Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cave Creek, Portal, Arizona

Backroads Destination--Cave Creek, Portal, Arizona

One of the advantages of working for the Forest Service or the other natural resource agencies is that people tell you about cool places.

A friend went to fire training in Marana, Arizona and then on the weekend drove throughout southeastern Arizona.  He came back and raved about Cave Creek on the Coronado National Forest.

Now Cave Creek has a great reputation as a birding center during the winter months in Arizona.   However, most of this part of Arizona is famous for its birding areas.  Cave Creek is one of the few areas in the United States that you can spot the Elegant Trogon.  Now for me living in the west it is just as exciting to see a “red bird” like a Cardinal or Vermillion Flycatcher.  

This web site has additional information on Cave Creek:  Desert USA.

So if you are into bird watching this is definitely one of those areas to visit. 

This part of Arizona and New Mexico is undergoing a boom in developments catering to amateur astronomers.  There are currently three area developments for folks that would rather have an observatory out their back door instead of a golf course. 

This is what got us to drive here from Benson and take a look around. 

Campgrounds are limited.  There is a nice RV park in the area called Rusty's RV Ranch.  Nice friendly people with big camping spurs.   It is like much of this country out in the wide open. If you want to camp in the Cornado National Forest you need a very small rig or tent.

We had lunch at the Portal General Store.  Hamburger was excellent with fries.  Pass on the Mexican food options.  The store appears to be for sale, so if you ever had a hankering for running a business in the middle of somewhere this could be your opportunity.

The Coronado National Forest has campgrounds up Cave Creek, but they are very small with very small spurs.  Here is the link to their campground site:  Coronado National Forest Campgrounds.  Check for trailer length for the campground.  Most are limited to trailers less than 16 feet!!  The road up Cave Creek is not recommended for vehicles over 41 feet.  We traveled the entire road in our 21 foot Dodge Ram Truck.  Some of those curves were tight in four-wheel drive.  More on this later. 

The road up Cave Creek has overhanging trees probably less than 13 feet high.  If you have a larger trailer scout this road and campgrounds carefully before driving. 

We drove across from Cave Creek to the Chiricahua National Monument.  A friendly Chochise County Deputy Sheriff told us the road was closed halfway up the mountain.  However, as we drove up a sign merely declared that the road was not maintained in winter.  So we pressed on.  I was a little worried about snow closing the road, but we only saw snow on the edge of the road.  I was a little worried about trees blowing down and closing the road with the high winds we had that day.  I was even a little worried about the Forest Service deciding to padlock the road somewhere along the route.  We just kept going and saw only one set of tracks from the past couple of days. 

Pretty soon we were headed downhill and I put the truck into 4wd to better control it on the downhill stretches with washboard.  After a hour or two of driving we finally encountered a road closed sign, but fortunately it was closing the portion we had already driven.

Now on most Forest Service roads the most interesting stuff is in the middle.  On the Cave Creek Road it is at the beginning.   It did help us get back to Benson early, but I think I would wait until the Forest Service officially opens the road before driving it again.

If you are into birding or astronomy you will probably make the trek to Cave Creek sooner or later.  This is an interesting part of Arizona and New Mexico.  Worth the long drive to look around and see part of the west without crowds of people. 


Russ Krecklow said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful places on your blog. You're doing a fine service for people like us who hope to someday follow in your footsteps to many of these locations.

Dugg said...

Small world! I stayed at Rusty's RV Park about six years ago, and in return for a week of a free site w/WiFi, created the "site map" on their website, and built a trail that connected to some back roads to Portal.

I hope you aren't heading any farther east---it's still winter you know!

Vladimir Steblina said...

I think this is as far east as we go this year. Maybe we will try to head to Florida next year.

Interesting part of the world. Looks like the Arizona I remember from the 1970's.

Fishing season starts up in eastern Washington on March 1. But with the cold snap up there, looks like we will wait for a bit before heading north.