Winter 2017: Road Trip to Arizona and Florida

This is a collection of pictures that tells the story of our trip via Albuquerque to Bisbee, AZ through photos and captions. We spent a month in Bisbee and visiting various parts of southeastern Arizona. After leaving there in February we stopped in San Antonio, TX and Orange Beach, AL before continuing to Florida: first Lantana for a family wedding, then Clearwater to visit friends. We had a great time and saw parts of the country that were new to us. Click on any title to browse the pictures in that set! Where appropriate, a link to the relevant website is included within the description. (And these pictures will open into a larger version in a new window if you want a better look.)

Sandia Peak On The Way

We left home December 30 and took 2 days to get to Albuquerque where we spent a couple of days before finishing up the journey. This section includes some scenes from on the road, and our day and a half in Albuquerque. We celebrated the New Year with a trip with a ride up to Sandia Peak on the Tramway. It was beautiful in the snow and ice!


Bisbee Area

We arrived in Bisbee on January 3, found our cottage easily and made a grocery trip. This segment of the photos includes activities from the whole month we were there: walks around town, some hikes up the Bisbee hills, visits to the "neighborhoods" of Bisbee (Lowell, Warren, San Juan) and some shorter visits to other nearby places that didn't warrant a separate section. Those include a visit to the ghost town of Fairbank, the monastery at St. David and a scary (though you can't really tell from the pictures) trip to the top of Montezuma Pass. We also had a visit from friends and enjoyed a concert featuring Dolan Ellis.

Whitewater Draw

WhitewaterOne of the great things about Bisbee is that Whitewater Draw is only about 20 minutes away. From our point of view, Whitewater Draw's claim to fame is that thousands of sandhill cranes winter there. We are told the numbers were way down and the pond was much smaller than in the past, but it was still amazing to us. Twice a day huge flocks of cranes fly in and out as they seek food. So if we arrived around 11:30 am or so it would be very quiet - that's when I would wander around and get photos of the ducks and some of the other birds in the area. Then you would hear the approaching cranes before you saw them - what a ruckus! It was great fun to watch them fly in in groups and find a place to settle down. They have an interesting way of landing! We went back 3 or 4 times in the course of our month there.

screech owl

San Pedro House and Murray Springs

San Pedro House and Murray Springs Clovis Site are both part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area along the San Pedro River - we visited them on January 7, then later went back to San Pedro House for another brief visit because we were driving right by it. You can read/download a Brochure on the area with a small map of the various sites. San Pedro House has a small visitor center/ gift shop, a nice picnic area and loads of bird feeders. There are also trails - we walked down to the (mostly dry) river. The Murray Springs site is an archeological dig, though we were disappointed that there wasn't much to see there. What we did find, though, were wild horses - one of them attached herself to John and followed us over the whole trail, stopping whenever he did!

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Foothills Trail

We took a day trip on January 11 to Kartchner Caverns. There is an entry fee to the park but it is waived if you have campsite or cave tour reservations. What a neat place! Unlike other caves we've toured, here they have gone to great lengths to keep the caves in a natural state. There are air lock doors to prevent outside air from getting in, you can only enter as part of a tour group (to minimize chances for damage) and you cannot take photos. So I don't have "inside" pictures but it was definitely worth the tour! (We took the Throne Room-Rotunda tour.) The visitor center is very nicely done and had a great deal of information about the history and geology of the caves, as well as the requisite gift shop. The Bat Cave Café had a nice selection of lunch items and drinks at a reasonable cost. After lunch we hiked the 2.5 mile Foothills Trail Loop - we do have pictures of that!

petroglyphPetroglyph Discovery Trail

The Petroglyph Discovery Trail is also part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area along the San Pedro River. You can read/download a Brochure on the area with a small map of the various sites. On January 13 we set off for the Millville-Petroglyph trail. The trailhead is at the Millville parking area, 1/4 mile east of the Charleston Road Bridge over the San Pedro River, midway between Tombstone and Sierra Vista. It takes you to the ruins of Millville and the Gird Silver Mill (that processed the ore dug in Tombstone) and then to a "rock art" area where you can see some petroglyphs if you are persistent. About 2.5 miles total on a well-marked trail.

Chiricahua rocksChiricahua National Monument

January 17 was our Chiricahua day. We stopped first at Massai Point to get the lay of the land from the viewpoint and to do the short nature trail. We had brought lunch and plenty of water so next tackled the "moderate" 3.4 mile Echo Canyon Loop. (You can see our route here.) We started down Echo Canyon Trail, then turned onto Hailstone Trail and finally back UP to the parking area along Ed Riggs trail. It was amazing. Every few steps was a new view that needed a new picture! I had a hard time paring down my collection of photos to a reasonable sample! We stopped for lunch about half way. On the way back out along Bonita Canyon Drive, we stopped at the pulloffs for the marked views - but I thought what we saw on the hike was much more inspiring!

Patagonia Nature Preserve and Paton Center

waterfallAnother fun day trip on January 19. The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve is part of the Nature Conservancy and Paton House is now run by the Audubon Center. We had a nice hike in the preserve (where I saw a vermilion flycatcher for the first time - yes there's a picture), a great lunch at the Gathering Grounds in town, then spent some more time watching the birds at the Paton House.

Ramsey Canyon

Ramsey Canyon, another Nature Conservancy site, was our destination on January 22. We chatted with the volunteer in the visitor center and she suggested that we go on past the bounds of the conservancy into the adjacent Coronado National Forest and then into the Miller Peak Wilderness Area to a nice little waterfall. We followed her advice and were delighted - such a pleasant place to just sit for a bit!

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Harris Hawk On January 25 we ventured further, up to Tucson, to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I think this was possibly my favorite place! It's part zoo, part museum and part botanical garden. Volunteer docents were scattered throughout the area with various birds (tethered) to show us up close and answer questions anyone had. There was a whole hummingbird "house" which, surprisingly, didn't make it easier to capture photos! There were many different habitats for the various residents and it was very well-kept and interesting. My favorite part was the raptor free flight demonstration - several varieties of owls and hawks were brought out - untethered - to show off for us. Some were solitary hunters and others (Harris's Hawks) hunted in groups. Of course, it was feeding time, so they had motivation to go after the lures that were used! Besides the animals there is a large collection of plants and minerals and fossils. It made for a very interesting and unique day!

Leslie CanyonLeslie Canyon

Leslie Canyon, which we visited on January 27, is a National Wildlife Refuge. It seems odd that, in dry Arizona, it was originally established to protect species of Yaqui fish. While we enjoyed our hike, we didn't come across any water! The trail is about 2 miles and goes through various habitats: riparian-scrub, desert grassland and desert scrub. At the end (well, it was where we stopped) there is an old abandoned mine and ruins of a home.

Cochise Stronghold

Cochise Stronghold Going into our last week in Arizona, on January 30, we planned another all-day hike at the Cochise Stronghold in the Coronado National forest. We started at the Eastern Campground and took the Cochise Indian Trail about 2.5 miles up to the Stronghold Divide. The trail continues on down into the Western Canyon but that would have required coming back up... we thought that stopping half way (5 miles round trip) was wiser! There was also a short Nature Trail at the campground that we walked through when we returned. The item of interest there was an acorn woodpecker who I caught with an acorn in its mouth! He tried to hide but if you look sharp, you can see him in the next to last picture.

San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge

The San Bernardino Refuge was our last trip from Bisbee. It stretches all the way to the Mexican border and we read about watching for illegal activities. They have locked up the gates so that you can't drive into it, adding another mile to the hike since you have to walk from the road. Sure enough, we San Bernardinoencountered "suspicious activity" while we were still walking along the road into the refuge! In the distance we could see a couple walking up from the overlook - the male immediately turned and went back south, the female came forward and met us on the road. She used some story about getting turned around and needing directions. But it was clear that her job was to direct us away. That was fine with me - I didn't want to walk into anything dangerous! So we took the left turn (where she said she had seen a family of javelinas), did not take her picture, and avoided the Overlook spur until the end of the day. This was also the first place we had visited that was patrolled (well, except for the border check points on all the major highways). There were some Fish and Wildlife Service "rangers" in a truck that passed us twice. They actually stopped the second time, noticing John's collection of wood pieces, and reminded us that "all plants, wildlife, and cultural features are legally protected." I actually found their presence reassuring since, as far as I could tell, we were the only non-suspicious people in the area. Anyway, we walked down to the (mostly dry) riverbed, had our lunch and completed the loop, going by the new ponds that are being created. Before we left, I did walk down to the Overlook - by then there was no one else around!

San AntonioMarket Square

After we left Bisbee, we spent February 3-4 in San Antonio. Our "find" for that visit was the McNay Art Museum. It was (relatively) easy to get to, plenty of free parking, only charged $5 admission and was delightful! We saw Calder sculptures and mobiles, numerous paintings, sketches and a sculpture by Picasso, a Pissarro and representative paintings of almost every period and country. The building itself was quite impressive as well. We spent all morning at the McNay then went downtown to find lunch at Market Square and stroll along the Riverwalk. Definitely a good stop to break up our long trip.

Amite, Louisiana and Bayou Lacombe

Spanish MossThe next night we spent in Baton Rouge and in the morning headed up to Amite. This is where Naomi (John's mother) spent her childhood summers, with her maternal grandmother. We drove around the area a bit then went to the cemetary where we did, indeed, find numerous Alford's who are on the family tree. We found a couple of Holtons (her mother was a Holton) but not names we recognized. We had lunch in Slidell, then went on into Mississippi. Somewhere between there and Orange Beach we visited a lovely little area where we walked for an hour or so - near a bayou and there were buildings there (but I have no pictures of them).

Update: I'm pretty sure this was the Bayou Lacombe Center - part of Big Branch Marsh NWR. In cleaning out the van (over a year later!), I ran across some more brochures, including one for Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges. In comparing various pictures (the old cemetary, the old house with green shutters, the little fountain and the beautiful camellia gardens, I'm quite sure that it was the Bayou Lacombe Gardens we were walking through! The Visitor Center itself was closed when we were there so we missed that part, but the trails and flowers were beautiful.

pelicanOrange Beach

Originally, this was supposed to be a fun beach stop. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and it was cloudy and rainy for both days! We did have a chance to walk the beach and the Best Western Tides where we stayed was very comfortable and served an awesome breakfast. We visited a laundromat during one of the downpours and had some good seafood dinners, but didn't really get a good taste of what it must be like in nice weather!


BeachOur final destination was Florida! The first night we stayed in Ormond Beach at a Quality Inn that definitely doesn't get raves. But it was on the beach and we were only there overnight. We had a great supper at Hull's Seafood Market. You know it's good when the line is halfway down the block! Finally we arrived in Lantana, FL where Jenna and Wayne were getting married. We stayed at the Barefoot Mailman motel which was charming! We could walk all over town, to the beach, the nature preserve, many restaurants. The wedding was beautiful; I was glad we had booked an extra day so we had time to visit and catch up with family members. Finally, we crossed the state to Clearwater where we were able to spend some more time with friends. Mostly we just visited at their condo, but we did go off to Honeymoon Island one afternoon. A nice place to walk the beach and then trails through the wooded area, too. After 3 nights there, we headed home. No more adventures, just driving! When we got home, we had one week before the move so we didn't really have time to "play" along this leg.

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