Aravaipa and Portal AZ, March 2014

Mary Ann and I made our annual trek to Aravaipa Canyon, and then went to Portal, Arizona, after that. This post has a description and some photos.

We left early on Friday morning from our house in Chandler for Aravaipa Canyon and were hiking by 9:00 AM. It’s about a 2 hour drive. We encountered a few other hikers, some coming back from camping up the river. We always hike slowly taking photos and exploring, so we don’t get very far up the canyon. Maybe next year we’ll focus on hiking and go farther.

We saw the Common Blackhawks at the same place we have for the last couple years. There were three of them, we think a breeding pair and their offspring.

The weather was beautiful and the canyon was, as always, awesome.

We got back to the car around 3 PM and then headed for Portal, which is about a 4 hour drive. We stopped at the Casa Manana in Safford for dinner. Since it was Friday during Lent we had the fish tacos. We weren’t very impressed with the restaurant and don’t recommend it. We had to wait a long time for dinner (over 30 minutes), and it didn’t agree with either of us. The fish in the taco was like a fried fish stick.

Portal is a small town in southeast Arizona, on the east side of the Chiricahua Mountains. It is a popular hotspot for birders from around the country.¬†We stayed at the Portal Peak Lodge. Not fancy, but all we needed was a place to sleep since we got up early, packed and checked out. We had breakfast at the Portal Lodge Cafe, which was pretty good, but it’s hard to mess up breakfast.

We hiked the nature trail that starts on Forest Road 42 across from Stewart Campground and goes to Sunny Flat Campground. The trail follows along Cave Creek. We met a couple on the trail who were birders and who were staying at the campground. When we got to the campground, we stopped by their camp site. They had set up some feeders and there were a lot of birds there.

We decided to look for the Mexican Chickadee. This area of the Chiricahua Mountains is the only place in North America where this chickadee can be found. It was still a little early in the season, but I looked on ebird.org and found it had been sighted recently in the area. The chickadee likes higher elevations, so we headed up the mountain. ebird.org shows a campground where it was last sighted. When we got there it wasn’t a campground like you would expect. There was a place to pull-off the road, and space for one or two tents, but no sign with a campground name. There was a wooden sign that was falling over with some notices on it. There were people camping there who we stopped and talked to. There is a creek there that goes along the road and close to the camping area. I thought I heard the chickadee (I can’t be sure), but we didn’t see it. I saw an Arizona Woodpecker, and got some pictures of a White-breasted Nuthatch with a nest in a tree. Here is a map to where we went:

PortalMap

We took 42 Forest Road out of Portal and followed it as on the map. It didn’t take long to get to the spot – maybe 30 to 45 minutes.

Here are some pictures from Aravaipa:

Here are pictures from Portal:

 

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