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  1. #1

    Default Central Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas

    This is the beginning of a two week trip that will take us through Central Arizona, Central New Mexico, West Texas then back across the southern part of New Mexico and Arizona. Postings will be sporadic.

    Wednesday, April, 2014

    Start: Tucson, AZ
    Finish: White Tank Mountains Regional Park, W of Phoenix

    A Spring trip through the Southwest. First stop in the West Valley of Phoenix. Another 'Windy Wednesday' as we drove north. Got real strong with rain showers on the west side of Phoenix. Not much outdoor time when we got to camp.

    Thursday, April 3
    Start & Finish: White Tank Mtns Reg. Park

    What a difference a day makes! Brilliant sunny skies with no wind!

    Morning view from campsite

    Our main goal today was to find a series of letterboxes south of I-10 in the Buckeye area. Very full day, found 10 letterboxes. All except one, were along trails in and around the Estrella Mountains. The weather was perfect, cooler than usual for Phoenix this time of year - mid 70s.

    Back to camp, a bit tired, for an enjoyable meal.

    Wildlife Sightings

    Greater Roadrunner
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Cactus Wren
    House Finch
    Curved-billed Thrasher
    Gambel's Quail
    Mourning Dove
    Gila Woodpecker
    Black-tailed gnatcatcher
    Turkey Vulture
    Say's Phoebe
    Canada Geese
    Last edited by Pmount; 04-04-2014 at 03:28 PM. Reason: Spelling corrections, add bird

  2. #2

    Default Prescott-Jerome-Cottonwood

    Friday, April 4
    Start: White Tank Mountains Regional Park
    Finish: Prescott, AZ

    Another perfect morning in camp. Before we left we took showers - as I write a blog about Road Showers I take note of shower facilities while camping. Because this is within the campground I won't write it up for the blog, but I will mention that this shower set up is one of the best! Very hot water, plenty of dressing space within the shower, lots of hooks and a bench far enough away to stay dry. What more could you ask!

    We left the Phoenix area and headed north on I-17. First stop was off I-17 at Badger Springs Rd. On the east side of the road is a parking area and kiosk for the Agua Fria National Monument. No visitor services are provided, further up a dirt road is a trailhead with a restroom. We've hiked from there down to the Agua Fria River in the past. Very nice natural area to explore. Our stop today was to replant a letterbox; mission accomplished.

    Prescott is called Arizona's Mile High City, at 5362 ft. Due to the higher elevation their season for camping starts later. Lynx Lake campground, operated by Prescott National Forest just opened this week. They do take reservations through In checking last week I was very surprised to see that only a few spots were available for Friday evening, one of which I quickly reserved.

    Mid-afternoon we went into town to explore the plethora of antique stores, mainly looking for postal cancellations. My husband is building a collection of Arizona and California cancellations, current and historical.

    Enjoyed a beer and played trivia at Prescott Brewing Company. Met friends for dinner at The Palace- a Whiskey Row icon.

    Then enjoyed a performance at the historic Elk Theatre highlighting the columnist and humorist, Molly Ivins, very entertaining. Back to camp for a cool night, forecast to be mid-30s.

    Saturday, April 5
    Start: Lynx Lake Campground, Prescott, AZ
    Finish: Cottonwood, AZ, Dead Horse Ranch State Park

    Comfortable sleeping in the pines. Breakfast nearby at Lynx Lake Cafe & Store, large portions and tasty!
    Lynx Lake Cafe & Store

    After breakfast we stayed in the area to find several letterboxes. As we left the area we stopped at the Phippen Museum of Western Art where there is a trailhead that takes you back into the Granite Dells. There is memorial for a plane crash which was constructed by local Boy Scouts. On our way back to the car we spotted a large and beautiful Gopher Snake. Harmless, however they have a pattern similar to a diamondback rattlesnake.

    Granite Dells area

    We continued north on 89A leaving the Prescott Valley area and climbed to Mingus Pass. Heading down for there takes you into Jerome. A very busy and congested tourist town. No stop today for us. We set up camp at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Quail Loop, space 45. Our go-to campsite at this popular park. If headed here always check the state parks reservation site to check on availability, weekends will always be booked well in advance. Cabins are also available and even harder to reserve. Enjoyed an evening campfire with letterboxing friends.

    Campsite #45

    Sunday, April 6
    Start & Finish: Cottonwood, AZ

    Today was set aside for letterboxing. We had arranged for a gathering for visitors from Connecticut who wanted to meet up with Letterboxers in the area. About 25 people from Tucso, Phoenix, Tuba City and Santa Fe, NM spent a full day of socializing and boxing. A group of us ended up in Jerome finding a handful of boxes hidden in some interesting spots.

    View from Jerome towards the San Francisco Peaks

    Back in Cottonwood we enjoyed dinner in Old Town at the Tavern Grille. Excellent Happy Hour prices and selections, seven days a week. For $8 you could have a drink and a large appetizer - dinner!

    Wildlife Sightings
    Gopher Snake
    Mule Deer
    Cottontail Rabbit

    Common Raven
    Turkey Vulture
    Cactus Wren
    Mourning Dove
    Hummingbird, Black-chinned
    Western Kingbird
    White- breasted Nuthatch
    Great blue Heron
    Double-crested Cormorant
    Vermillion Flycatcher
    Last edited by Pmount; 04-08-2014 at 10:36 AM. Reason: Add link

  3. #3

    Default Sedona, Payson & into New Mexico

    Monday, April 7
    Start: Cottonwood, AZ
    Finish: E of I-17 & AZ 179 ( E of Sedona)

    Enjoyed a lazy morning at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, with a shower before we left camp. A quick stop at Tuzigoot National Monument for passport stamps and postcards. A small NPS unit with dramatic ancient ruins.
    We then headed for Sedona and to check out the trail of a previous planted letterbox. We were told at the gathering that the clues didn't match. Huckaby Trail is a great trail that takes you along the east side of Oak Creek with views of downtown and the surrounding red rock area. Sure enough we realized the trail had been re-routed since the letterbox was originally planted in 2009. We ended up hiking way past the turn-off, but the views made it worthwhile.

    Huckaby Trail

    On the outskirts of Sedona, east of I-17 has been a very favorite campground, Beaver Creek. The birdwatching there is always rewarding. Unfortunately 3 weeks ago the US Forest Service turned it into a Day Use only area - Arghhhh! We headed back towards I-17 and pulled into a trailhead parking area designated for overflow and horse trailers. No restrictions, except campfires, were posted. Another camper was there and there was a restroom on sight. Looked good to us as there is very little public camping in the area. Also, the price was right!

    Trailhead Camping

    Monday evening we went back into Sedona to Tlaquepaque to Oak Creek Brewery and Grille. Great beer, and tasty appetizers, but overpriced. Their brewery in town has happy hour prices for beer and appetizers, we'll go there next time. We do enjoy Tlaquepaque - 35 years ago this July we stopped there and ordered our wedding bands from Geoffrey Roth Jewelers.

    Very quiet night at the makeshift campsite.

    Tuesday, April 8
    Start: I-17 & AZ 179
    Finish: Upper Tonto Creek NFS campground, Kohl's Ranch -AZ 260

    First stop of the day was at Montezuma Well, a unit of Montezuma Castle. This area is probably my favorite NPS area. The remoteness, archaeology and natural environment in a small area makes it easy to appreciate. The loop trail takes you to an overlook of the well and ancient ruins, then down to Beaver Creek, which flows year-round. The interpretative signs are very well done.

    Montezuma Well

    Back on I-17 south then AZ 260 east, heading to Payson. Outside of Pine we hiked part of the AZT, Arizona National Scenic Trail. It is an 800 mile trail that stretches from Mexico to the Utah border. Shorter than many of the national trails, but rugged. We have an acquaintance who will begin the through-hike in a week. We only hiked 1 1/2 miles up the Highline Trail. The first mile and a quarter was relatively easy, the last quarter mile was steep and rocky. The elevation at the turn around point was 5,891 ft.

    A stop in Payson for gas, afternoon snack and groceries before we continued east on AZ 260. About 15 miles from town we turned up Tonto Creek Rd to the Upper Tonto Creek Campground. This is a 9 unit campground off the main highway with restrooms, water, tables, garbage collection and Campground Hosts. We were the only campers for the night. We enjoyed a perfect afternoon waiting for wildlife to show themselves. To my delight we spotted a Tainted Upstart - no, I mean a Painted Redstart. This is a beautiful red, black and white warbler-sized bird unique to the Southwest. My parents became bird watchers after their retirement and move to Arizona. My father had a habit of renaming things; restaurants, shopping centers and birds. He always called this bird the Tainted Upstart, I have been know to identify it to other birders using this name. It has caused some confusion and concerned looks.

    Wednesday, April 9
    Start: Kohl's Ranch, AZ
    Finish: Apache Creek Campground, between Cruzville & Aragon, NM 12

    Slow start to the day, enjoyed the morning in camp. Continued east on AZ 260, up the Mogollon (mug-e-own) Rim. Short hike at Trail 260 for a letterbox dedicated to Zane Grey, titled Riders of the Purple Sage. He stayed and wrote in this area.

    Flowers along the trail

    Stopped in Show Low for a bite to eat and then picked up US 60 east to Springerville. Took a photo of their post office, built in 1937. Next stop was the Nutrioso, south on US 180 for a picture of their post office. The postmistress was not sure when the building was built, but knew it was old. The criteria for post office photos is at least fifty years old.

    In Alpine, AZ we continued east on US 180 into New Mexico. At the intersection of US 180 and NM 12 the marker shown below was placed. A bit of highway history - US 260 used to connect Carlsbad Caverns NP to Grand Canyon NP. At some point it was renamed to US 180. Arizona uses 260 through central Arizona to connect Cottonwood to the west with Eager to the east.

    Rt 260 marker

    Reserve, NM

    Finished the day at a bare-bones NFS campground, Apache Creek, along NM 12, half way between Cruzville and Aragon. Tables and restrooms, but no water or trash. Also no fee. We were entertained with a American Kestrel to the south and a pair of nesting Great Blue Heron to the north.

    American Kestrel - at a distance

    Passport stamps
    Tuzigoot National Monument
    Montezuma's Well - unit of Montezuma's Castle

    Wildlife Sightings
    Abert's Squirrel

    Great Blue Heron
    Common Raven
    Hummingbird, Black-chinned
    Stellar Jay
    White-crowned Sparrows
    Painted Redstart
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Turkey Vulture
    Chipping Sparrow
    Acorn Woodpecker
    American Robin
    American Coot
    American Crow
    Canada Geese
    Cinnamon Teal
    American Kestrel
    Last edited by Pmount; 04-10-2014 at 04:16 PM. Reason: Spelling

  4. #4

    Default Wildlife Refuges and National Parks - NM & TX

    Thursday, April 10
    Start: Apache Creek Campground, NM12
    Finish: Socorro, NM

    Watched the Great Blue Herons fly off from their roost, then saw them further up the road along the stream with several others. NM 12 joins US 60 at Datril. Nice BLM campground between the highway junction. Along US 60 is the VLA - Very Large Array. There is a Visitor Center open to the public.

    VLA picture

    Closer to Socorro is a BLM area known to climbers, The Box. Also a perfect location for a letterbox!

    The Box

    Once we got to Socorro we headed north in I-25 to Sevilleita NWR. We got their Blue Goose stamp and a passport stamp for the El Camino Real del Tierra Adentro NHT. Much too windy to explore the refuge. Enjoyed the displays inside the Visitor Center which is open M-Sat.

    We decided the wind was too strong and there is no public camping in the Socorro area so we got a motel. A few stops in town then we had an early beer and calzone at Socorro Springs Brewery. $3 beers from 2-5 PM. Very tasty beer and food.

    Friday, April 11
    Start: Socorro, NM
    Finish: near Lincoln, NM. BLM campground - Fort Stanton and Snowy River Cave

    Spent the morning letterboxing in Socorro, mainly around the campus of New Mexico Mining and Technology College. We then spent several hours at Bosque del Apache NWR. The Visitor Center and picnic area have been updated since my last visit several years ago. The bookstore inside is very well stocked with books, t-shirts and jewelry. Driving the Auto Tour loops we spotted numerous birds, some new for us and most not normally seen in SE Arizona. Luckily the wind never picked up.

    Bosque del Apache

    White-faced Ibis with pink spots!

    After leaving the NWR we headed east on US 380 passing the turn-off for NM 525 which leads to the Trinity Site. This is the test site for the nuclear bomb in 1945. Twice a year the site is open to the public; the first weekend of April and October. We visited the site several years ago, the National Park Service has a booth there and a passport stamp unique to the site. It was a unique experience, felt like a happening - all ages and walks of life milling around. A true piece of American History..

    Trinity Site

    Further past and almost to Carrizozo is another BLM site with camping,[URL=""] Valley of Fire

    We continued east and shortly after Capitain (home of Smokey the Bear) we turned off the highway past the turn-off to Lincoln, NM to a campground administered by the BLM and within a National Conservation Area - Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave. The campground was next to a cave which has been closed due to the white-nose syndrome which is devasting the bat population. This was a no fee campsite with a restroom, garbage and several sites with a ramada.

    Saturday, April 12
    Start: Lincoln, NM
    Finish: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

    Quiet night and morning in camp before continuing east on US 380, pretty countryside.

    In Roswell we stopped at the UFO Museum for a letterbox, of course. It is in the Research Library, placed with permission. Lots of visitors while we were there Saturday morning, especially families. It appears kids still get excited about aliens. They also have a smashed penny machine. While standing on the corner, in Roswell, most stores are alien-themed. Even a tattoo place, hmmm. . .

    UFO Museum

    Our next stop was at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This was mainly stopping for the passport stamps. I have been in the caverns before. At that time thee was only the Natural Entrance which allows you to walk in at. The surface and down 700 plus feet to the bottom. I was a bit disappointed with finding a snack bar and curio shop at the bottom. Now you can also take the elevator down, take one of several tours and ride the elevator back up. Next time I do the cave tour I'll still walk down. One exhibit in the Visitor Center displayed photos Ansel Adams took of the cave in 1937, pictures he claimed he was very unhappy with. The park service found a set in their cabinets in 1978 and in 2008 put them on display. They looked good to me!

    We. Continued into Texas to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, another favorite park. The wind had been getting stronger all day and was very strong when we arrived around 3:30. We stopped in the Visitor Center to pick up our Senior Ranger booklets. This is one of the few parks that has a program designed for the not-so-junior rangers. The campground was almost full, but we found a site with some windbreak. We sat outside for a while, but ended spending most of the evening in the van.

    Guadalupe Peak from the campground

    Passport Stamps
    Carlsbad Caverns National Park
    -bonus park and passport anniversary stamps
    Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    -Salt Flat, TX
    -McKitterick Canyon
    -Frijole Ranch
    -The Pinery Butterfield Stage Station

    Smashed Pennies
    UFO Museum - 2 machines
    Carlsbad Caverns NP - 2 machines

    Wildlife Sightings

    Rock Squirrel
    Cottontail Rabbit

    Greater Roadrunner
    Great Blue Herons - a flock on the side of the road near Apache Creek
    Western Bluebird
    Common Raven
    House Finch
    White-crowned Sparrow
    Ferrginous Hawk
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Red-winged Blackbird
    Mourning Dove
    Gambel's Quail
    Barn Swallow
    American Coot
    Northern Shoveler
    Greater Scaup
    Great Egret
    White faced Ibis
    Snow Goose
    Black-necked Stilt
    Snowy Egret
    Wild Turkey
    Say's Phoebe
    Last edited by Pmount; 04-13-2014 at 09:42 AM. Reason: Links

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Bosque del Apache

    Been to Bosque del Apache a couple of times. Here is an article written by Alice Zyetz that profiles this place and other bird-watching meccas in the area.

    One of the most memorable days on the road was reaching the wintering grounds well before sunrise one cold February morning and then watching as thousands of birds left en-mass to fly to the surrounding fields to feed for the day.


  6. #6

    Default Blown back to AZ

    Sunday, April 13
    Start: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX
    Finish: Aguirre Springs campground, E of Las Cruces, NM

    Survived a night of strong winds, better in our van than a tent. Walked the Nature Trail, Pinery Trail, behind the Visitor Center before going in and receiving our Senior Ranger patch. There was a nice variety of wildflowers in bloom. The volunteer on duty at the desk had only been there 5 days, I think reviewing our book helped her learn about the park.

    Senior Ranger Review

    Flag & Wind

    El Capitan

    Flowers along Pinery Trail

    Butterfield Stage Station along Pinery Trail

    Back to Carlsbad and Artesia then heading east on US 82 across the Sacramento Mountains, climbing to 9,000 ft at Cloudcroft. We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch and a letterbox. Getting out of the car at The Lodge in Cloudcroft, for a set of smashed pennies, we immediately felt the effect of high altitude - ugh! Back down the hill into Alamagordo - ASAP.

    We stopped at White Sands National Monument, on US 70, for passport stamps. I picked up the booklet for the Junior Ranger program, but decided to hold onto it and complete it on another visit. The wind was howling and kicking up sand - no fun to be outside exploring.

    Several times over the years we have tried to camp at Aguirre Springs Campground, on the eastern side of the Organ Mountains. Once we arrived 3 miles off the highway after dark to find a gate across the road. We made it in before the gate closed, at 7 in April and drove another 5 miles back along a twisty road. The site is administered by the BLM, along with the US Senators and local businesses a strong effort is being made to have this become Organ Mountains -Desert Peaks National Monument. Both sides of the mountains offer wonderful outdoor opportunities. The wind was still strong, coming in gusts. We managed cooking dinner outside. The wind has significantly reduced the wildlife sightings.

    Aguirre Springs - Organ Mountains

    Monday, April 14
    Start: Aguirre Springs, NM
    Finish: Bonita Canyon campground, Chiricahua National Monument, AZ

    Finally a night when the wind died down! We drove into Las Cruces for breakfast before heading east on I-10. A couple of letterboxes along the way. For the previous trip and this trip we have been listening to the audiobook of Kerouac's "On the Road". Good entertainment for a stretch of highway we have driven too many times to count. For us, easier to listen to than to read. A quick stop at the Bowlin's Continental Divide store for coffee and restroom.
    Another stop in Willcox for groceries then headed south on AZ 186 through Dos Cabezas to Chiricahua National Monument. The weather was mid-70s with a light breeze. A perfect place to hang out for a few days!

    Bonita Canyon campground, Site #20

    Tuesday, April 16
    Start & Finish: Bonita Canyon campground, AZ

    A simple, restful day in and around the campground with a walk up to the Visitor Center. Weather was perfect. A short walk from the campground leads to an area with interpretative signs about the work the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) did at the monument in the 1930s. While walking the trail I noticed a strange structure built of stone up a slope near the CCC lodge. The workers adopted a black bear, when it began eating their shoes they built this stone structure to keep it in at night. It out grew the 'cage' at one year old, when it was released to the wild.

    Mexican Jay (Gray-breasted Jay)

    Acorn Woodpecker

    Tarantula Hawk


    Bear Cage

    Chiricahua National Monument

    Wednesday, April 16
    Start: Bonita Canyon campground, Chiricahua National Monument, AZ
    Finish: Tucson, AZ - Home

    Restful morning in camp before starting home. First stop was a side trip, outside of Chiricahua National Monument, up Turkey Creek to the site of Johnny Ringo's gravesite. This goes back to the 1800s and the legend around Tombstone and the Earp's.

    Sign to Johnny Ringo gravesite

    Johnny Ringo's gravesite

    We continued over to US 191 and north towards I-10. Another stop in Pearce, AZ to photograph the old post office.

    Pearce, AZ sign

    Pearce, AZ Post Office

    Post Office Sign

    Back on US 191 we got delayed by a very oversized truck which was significantly slowing traffic. When we reached Sunsites, AZ we decide to go ahead and stop for lunch. Great breakfast and lunch cafe - Taste of Home cafe. Excellent Philly Beef sandwich and the pastries looked delicious!

    Back on I-10 we arrived home by mid-afternoon. A great two week trip in the Southwest at a great time of year!

    Passport Stamps
    White Sands National Monument
    Chiricahua National Monument

    Smashed Pennies
    The Lodge Resort and Spa - Cloudcroft

    46 in total for the entire trip

    License plates
    All but 4 states.
    Saw 6 Canadian Provinces and 3 Mexican States

    Wildlife Sightings
    Coues' White-tailed Deer
    Cliff Chipmunk
    Rock Squirrel
    Tarantula Hawk (insect)

    Common Raven
    Greater Roadrunner
    Rufous-sided Towhee
    Turkey Vulture
    Dark-eyed Junco
    Feral Rock Dove
    Northern Harrier
    Bridled Titmouse
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Black-throated Gray Warbler
    Painted Redstart
    Hermit Thrush
    Gilded Flicker
    Bewick's Wren
    Mountain Chickadee
    Cassin's Vireo
    House Sparrow
    Last edited by Pmount; 04-16-2014 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Grammar & spelling

  7. #7

    Default Central Arizona, New Mexico & W Texas - April 2014 lodging/camping

    Note: $x/$y = x is full price and y is for Golden Age and Access passport holders.

    4/2 & 3
    White Tank Mountains Regional Park campground, W of Phoenix
    $25 per night plus $8 reservation fee

    Lynx Lake Campground, Prescott National Forest, Prescott, AZ
    $18/$9 plus $8 reservation fee

    4/5 & 6
    Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ
    $30 in Quail Loop, other loops $25 plus $6 reservation fee

    E of Sedona & I-17, Bell Trailhead
    No fee

    Upper Tonto Creek Campground, Tonto National Forest, Kohl's Ranch, AZ

    Apache Creek Campground, Gila National Forest, E of Reserve, NM
    No fee

    Super 8, Socorro, NM

    Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave Campground, BLM, Lincoln, NM
    No fee

    Pine Springs campground,Guadalupe National Park, TX

    Aguirre Springs campground, BLM, E of Las Cruces, NM

    4/14 &15
    Bonita Canyon campground, Chiricahua National Monument, NPS, E of Sunizona, AZ
    $12/$6 per night

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