Southern Arizona in Fall

Huachaca (wa-chew-ka) City is a great location to explore this diverse and beautiful part of Arizona. Close to the Mexican border, the desert landscape is offset by views of the Huachaca Mountain Range. Nearby Sierra Vista, the Spanish name for “mountain range view”.  It accurately describes the many mountain ranges, including Little Rincoon Mountains, Mule Mountains and Chiricahua Mountains. The San Pedro and Santa Cruz river valleys attract migrating birds and other wildlife and provide riparian landscape and biodiversity. Cultural diversity is enhanced by the history of Spanish, Mexican and Indigenous peoples and the variety of US military families and snowbirds traveling and living in the area.

We stayed at the Quail Ridge RV park which was very inexpensive and in a good location but it was just another gravel parking lot with hookups next to a very busy highway.  We probably wouldn’t stay here again because of the highway noise including trucks idling during the night on mini stop-overs right outside the park.  However, we can put up with a lot of noise for a place that only cost a few bucks a night including full hookups!

Staying in one spot a little longer than usual gave us time to do some small repairs and putter. We got some mail and I even worked on a few watercolor paintings. We enjoyed several fun excursions to ghost towns and natural areas but there is a lot more to explore in the area.

Ghost Town Visits: 

  • Bisbee, is an old-time copper mining town in the Mule Mountains, not too lively during the week – the shops were mostly closed M-W during our off-season visit.  The drive into Bisbee through the mountains is beautiful.  The town residents seem eclectic and artsy and there is an unusual, almost spooky-vibe. We climbed some of the famous staircases in the town and decided it would be a fun place to return when the town is more awake.  We would probably take the Queen Anne Mine tour and take pictures too.
  • Fairbank, the remains of a silver mining town in the San Pedro River BLM area.  We enjoyed photographing the exterior of some buildings like the post office, a house, barn and the well-preserved schoolhouse. The schoolhouse had a nice gift shop and was the only building that could still be entered.  A nice 5 mile hike on a loop trail led to the ruins of the cemetery, the ruins of the mill and a walk by the San Pedro “river”.  This time of year, there was no visible water here but the cottonwoods and shrubs were obviously tapping into underground water sources.  It was beautiful but odd that even among all the trees, we only saw 5 birds! At other times of the year, migrating birds are plentiful and I thought some would be permanent residents.  The cemetery is on a hill with 360° views, but sad that the graves are so forlorn and the markers are mostly rotted away. Along the trail, there were tracks and scat of javalina and ringtale cats (coati mundi) but we didn’t see any animals, except tarantula and grasshoppers so thick that they scatter at every step.
  • Tombstone, the town too tough to die!   A well preserved western ghost town with lots of cute homes that people still live in.  There are actors in old-west costumes walking around advertising a gun battle re-enactment show at the OK Corral. Fun horse drawn wagon rides and lots of shops and restaurants along authentic, boardwalk sidewalks.  It is a fun place to visit when in a tourist mood.
  • Tumacacori National Historic Park, is the site of a beautiful mission ruins in the Santa Cruz river valley near Nogales Arizona.  I thought Nogales was only located in Mexico but it is a bustling city in Arizona too.  A meteor shower during a new moon on November 17th was the subject for the monthly night-sky event at Tumacacori NHP and we had a grand adventure there.  Astronomers from several clubs and universities had set up their powerful telescopes. Photographers (like us) set up for some night sky shots.  The grounds and mountains made a very unique foreground for the setting sun.  Our photos reflected the eerie red lighting that was used to enhance night-sky viewing but cast an other-worldly glow on the mission.  These photos showed shadows and ghost images of people moving through our shots.  Some kids enjoyed shadow dancing against the buildings.  It was a really fun experience, once we let go of trying to get noteworthy shots!  The tough shooting conditions helped us explore more features of our cameras.  We never did see any meteors though!

Natural Area Visits:

  • Kartchner Caverns State Park, are very carefully managed living caves where rock formations are still being created by seeping water. We toured the Big Room cave which is only open during non-peak season because bats roost there in the summer months to give birth and raise their young.  It was so much fun touring the cave that we returned to tour the Throne Room cave.  To protect the caves, visitors are asked to lock up phones, cameras and bags and not to touch any rock formations inside.  It is 72 degrees with 98% humidity inside the caves. Bank-vault style doors on the pathways in and out of the caves protect the humid conditions from the dry desert air. The doors remind me of the television series “Get Smart” where agent Smart goes through numerous doors and corridors to enter “Control” headquarters with the theme song playing in the background.  I’m glad the caves are being preserved for future generations, it is a great place to witness nature!
  • San Pedro Riparian Area is a Nature Conservancy site.  We arrived at San Pedro House just after a tour concluded and found the area nearly empty – bonus!  The stream was beautiful with walkways along the river and there was flowing water in this stretch of the river, unlike what we saw near Fairbank.  There were many birds at this location and I could only imagine how wonderful it is during migrations.  Egrets enjoyed a nice pond with gorgeous reflections. Trees, cattail and reeds surrounded the pond along the water’s edge.  It didn’t seem possible that we were in the desert southwest!  There were recent sightings of fox, javelinas and ring tails in the area. A ring tail is a cat-sized carnivore that looks like a small fox with a raccoon-like tail and is the state mammal of Arizona.  No mammals were visiting us that day.

This part of Arizona will be a great place to come back to during summer and fall, when the area is filled with migrating birds, including 14 species of hummingbirds! We only saw one hummingbird during our two week stay in November but we will try again.



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