's 10_sunset bis


The eastern sky this evening is nice too:

11_eastern sky in evening over vegetable garden


The same eastern sky the next morning:

12_eastern sky morning from Dirk's


Here’s the house Dirk is building. The morning light hasn’t quite reached it yet:

13_Dirk's house under construction and other house


A short distance way we see the house of Dirk’s neighbor. This house, though situated at some distance from the creek, was nevertheless flooded.

15_neighbor's house, flooded


The western sky this morning:

17_and rises further 18_mysterious canyon mouth

I have to admit that Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me.


This morning we decide to go for a hike to assess the damage. We park only a short way up the canyon…

20_we drive up the canyon for a hike...


…the view across the road is not encouraging:

21_view across the road


Dirk sets out on the trail:

22_Dirk sets out along the trail

We’re on the Cave Creek Nature Trail, that will take us up the canyon along the creek to Sunny Flat Campground and further:

In some places the trail and its surroundings seem to be untouched…

23_in some places the trail is untouched

23b_untouched trail

…and we see the normal vegetation…

24_an we see the normal vegetation

…like this cholla and this prickly pear…

25_this cholla

26_prickly pear

…these flowers…

26c_flowers2 26d_flowers3

…a prickly poppy…

26e_sacred datura

…and this wild morning glory. I told you I’d find one, didn’t I?

26f_told you I'd find a wild morning glory


But suddenly the flood damage becomes apparent…

27_then suddenly, the flood damage is there

…the creek has cut new channels…

28_the creek has cut new channels

…we see just how high the water level rose…

29b_water level

…and the extent of the damage across the canyon floor.

30_and now wide across the canyon floor


The grass has been flattened…

31_everywhere the grass has been...

…like this yucca…

31b_as has this yucca

The trail, too, became a channel in some places…

32_the trail itself became a channel

…much debris has been deposited…

35_and much debris deposited

…and this bench was under water…

36_this bench along the trail was under water


Above Sunny Flat Campground the rock formations remain serene…

38_ rock formations above are superb 38b_another rock formation


We follow the road back down the canyon towards Portal…

39_the road is covered with sand and silt

…silt and sand have been deposited all across the canyon floor.

40_as is the forest floor

This road has been partially washed out…

42_part of the road has been washed out

…and isn’t likely to be repaired soon.

43_and won't soon be repaired


Dirk wades through a still-flooded part of the road:

44_Dirk walks through a still-flooded part of the road


In some places the road is now part of the creek:

44b_in some place the water over the road is still deep


This camprgound was completely flooded…

45_one of the many campgrounds...

…and nearby a new spring has appeared…

46_nearby a new spring has appeared

…which continues to pour water onto the grounds.

47_and pours water into the campground


Later, back in Portal and on a lighter note, these javelinas, or peccaries, roam the village.

49_back in Portal...javalinas

They’re a wild new world pig and not related to swine. I say “on a lighter note”, but in fact javelinas can be real pests.

50_javalina bis

You can learn more about them here.

The people of Portal are understandably concerned about how and when the infrastructure on which they all depend will be repaired. They’re also concerned about the canyon itself. As one of Dirk’s friends said to us, “This canyon is why we’re here.”

Mother Nature will likely find a way to take care of the canyon, though it will take time.

As I said ealier, Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me. Here’s the canyon sky at the end of the day:

48_canyon sky at the end of the day


And in the evening of the following day…

55_evening sky

56_canyon sky evening, in fact...


The eastern sky at the same moment…

55b_evening sky


Early the next morning at Dirk’s house…

59_cars, house, trailer & mountain morning light

…both east…

58_eastern sky morning

…and west…


The Cave Creek Canyon area is, as they say, a hidden gem, or, one of the unknown ends of the earth.