Arizona and Colorado July/August 2012
Sun Jun 24 – leave Mission heading for Marathon. Have to go back to Mission.
Mon Jun 25 – take 2, head for San Antonio, Junction and I-10. Night at Sonora.
Tue Jun 26 – onto Las Cruces, NM, 1 night at America’s Best Value Inn
Wed Jun 27 – zipped over to Tucson, 1 night at Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon
Thu Jun 28 – Mt. Lemmon in the am, down to Green Valley to our rental for 9 nights
Fri Jun 29 – first morning in our townhome in Desert Hills II
Sat/Sun Jun 30/Jul 1 – explore mobile home parks in Green Valley
Mon Jul 2 – checked out parks in Tucson, met Ken & Jim for lunch
Tue Jul 3 – visited Ellie, went to Madera Canyon
Wed Jul 4 – visited Gary at Villas East & Molly
Thur Jul 5 – Madera Canyon w/Fred
Fri Jul 6 – Sherry & Deby at airport
Sat Jul 7 – move to Prescott Valley for 3 nights, explore Prescott
Sun Jul 8 – check out places to rent, lunch at Iron Springs Café
Mon Jul 9 – see rock cottage
Tue Jul 10 – drive back to Tucson, 4 nights at Comfort Suites Tanque Verde, $67/night
Wed Jul 11 – see Brock’s collection
Thu Jul 12 – check out possible rental houses in Tucson for Aug/Sept 2013
Fri Jul 13 – up Mt Lemmon to look for Arizona hairstreaks w/Fred and others
Sat Jul 14 – drive to Portal Lodge for 2 nights, $85/night, Cave Creek Canyon
Sun Jul 15 – drive up Cave Creek Canyon to Rustlers Park, work the road for butterflies
Mon Jul 16 – drive to Albuquerque to Casa de Suenos for 2 nights, meet my brother & Shelly
Tue Jul 17 – drive up to the Sandia crest at 10,600’, spectacular views
Wed Jul 18 – drive to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to rental cabin for 2 nights
Thu Jul 19 – hike to Opal Lake, enjoy the cabin
Fri Jul 20 – drive to Nederland, CO for the weekend w/Phil, Liz & Courtney
Sat Jul 21 – hang out at Nederland
Sun Jul 22 – drive to Denver for 8 nights at Red Lion, Lepidopterists’ Society conference
Mon Jul 23 – field trip to Roxborough State Park southwest of Denver, 6500’
Tue Jul 24 – field trip to Golden Gate Canyon State park west of Denver, 6800’-7200’ & Tinytown
Wed Jul 25 – work in collection at Denver Museum of Natural History
Thu/Fri Jul 26/27 – at conference
Sat Jul 28 – field trip to west side of Eisenhower tunnel on I-70, 11,400’
Sun Jul 29 – field trip to Cottonwood Pass
Mon Jul 30 – drive to Fort Collins to photograph in the Gillete Collection at Colorado State Univ, w/Paul Opler, for 3 nights/2 days. Lunch on the way in Boulder w/Phil, Liz and Courtney, and did some shopping for heavy clothes at REI.
Tue/Wed Jul 31/Aug 1 – work in the collection. Enjoyed Fort Collins very much.
Thur Aug 2 – drive to Nederland to stay w/Phil for 4 nights.
Fri/Sat/Sun Aug 3/4/5 – pig out at Phil’s and do a bit of hiking
Mon Aug 6 – leave Colorado, drive to Amarillo on our way home
Tue Aug 7 – drive to my bro’s in Dallas
Wed Aug 8 – drive to San Antonio and meet Willie at the Liberty Bar, night at Willie’s
Thur Aug 9 – back to the RGV
Sun Jun 24 – left Mission heading for the Marathon Motel just west of Marathon. I’ve never stayed here but it looks cool. $90 for a double room w/2 beds. Unfortunately our a/c in the car starts dripping water on my bare feet in the passenger side, and we get concerned. We are in Laredo by 9:15am, where it is already over 90 degrees. We are afraid the a/c is dying or leaking, and because it is Sunday we can’t get anyone to check it. We decide to return back home and take it to the Subaru dealer early Monday morning. We are heading west on highway 90, which crosses lots of big empty desert in west Texas, not a good place to break down.
Mon Jun 25 – I’m at the dealer at 7:30 when they open. The guy looks at it and tells me no problem, it was just condensation. He runs the a/c on high for 5 or 10 minutes and says, well it was really hot yesterday. If it was his car he would drive it. Seeing as he is honest and doesn’t want to take my money, we decide to go for it. But, hedging our bets a little, we go up through San Antonio and take I-10. More boring, but if we do break it will be easier to get help, and our cell will work all along the interstate. We make fabulous time, leaving about 9:45 and making it to Sonora, west of Junction by another 65 miles. We had planned to spend the night in Junction, about 380 miles w/several chain hotels, but we were making such good time we went another hour. The speed limit out here in west Texas is 80 mph, so John cranks it up and we fly down the smooth interstate, making it to Sonora by 4pm. Good thing we decided to stop then, as the first hotel is completely full, and there’s only 2 or 3 in town. She says they are packed w/construction and oil workers. Fortunately the Days Inn has a few rooms. Good thing we didn’t wait too late. The towns are a bit apart in this part of the world. We eat right next door at the Sutton County Steakhouse, and it is very good. I just have the salad bar for $2.75 plus chips and homemade salsa, hot and spicy and tasty w/nice thin crispy chips. John has chicken fried steak, and can’t finish it all. Nice little restaurant, great old pictures on the walls from the late 1800’s when the town started, back in the cattle days. I would stop here again. We have stayed in several different towns along I-10, and none of them have ever been very exciting. Fort Stockton is an armpit, John likes Van Horn but it is too far from Mission for a days drive. I like Balmorrhea state park w/their fabulous swimming pool (3.5 Million gallons from a live spring), if you have never been there you must check it out. Nice camping there, and they have an old couple of rooms built by the CCC, but hard to get. But it is also too far for a day, at least for our days. Our driving days of 12-15 hours are over. So we try Sonora and are pleasantly surprised.
Tue Jun 26 – Leave Sonora and head west on I-10 to Las Cruces. An easy drive, no wind fortunately. We make Las Cruces by early afternoon, grab a room at a new chain for me, America’s Best Value Inns. This is cheap, $55 for a nice room w/2 queens. There are a zillion hotels at Las Cruces, but I picked this one because it was ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. I have avoided them in the past because the cheapest hotel is often the noisy one, but in this case that is not true. It’s a couple of miles off the interstate in a scruffy area w/old time motels, but the people are friendly and helpful, a casual easy going place. I would stay here again, very hard to beat the price. We eat a late lunch at the well known La Posta down in La Mesilla, the historic old town part of Las Cruces. We were so stuffed we passed on dinner, though we had planned to try tacos at one of the other many great Mexican places here. One big reason to spend the night at Las Cruces is to eat tasty Mexican food w/green chiles, as Hatch is right up the road.
Wed Jun 27 – off to Tucson, an easy drive again no wind or dust. We get to the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon by 1pm, gaining another hour in the time zone. This is also quite reasonable, $55 for a king suite, very nice. We overlook the parking lot of the strip mall, but hey, the room is quite nice. Molly and Mark meet us for dinner at the Eclectic Café, right on the corner by our hotel.
Thu Jun 28 – Molly and Mark pick me up at 7am and we head up Mt. Lemmon for a lovely morning of birding. It’s a spectacular day, where the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes to look at it. We go up over 8,000’, so it is much cooler and wonderful temps. We stop first at Rose Canyon campground, which costs $8 for a day use fee. We park and wander around a couple of places, finding all sorts of great AZ mountain birds. Probably our best bird is buff-breasted flycatcher, we get killer looks in it posing in the sun and really showing off his buffy breast. I had only seen this bird in the US up sawmill canyon many years ago, so that was fun. Also great looks at Grace’s warbler, like the yellow-throated warbler I get in the RGV. It’s fun to see the western birds that I haven’t seen in a while, like Mexican jay, yellow-eyed junco (w/its evil glaring eyes), mountain chickadee and lots of black-throated gray warblers feeding young. We see quite a few young birds being fed, it is that time of year. Then we drive on up to Summerhaven at the top and go down a dirt road and grab the 2nd of 2 parking places, then walk up a wonderful cool shaded canyon, very green. They have had some good rains here recently, the ground is actually muddy in places and you can see where water has been running. There is flowing water in the creek bed. A friend of Molly’s has told us he saw saw-whet owl here a few days ago. We look in his spot but no luck. This mountain is a good place for my one missing owl, flammulated. Maybe we can try next week. One of the most enjoyable encounters is a baby red-faced warbler we find. We see several adults, one of my favorite AZ birds I had hoped to see, and one is carrying a big green worm. Molly tells me they nest on the ground, which I did not know, so I’m following the adult as it moves down from the treetop towards the ground. Suddenly, about a foot off the ground, the adult hopes to a small ball of fluff sitting quietly and stuffs in the worm. The nestling must have just come out of the nest, it doesn’t have any tail and mostly still pin feathers, a pale rump and no red on the face at all. We watch the adult make a couple of trips, feeding the baby, just a bit downslope of us so we get great views. What a great experience, standing in the cool green shade smelling wet earth and watching this young bird. The last great bird sighting is olive warbler, which comes in after Mark hears it calling and Molly plays a tape. Fortunately we had stopped at an outhouse, after the first toilet was closed, and found the birds right in front. The pair of olive warblers are right over our heads, looking for the intruder. Then we head back to our hotel, pick up John and check out about 12:30, and then we go back to the Eclectic Café for lunch. It was delicious yesterday, and continues the winning streak today. John has huevos rancheros and loves them, Mark and I pig out on reubens which are smashing, and Molly has another great chicken sandwich. Yesterday we had salads to die for, and John had great tostados. What a tasty place. Then we find a post office to mail some books, and drive about 30-40 miles south to Green Valley. We get stuck in a monster traffic jam, the entire I-19 southbound is at a standstill. Fortunately we are near an exit and bail off, head back towards Tucson and cut over to the old Nogales highway. Taking that south to Green Valley takes a bit longer, but it beats sitting in the sun roasting w/a bunch of other cars. We find our rental townhouse off Continental, actually a few miles south of Green Valley, a huge retirement community. We’re paying $500 for the week, plus $50/night for the extra 2 nights, plus a cleaning fee and a $500 refundable damage deposit. Cheaper than a hotel and much more room. We have a full kitchen and a lovely back yard overlooking an arroyo w/a great view of the mountains. We can hear I-19 but it’s not close and not a problem. I booked it through vacation rentals by owner, vrbo.com, or homeaway.com. After finding our place, great directions from the owner, we head to the Safeway to stock up. $100 later, after getting a Safeway card and getting $20 discount off our purchases, we head back, successful hunting and gathering completed. Later that afternoon I hear a bit of thunder, look out the window and the sky looks clear over the arroyo. I go outside and look up, and a monster thunderhead, black and threatening, looms over our house. It’s raining so hard towards the mountains you can’t even see them, just solid streaky grey. John and I sit out on the back patio until we start getting wet, watching the storm come in. Lots of lightning and over an hour of heavy rain, what a great storm. This is one big reason I like this area, I wanted to come to southeast AZ and see some great thunderstorms. The monsoon is just starting, and you often get this afternoon heavy rains, w/spectacular sunsets. Sure enough, it clears up about 6:30 or 7pm, the sun ducks out from the clouds as it goes down, and we enjoy wonderful skies. We sit out on our back porch again (we’ll be spending lots of time out here), watching the sky gradually darken and another lightning storm on the other side of the mountain range. It flashes and lightens up the clouds in spectacular patterns, increasing in intensity and frequency as it gets later. We watch until full dark, after 9pm, our own personal entertainment.
Fri Jun 29 – first morning at our rental, and we’re out on the patio well before dawn, about 5am, watching the sky lighten. We face towards the east northeast, so we see the orange edges to the mountains early. It is quite cool, about 68 degrees, and I have goose bumps in my light shorts and tank top. It feels wonderful. We have coffee and hang out until about 6:30, when it has warmed quickly to the upper 70’s. Time to go inside and get out of the sun. We get up to 107 degrees today, blazing hot. I walk to the closest store for a newspaper (I know, how old school) and wander around a bit, but it is too hot to be outside. Good thing we have laptops and plenty to do on the computers. And good thing John is a good cook. He grills brats with onions and bell pepper, and fresh corn, delicious. The Safeway here is much nicer than the HEB grocery stores we have at home in the Rio Grande Valley. They stock all my favorite yuppy goodies, like Martinelli sparkling cider, which is difficult to get in the RGV. You can tell this is a more affluent community, and this is in the middle of the off season. Lots of cheeses, a fabulous wine section, artisan breads, and we find specialty soups for sale. We get some Tuscan tomato and basil soup and some wonderful looking San Francisco sourdough bread, freshly made. The strawberries are delicious too, and the cherries. They even have Peet’s coffee for sale, Major Dickinson. We used to order that for delivery by UPS. I could get used to this.
Sat Jun 30 – We drive up north a bit and explore some trailer parks (oops, I mean manufactured homes communities). Interestingly, we both like one nice park better than the townhome subdivision we’re renting in. Maybe we’re just trailer park trained. We collect info on places for sale for future reference. Where we’re renting, in Desert Hills II, several places are for sale for $75K to 95K, all 2 bedroom/2 bath units connected in rows w/carports. Our major problem w/the place we’re in, which is very nice, is not enough windows. Difficult to open the place up and get any air. Of course, you don’t want to do that when it is 107 outside, but at dawn it is lovely, with a fresh breeze flowing off the desert. The double and single wide trailers have windows on all sides, and some of them look very nice in Pueblo Estates on La Canada. The prices are about the same range, $55K to 99K. I could easily move into a couple of these. We also find the local Post Office to mail books, and there is quite a line, 6 or 7 people. But it moves quickly, they have 3 clerks. Wonder what it is like in the winter, when all the snowbirds are here. In our subdivision only about a third of the homes look occupied, as a rough guess. This is very much a winter area, prices on many things are higher in the winter, especially the rentals. Green Valley is an entire development for retirees, and there are many subdivisions w/deserty sounding names at different prices. A friend of a friend has a condo in Desert Hills III, and we go find it. We can tell it is nicer than the area we are in, and sure enough, a place is for sale for $115K. Their carports are actual garages w/doors. This morning on my walk for a paper I heard a costa’s hummingbird, and he popped up and posed beautifully for me, flashing his purple gorget in the sun. Also a nice, confiding verdin in the bushes right outside the store. Lots of gambel’s quail around, and a big cooper’s hawk lurking from the rooftops at dusk.
Mon Jul 2 – we head back to Tucson to investigate some trailer parks there and meet Ken for lunch, a new friend who is coming along on my trip to Colombia. We spend time at several different parks in Tucson, our favorite probably the cheapest one on El Reales near the airport, Mission View. This is very similar to our park back in Texas, friendly people, more relaxed and easy going. There are several interesting units for sale from $13K to 27k. One fact we learn today is that none of the trailer parks appear to allow rentals from owners. This one has a few units the park rents directly, but they are scruffy and not very interesting. They do not allow owners in the park to sublet their units at all, which is too bad as I would just as soon rent a trailer or manufactured home for a couple of months. But apparently it’s not to be. As we aren’t wild about the condo scene, we now will have to look at houses. We check out several other parks, some too snooty and some too packed in extremely close, so we say no thanks. The last one is over on Harrison, Pantano Vista, and it has potential. But after much discussion, we come up w/the idea of just renting a couple of places next summer. If we like that, we can continue to rent for the next several summers. There are lots of choices available in the summer months, the low season here, and that gives us the ultimate flexibility. Then we meet Ken, who has brought Jim along, at Zona 78 for a delicious lunch. I get a specialty barbequed chicken pizza and wonderful bruschetta served w/a cup of what looks like chocolate pudding. When I ask what that is, the waiter tells me it is an emulsion of balsamic vinegar, and it turns out to be scrumptious. A great recommendation by Ken.
Tue Jul 3 – I go north to Sahuarita to visit Ellie, who used to live in the RGV. She’s in a lovely house and has lots of bird feeders. She and Dick, her husband, take me up to Madera Canyon and we walk a bit, then hang out at the hummingbird feeders at Santa Rita lodge, watching lots of hummers and some other nice birds. We have a beautiful blue grosbeak, lots of black-headed grosbeaks, and of course some of the local great hummers, like broadbill and magnificent. Very enjoyable. Then they take me to the Cow Palace for tasty reuben sandwiches. I meant to order a patty melt, but Ellie got a reuben and I mindlessly followed. It was still tasty.
Wed Jul 4 – I head north a bit to visit a friend of Molly’s, Gary and his wife, who have a condo in Villas East. It is a small 1 bedroom, but the development is very nice. Gary says it is one of the older developments and is nicely landscaped w/grown up plants. They take me and Molly driving for quite a while, showing us their favorite developments and some of the not as favored ones. They just spent several months looking for a house to buy, so they are up on all the various Green Valley subdivisions. It is a very interesting morning, and very generous of them to take the time to show us around. It is a cooler day here, as the rains are picking up. It turns out to be a record setting low high, if that makes sense. It is only 86 degrees for the high today, the lowest ever recorded for Tucson on July 4. They get lots of rain in town and there is considerable flooding, but it’s not so bad here at our place. The clouds make for some killer sunrise and sunsets, I’ve been up everyday at 5am to watch the sunrise, different every day.
Thu July 5 – Fred comes down and takes me back up to Madera Canyon, but we do a lot more hiking around than the other day. Fred stops at some earlier spots, then we drive over to Box Canyon, then back up Madera as it warms up. In Box Canyon we find a beautiful blooming cactus, and Fred tells me it is an Arizona Fishhook Pincushion. One of the fun things about being in the field w/Fred is that he knows about lots of different living things. He id’s all the lizards we see, and we see many of them. Sometimes 4 or 5 at a time, on the trail in front of us or up in the trees. We had good rains the last two days, and that may explain why there are so many out. When we go up to the parking lot on top of Madera and walk up the ravine, we kick up two Zestusa dorus, a new species for me.
Jul 6 – a leisurely morning, John’s tasty chicken enchiladas for lunch, left over from dinner last night. One big advantage of traveling w/John, he’s the cook. So when we rent houses or condos w/a full kitchen, he can cook all his delicious dishes from home. Saves lots of money by not eating out. Today is trash day, and here they have holes dug in the ground w/a lid where you are supposed to put your trash in bags. I put it in about 7:30am, and in less than 2 hours later the javelin have opened the lid and lifted out the trash bag and strewn our trash all over the front yard, what a mess. I’m amazed they can lift the lid, but I can’t imagine what else would have done it. The trashman says that is very common. We have seen javelin several evenings right next to our patio. I hissed at one the other night, and he raised all his fur along his back and woofed back at me. They’re not so cute when they’re right next to you. This afternoon I head up to the Tucson airport to meet Sherry and Deby at the hotel by the airport where they are conducting a seminar. It will be fun to see them again and meet their clients taking the seminar.
Jul 7 – we leave our rental in Green Valley and head to Prescott for 3 nights, stopping at a Circle K to meet Al for a book buy in Phoenix. Bloody hot, 108 degrees, I don’t know why anybody wants to live in Phoenix. It’s a Saturday, so there’s not much traffic, which is great. We zip through, picking up a bag of lemon cookies brought to me by Al from Panama, what a nice guy. As we get north of Phoenix we decide to take a more scenic route, so rather than just head up 17 and turn left to Prescott Valley we go west on 74 to Wickenburg. This is a dot-dot-dot road on my AAA map, and I always like to take dot-dot-dot roads. That is how AAA marks scenic roads, and we have followed many of them on explores over the years. I could spend years just traveling around the US driving all the scenic roads. This one is no exception, as we get off the interstate we get out into beautiful cactus, tall saguaros everywhere and striking hills in the distance. Best of all, much less traffic. We get over to Wickenburg, go north and connect up with highway 89, which winds and twists up into the hills another 50 miles or so to Prescott. The last part is so twisty they don’t want vehicles over 40’ on it, but it is lots of fun in the Subaru forester. John gets to play rally car and we’re whizzing around the corners, many of which are marked 30 or even 20 miles per hour. A beautiful road w/spectacular views. We go through Prescott, a popular summer retreat at 5,300’ for folks from the furnace of Phoenix, so there are lots of tasty restaurants and shops, much more than would normally be supported in a small mountain town. We’re staying in a Comfort Suites on the other side of town in the cheaper burb of Prescott Valley. When I tried to get a reservation, as it was Saturday/Sunday/Monday in the summer high season, I was having trouble finding a place in Prescott. By moving 5 miles down the road to Prescott Valley we saved about $75/night, which adds up. So we’re now in the Comfort Suites in Prescott Valley, a very new hotel up on the hill. We get a room on the east side which has a commanding view over the valley, very nice. We eat at Tara Thai 2, a Thai restaurant recommended by yelp, just half a mile down the main highway 69 from our hotel. It’s tasty, the crispy spicy angel wings (basically spicy buffalo chicken wings) are delicious. We’re too full to eat all our dinners, we ordered way too much. I have chicken and pork w/3 vegetables in the tasty Thai peanut sauce, and John gets tempura. We could have easily split 1 entrée, plus I have to taste the fresh coconut ice cream w/peanuts. Pigs on wheels lives!
Jul 8 – exploring Prescott for a house to rent next July. I’ve contacted several owners from vrbo.com, and we drive and check out a couple, plus find some nice trailer parks to explore as well. Our plan is to spend July up here in the mountains, then August and September in Tucson, probably at 2 or 3 different places. It’s always fun to look at places to live or explore a town and imagine living there. We like Prescott, and find a nice old rock cottage on an acre of pine trees. The owner has sent me the address, but has it rented so we can’t go in. It looks very inviting, cool w/a big porch. When we get back to the hotel she has sent me a note saying their tenants have left, so if we want to come by tomorrow, Monday, they will show us around. We say yes, as we’re serious about it. We have lunch at a delicious little funky place, Iron Springs Café at 1501 Iron Springs Road. This is a winner. I have N’awlins French toast to die for, and John has the best huevos rancheros he’s ever had. Truly tasty Ridgeline coffee as well, and we have to be more pigs and get a peach cobbler to go for dinner tonight. We won’t have to eat another meal today. We also find a very comfortable trailer park up the side of the hill off 89, the road south of Prescott, w/lots of units for sale. The trailer parks don’t rent by the month, and as this is the season most people stay up here, nothing is open anyway. But this one looks very nice if we decided to buy a place, plus it’s pretty cheap. One unit is only $9,950, and another was $15K then marked down to $12K, and now $10k. Talk about a motivated seller. If you were ready to buy I bet you could get some pretty good deals here. But we’re still looking, and still plan to rent next summer, then play it by ear. But I think we’ll be back to Prescott.
Jul 9 – we go see the inside of the rock cottage, all the original knotty pine paneling. The owner has the shades drawn to keep it cool, and w/the thick walls it is very pleasant inside at noon without air conditioning. It has two large patios, in front and back, so depending on the time of day you always have somewhere in the shade. Now all I need to find out is the exact date of the Lepidopterists’ Society meeting next June in Gainesville, FL. I think it is towards the end of June, so I don’t want to reserve this place starting July 1 if that’s the case. But hopefully we can work that out and be here for most of next July. Then we eat a late lunch at the Raven Café in downtown Prescott, which is wonderful. They have a great open patio up on top of their building, and even though it is in the mid 90’s there is a great breeze and it is very comfortable. I have lemon chicken pita, which is delicious, and John has a tasty veggie quiche. Another place we’ll be back to. Prescott is sort of a foodie town, lots of interesting restaurants to check out.
Jul 10 – we drive back to Tucson but again we take a scenic route. I always prefer to take back roads instead of interstates if I have the time. So we go north on I-17 towards Flagstaff then cut off into the mountains at Camp Verde, and head to Payson. More twisty mountain roads, lots of pretty areas even if it is very dry. When we get to Payson we decide we’ve had enough twisty roads and take the dot-dot-dot road on the AAA map back down to Mesa, which is a very pretty road. We get around southeast Phoenix by freeways, 101 to 202 to I-10 south, which works out great, very little traffic. These are huge freeways, however, 6 and 7 lanes, so you can just imagine the mobs heading into town during rush hour. We get back to Tucson early and go eat at Zona 78 again. This time John gets a fabulous pizza, simple w/just pepperoni, onion, their home made sauce and fresh basil leaves on top. One of the best pepperoni pizzas I’ve ever tasted. I eat a chicken wrap which is marvelous, and my favorite, a small spinach salad w/pears, pecans and shaved gouda cheese. Another great spot to hit again and again.
Jul 11 – 8am I’m at Jim Brock’s home to check out his butterfly collection. I spend most of the day photographing his wonderful collection, have to come back as I only scratch the surface. Then John and I go back to the Eclectic Café for an early dinner, in the same shopping center as our hotel, very convenient. Today I have Joey’s southwestern chicken penne in a fabulous sauce, lots of garlic and grated parmesan. Half of it goes home w/me for lunch tomorrow. Their key lime pie isn’t to die for, wouldn’t get it again. It’s ok but not worth the calories, but hey you have to test it out.
Jul 12 – today we’re checking out 4 different houses we’re thinking of renting next summer. 2 on the west side, 1 north and 1 far east up the road to Mt. Lemmon. We end up with 2 we like a lot, the far eastern one near the road up to Mt. Lemmon, and what we call the horse house, over by Rich Hoyer on the north side. Hopefully we can work out arrangements with the owners. After much discussion, we think we’ll skip Prescott and just spend 3 months or so in Tucson next summer.
Jul 13 – Fred picks me up and we meet several other butterfly folk at the parking lot at Catalina and Tanque Verde. This is the standard meeting point, I find out. A big parking lot where everyone, hikers/bikers/birders etc, can leave their cars and carpool up the mountain. Plus there is a great bakery/coffee shop, Le Buzz, where I have to try a turnover and a killer ginger/molasses cookie. This place may well go into my future book on great bakeries of the world. At the least, one has to test all potential candidates. This place passes, and it is mobbed, w/many folk eating outside at their tables, dogs at their feet. My friends tell me on the weekend it is really crammed. It’s not cheap, $10 for my 2 goodies plus a mocha for Fred, but hey, it’s only money. Obviously lots of other people feel the same. Then we head up the mountain and Fred has us stop at several places. Molina Basin has bright red Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar on the pipevine. Very different plant from what I see down in Central and South America, where it grows everywhere as a vine, while this one is on the ground buried in the dead grasses. Fred shows me the flower looks like a mouse ear, and is pollinated by flies who think it is a mouse ear. Amazing. Our main target is Arizona hairstreak, which I’ve never seen. Fred takes us right to Sollers Road a bit above 8,000’, and we not only find Arizona Hairstreak, but we also get great looks at Colorado Hairstreak. Fred knows the Colorado likes to sit on the oak bushes just a bit down the road, especially when it is cloudy like it is this morning. Otherwise they come out later in the afternoon, but because it is so overcast we get lucky and find several mid-late morning. We also find lots of Nais Metalmarks nectaring on the Fendler’s Ceanothus alongside the road, which is also favored by the hairstreaks. Later we go further up the mountain to Incinerator Ridge, where we see more Arizona Hairstreaks, Pacuvius Duskywings, and an orgy of the pleasing fungus beetles on a log, dozens of them having a great time. This is a very pretty beetle, dark navy blue w/lots of black spots, and there are even a bunch of the all black nymphs on the same log. A beautiful red crossbill flies in and we get good looks at that. All day it is dark with very dark clouds to the east and thunder and lightning, so we’re finally chased off the mountain. We get light rain on our way downhill and it is actually chilly to me in shorts. We had a great day in spite of the cool weather, got 2 new species of hairstreaks and even some photos.
Jul 14 – we leave Tucson, sorry to go but we’ll be back. We head over to Portal to the Portal Lodge for 2 nights, where we can explore Cave Creek Canyon, one of my very favorite places in the US. Especially in July and August, after the rains kick in. We were thinking of driving over from Willcox past the Chiricahua Monument and over Onion Saddle past Rustler Park, but locals recommend we stay on the paved road and go in through Rodeo in New Mexico. We can check there and find out what shape the road is in. Last year they had serious fires which left the mountains bare, and if they get heavy rain the dirt roads get washed out or full of boulders. They had heavy rains last night down in Sierra Vista and washed out the Miller Canyon road, and maybe Carr Canyon, where there were also bad fires last year. They need rain desperately, but not all at once. After we check into the hotel I ramble up the canyon, stopping to wander around a few places. It is extremely dry and crunchy underfoot, even though the ranger tells me they had 2” of rain on July 4. No signs of it where I go, it just shows how severe the drought has been, the land just sucks up any moisture.
Jul 15 – we drive up the canyon after breakfast at the little café at the hotel, fairly tasty for not having any other choices here. We see spectacular views of the red cliffs as we drive up into the canyon. We stop several times, even wandering around the Southwestern Research Station and watching their hummingbird feeders, but don’t see a single hummer. The feeders at the lodge, on the wooden porch between the rooms, had very few birds as well. Late in the day last night we were sitting outside, and only saw maybe a bird every 5 minutes or so. I remember these feeders swarming w/hummers, lots of fighting and zinging around your head, but not now. The ranger says they had a good migration, but it has been very slow since. This canyon burned badly last summer, and that with the drought may have severely impacted the birds. We do see Mexican jays and flycatchers, but no trogans, though I’m told they are around the bridge at South Fork. I was hoping to see blue-throated hummingbirds, which on my past trips here have been very common, but no luck this time. We do find some nice butterflies, however. I walk the creek bed under the South Fork bridge and get good shots of Arizona Sister posing open and closed, and Golden-banded Skipper. As we drive further up the mountain we stop at the big right turn where water runs over the road, just past where the road to Paradise comes in at the higher elevation. There are several dark skippers zipping around, and I manage to get good shots of one of the Cloudywings. As we climb higher we start seeing signs of the monster fire they had here last summer. It was close to getting the town of Portal and all the houses down by the creek, but fortunately was stopped before it got that far. However it badly burned most of the mountain. We drive to Rustler Park on top, over 9,000’, and most of it is crisped. Strange looking with all the blackened trunks but wildflowers blooming around the bases. We find very few butterflies up high, and by 11am it is clouded over and the thunder is rumbling. We head back down and run into Fred and a couple of friends, scouting for his NABA trip in a few weeks. We tell them the best spot was back where the water was on the road, so we all head back down, as by now it is raining pretty hard. But we run out from under the rain, and back at the water have mixed sun and clouds. Whenever the sun comes out, here come the butterflies. So we all have a good time, then John and I head back to the lodge for a late lunch and peach cobbler, yum.
Jul 16 – we leave Arizona and head to New Mexico to meet my brother Dan and his girlfriend Shelly for the next 4 nights, 2 in Albuquerque and 2 in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We have plenty of time, so we take another scenic route from Lordsburg up to Silver City then east over to I-25 on highway 152. This is only about 65 miles from Silver City to the interstate, but it is a very steep, windy road through the mountains. Very pretty but slow, but we still enjoy it. When we finally get to I-25 and head north, we have a couple of big thunderclouds on either side of us, raining down in silver grey streaks. We move in and out through the rain up the interstate, but as we get closer to Albuquerque the dust storms start to increase. It gets very dusty to the east, between us and the mountains, sometimes so high we can hardly see the mountains. We make it, however, up to I-40 and a couple of miles west to Rio Grande Blvd and Casa de Suenos. This is a very nice small hotel of little buildings close enough to the historical district you can walk to restaurants and shops, but it is on a quiet street next to a big park. We meet up with Dan and Shelly and go to Church street to a delicious Mexican restaurant, w/good margaritas. We only find out later they are wine margaritas, but Dan and Shelly and I like them. John got a beer, and it was only when he asked for an additional shot of tequila that they told him they don’t have any tequila. Oh well, we liked them a lot.
Jul 17 – the 3 of us drive up the Sandia crest, only about 15 miles east of town. This turns out to be a truly fabulous drive, 14 miles to the top where you have a spectacular 360 degree view, w/the city of Albuquerque at your feet. The little store/café has a nice porch to sit on, and a couple of hummingbird feeders stuffed w/broadtails and 1 brilliant male rufous on his way back south already. Mostly females and young, but there are a few bright red throated males. And begging chipmunks. We take the short hike around the top and have a lovely day. We get back home where John has made tasty chili, then a short stroll to town later to test out their ice cream stores. Life is good.
Jul 18/19 – we drive up through Chama and into Colorado, coming to our beautiful cabin rented for 2 nights about 10 miles south of Pagosa Springs, another 10 miles up a dirt road. This is hardly a cabin, but a fantastic spacious house, 4 bedrooms, big living room w/a fireplace (which we use to great enjoyment both nights), a big porch and everything one could want. I found it on vrbo.com, which is where I have rented many houses in different locations. Vacation Rental By Owner, a very useful site to know. This is #224274, and I would definitely rent it again. Lisa the owner is very helpful, and gives us a great suggestion for dinner in Pagosa Spring at Tequila’s, tasty Mexican food with a good location right over the stream and the springs, where we can watch tons of tubers floating down the river. She also tells us about her favorite hike to Opal Lake, which we do the next morning. 2 miles into the lake in national forest land, we drive maybe a mile back towards town and turn left over a bridge across the stream. She tells us this used to have a national forest brown sign, but someone has cut all the signs down along the main dirt road. I guess the locals don’t want visitors. We drive across the bridge and soon see more brown national forest signs, which direct us straight ahead for a couple of miles to Opal Lake, then a turn to the right for another mile. This road is also in excellent shape for a mountain road, any car could make it with ease. The hike is great, we climb about 500’, but starting at 8,700’ we have to pause several times to catch our breath. The morning is a typical mountain morning, brilliant blue sky and flowers in the meadows, such clean air it tastes delicious. Eagle eyed Shelly spots ptarmigan hiding under the spruce trees, and we find 5 of them lurking around. These may be young ones, as they don’t seem very cautious, and are very cryptic in their brown summer plumage. All in all a splendid walk, a great recommendation by the cabin owner.
Jul 20 – wishing we could spend more time at the cabin, we split up and say goodbye to Dan and Shelly. They head back to Carlsbad Caverns, and we drive north through the mountains to Nederland, above Boulder, where John’s son Phil lives with Liz. They just moved here 6 months ago, and we have not seen their new place, which turns out to be fine, off in the pines with a nice view from their deck, and lots more broadtail hummers fighting over their feeder. We go to their favorite restaurant the Smokehouse, in town about a mile or so away, and have fabulous wings, some of the best I’ve ever had.
Jul 21 – enjoy a walk w/some friends and a bunch of dogs up above Eldora, beautiful day in Nederland at 8,200’. Then Phil’s delicious lemon herb barbequed chicken for dinner.
Jul 22 – we drive to Denver for 8 nights at the Red Lion Hotel while I attend the Lepidopterists’ Society meeting and spend several days on field trips chasing butterflies in the mountains. One great thing about Denver is there are a ton of fabulous places to explore nearby, w/the Rockies right on the doorstep.
Jul 23 – field trip to Roxborough State Park southwest of Denver. This is a beautiful park with spectacular red rocks thrusting up over the trees and grasses. This is the same formation that runs up above Boulder, the Flatirons, which I didn’t know. The summer has been so hot that most of the flowers have already gone to seed and we don’t see too many butterflies. But we do find some Colorado hairstreaks and a very obliging Tailed Copper.
Jul 24 – another field trip to Tinytown and Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The trail above Tinytown turns out to be great, cool and damp with lots of flowers, so we have lots of butterflies. Locals are saying the season is 4-6 weeks advanced, but in this shaded canyon we see more what it should look like. Lots of blooming monarda, which the fritillaries love, and lots of photo ops. Then we drive north to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, but by then it is raining. This is another park I have to come back and visit. This trip has shown me that I need to come back to Colorado in late May and June sometime in the future.
July 25/26/27 – attend the conference, hear the talks, spend a day photographing in the collection at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Jul 28 – drive to the tunnel on I-70 about 50 miles west of Denver and take the first exit immediately west of the tunnel to the right. You can drive back over the tunnel to the south side, but both sides are great for butterflies. On the north side there is a long wide open valley that heads up high to the hills, w/a nice trail, but 2 friends and I just ramble over the flowering hillsides along a creek and look for butterflies. My target today is Purplish Fritillary, which we find several times. Plus a couple of new blues, we get 4 different species. A beautiful morning, it doesn’t really cloud up until after 1pm, so we enjoy hours of exploring around at over 11,000’, slowly walking uphill and across the flower strewn meadows. On the east end of the tunnel the first exit leads to Loveland Pass, another good butterfly location. There is also Mt. Evans, another high point you can drive to. Two more spots to explore on a future trip.
Jul 29 – drive 3 hours to Cottonwood Pass above Buena Vista. The paved road goes up to the continental divide at 12,200’, where we park and hike up over the rim and down into a fabulous basin. You can see across to the Collegiate Peaks, a series of 14,000’ peaks named Yale, Harvard, etc. This is wilderness, so there are no roads and no motorized vehicles, just foot traffic. The trails run around the rim, but we go off trail and scramble our way down the slope to the willow bog below. We work our way around the edge of the willows, photographing wildflowers and some butterflies, lots of Mead’s Sulphurs and some Fritillaries and Purplish Coppers. Steve, who leads the trip, had camped here for 4 nights a couple of weeks ago, and he keeps saying you should have been here then. The butterflies were swarming. Same refrain I’ve heard on every trip here. The hot weather has accelerated everything, and many of the plants are past blooming and the butterflies are also past their peak. But it is a truly beautiful place, very special, looks like calendar shots of Colorado. 3 species of gentian flowers, 2 shades of gorgeous purple/blue and the white one, arctic gentian. Another wonderful place to come back to.
Jul 30 – we leave the Red Lion Hotel, our home away from home, and go to Boulder to meet Phil, Liz and Courtney for lunch, then up to Fort Collins where I will be photographing their collection for the next several days. The restaurant at the Red Lion was surprising good, delicious quesadillas, nachos, chicken salad, etc. One night we went into town and ate at Piati’s, where we had the best roasted garlic and goat cheese on flat bread I’ve ever had.
Jul 31/Aug 1 – work in the CSUC collection and eat at several tasty restaurants in Fort Collins. We stay in the University Best Western on College Ave, so I can walk across campus to Laurel Hall, where Paul Opler has the Gillete collection, very convenient. The Best Western is a bit pricey, $120, but you have to pay for convenience. However we wander around town and find lots of interesting looking places to eat. One of the fun things about a college town is there are tons of tasty and inexpensive restaurants. One night we eat at a scrumptious Mexican place a few blocks north of the hotel, Los Tabascos or something similar. I had the best mango margaritas I’ve ever had, and we were during happy hour so I pigged out w/2, which is 1 more than I usually drink. They were perfect, like a delicious smoothie w/a nice kick. They also had a great salsa bar, so of course we had to work our way through half a dozen salsas on their nice crispy chips. I just had a big bowl of guacamole and John had a delicious chile relleno that he raved about, so we were happy. Paul took me to Avo’s for lunch one day, which was also delicious, and had tons of sandwiches and goodies on the menu. I had a tough time choosing, would have loved to go back.
Aug 2/3/4/5 – drove to Nederland and hung out w/Phil for the next 4 nights at 8,500’ up in the pines. Of course we ate lots of great food, from Friday night dinners at the Smokehouse w/their fabulous smoked wings, to Phil’s smoked chicken and barbequed meatloaf, yum. Pigs on Wheels continues! One day I drove up Caribou road, off Ridge Road back towards town, and went up to about 9,500’ and walked along a power line cut to the right of the dirt road. Caribou road was fine for the first 2 miles or so, but then it got steeper and quite rocky. Where I stopped, at the power line cut, was about 4 miles up. Phil told me up higher there are several trail heads that take off, but I didn’t make it that high. I did see several butterflies, as it was a sunny morning and warm. I got nice shots of Queen Alexander sulphurs, a new one for me, and some of Commas coming to leaking sap on birch trees. I also shot some beautiful red mushrooms w/white spots, Amanita muscaria, which John later told me is a hallucinogenic.
Nederland is a mountain tourist town, so it gets crowded in the afternoons, but Phil’s house is a couple of miles out of town, nice and quiet. It was fun to hang out, watch the Olympics and of course, eat!
Aug 6/7 – Monday morning we finally start our trip back to Texas. We drive east through Denver on I-70 and south on 287 to Amarillo for the night, then on to Dallas the next day. The eastern plains in Colorado are parched, miles and miles of bare dirt. I had heard the hotels in Amarillo, on I-40, are better on the west side of town. The ones on the east are cheaper but noisy and often scruffy, so we stayed at a Comfort Inn off exit 64. As we drove into town from the north on 287 we got into a strong thunderstorm and heavy rain, right about where they closed the highway and dumped us all off on a detour. Fortunately it was right where we were going to get off on loop road 335, which took us west of town and connected up w/I-40 at exit 64, where our hotel was. How convenient. We ate that night at Carino’s, an Italian chain that we enjoy, and had very good calamari and their firesticks. More tasty stuff, we’ve had lots of good food on this trip. Tuesday we made it to my brother’s house in north Dallas and went to my favorite Indian place nearby. On Highway 287, a bit southeast of Amarillo near Hedley, we passed a peach stand. We were surprised, didn’t know they grew peaches this far north, but we turned around and went back. Good thing we did, as the peaches were fabulous. 5 huge juicy fist sized peaches for $5.50, delicious! John made 2 of them into a cobbler and left it at my brother’s the next morning, but we scarfed down the other 3, juice running down our arms.
Aug 8/9 – drive to San Antonio to meet Willie at the Liberty Bar, then crashed at his great little farmhouse between Poth and Falls City. The next morning we ate at the Palace Café, on the south side of Falls City, and had the famous Willie’s BLT w/extra bacon and a fried egg, plus the grilled biscuits. Another yum, we didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day. Made it back to the Rio Grande Valley, piece of cake, and started sorting through the huge box of mail and cleaning out the bugs. Good to be back.