Thursday, February 10, 2011

Trip to Pinery Canyon

On sunny but cool January 26th, my husband, our dog Keesha, and I drove south for a couple days of recreation in the Chiricahua Mountains. We traveled Interstate 10 east for 27 miles (43 km) and exited at San Simon. This small farm community of less than 1000 is the last population center before reaching the New Mexico state line. Then we headed south on the Paradise Road, which crosses fairly barren terrain held by the state and the federal BLM (Bureau of Land Management.) It is scrubland with some Mesquite trees.

Eventually the land rises in elevation. Evidences remote residences are seen: mailboxes. About 24 miles (38 km) from San Simon, Paradise is reached. The most remarkable thing about this lovely village was the two doe deer we saw laying in a side yard. In plain view. Just resting in the speckled shade. Maybe they thought we couldn’t see them?

A deer in Paradise -

Beyond Paradise, we drove up higher and higher into the forested mountains. The road turned snow covered in the shaded northern exposures. We passed a large road grader machine plowing snow. After we crossed the Onion Saddle at 7600 feet (2300 meters) above sea level, the road headed downhill in Pinery Canyon.
Pinery Canyon Road:

From the truck I glimpsed a Coues Whitetail buck deer with a trophy rack of antlers. He was still carrying this obvious symbol of his sex even though the mating season has passed.

When we got down to 5740 ft (1750 meters) there were several primitive campsites on each side of the road, so we picked a scenic spot under Oak and Juniper trees to spend the night. After setting up, we went for a hike uphill to enjoy the warm sunshine. See photo.

Later I got out my handgun and shot a few rounds to practice. Then we gathered firewood and I cooked supper, a venison stew over rice.

The campfire was delightful, both for its warmth and the unmistakable sweet scent of Juniper wood. We sat in the night and enjoyed the dancing flames. Keesha charmingly dragged sticks of firewood aside to make a pile of “her” sticks. The stars showed ferociously intense. We were so very far from any artificial light. It was beautiful.

Went to sleep in the camper to the sound of absolutely nothing. Incredible quiet. Even the heater made no noise.

That little fan-less heater kept the camper quite warm. Morning temperature was 25°F (-4°C) when I took the dog for a walk at dawn. Not one vehicle had passed our campsite for nearly 16 hours. Did the world end and nobody told us? Soon we packed up and headed down the road for the Chiricahua National Monument. That is the subject of my next post.

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