Sunday, March 15, 2015

Chiricahua Mountains–”Land of Standing Up Rocks”

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and Lowell, AZ 042

We left the funky artsy town of Bisbee Arizona and moved on down the road about 85 miles or so and landed at Rusty’s RV Ranch. Ranch, you say? Yes this one is called a ranch and upon pulling in one can see why. With 40 sites set upon 40 acres and each site being 200 foot pull through's.....these are some big sites! Sharon loved walking the mile long perimeter trail around the park and we were forewarned about two rather aggressive geese along the pond side of the trail.  They waddled quickly over to us getting really close squawking with necks extended and lowered.  Had we not been warned it would have been a little intimidating.  Sharon also loved the clubhouse area where cookies were in a jar for guests as well as a pretty cactus garden area with a coy pond and cages of beautiful parrots who chirped and danced for us. Who knew we would find such a gem of the park so far off the beaten path...

Located just north of Rodeo, New Mexico the draw for this park are the astronomers for the dark, dark skies.  We were asked at check in to be sure and turn off our outside lights and close our shades as an astronomer onsite was doing some time lapse filming!  This is also a great place to stay to visit the eastern Chiricahua Mountains.  This side of the mountains is a birding mecca since so many of the neo tropical birds from Mexico and Central America will summer in the Cave Creek area of the mountains.

The Chiricahua Mountains rise out of the desert with it’s highest point being Chiricahua Peak at 9,759 feet in elevation.I first visited the Chiricahuas some 35 years ago and was amazed at the diversity of birds. Several years later I brought Sharon’s brother there for a backpacking adventure up the South Fork Trail. I always wanted to share this beautiful spot with Sharon and so now I was able to…

Our first adventure was to drive the 35 mile trip over the top of the the Chiricahua Mountains so we could stop at Rustler’s Park (at 8,500 feet in elevation) and to see the Chiricahua National Monument.  I had been warned that this area had been struck hard by a fire and, believe it or not, a hurricane which caused massive flooding throughout the mountains.

Evidence of the flood was immediately seen since all the campgrounds in the mountains were still closed for damage from Hurricane Odile in September of 2014. Roads to these campgrounds were pretty beat up as well. As we drove up the mountains we turned on switchback after switchback but finally got to Rustler’s Park and it was here where the impact of the 2011 Horseshoe 2 Fire (which burned over 9,000 acres) was most noticed by me as the beautiful meadow I remembered to be at Rustler’s Park was now surrounded by dead blackened trees… it was a sad sight to see…

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area and Lowell, AZ 046

Not to be dissuaded  we pushed on over the monument where we drove and hiked around the beautiful hoodoos and balancing rocks found throughout the beautiful Chiricahua National Monument. There is a nice in-and-out drive into the ‘Wonderland of Rocks’ as they are called. There are many trails to hike in the monument and we did a few short hikes enjoying great vistas. We are certainly glad our government was so aware of this unique place and protected it in 1924 by creating the Chiricahua National Monument.

Our stay here at Rusty’s RV Ranch was short but wonderful and sad at the same time. The birding was not yet in full force or we would have stayed longer. We loved our short hikes here and our birding outings. I even took Sharon a few miles of the South Fork Trail that I had backpacked with her brother on. Yep, Rusty’s is a great spot to stay to visit this part of the world and despite the damage by fire and rain we felt this was still a special place to be… Oh, and watch out for their guard cat…


  1. Love the Chiricahua Mountains such wonderful sights, and so unusual, we toured there last year.

  2. That sure looks like a beautiful place to be. It's amazing how many beautiful areas there are in this country. Our job is to find them.

  3. Nice to know of a decent RV park in the area. We stayed in Wilcox at a pretty depressing park when we visited that area.

  4. We've visited Rusty's several times and always had a fabulous time, there's so much to see and do around there. Have fun!

  5. We didn't make it to this national monument, but your pictures made we wish we had made our way time when we are in the area!

    I am planning 2015 and was wondering if you could recommend a good park in Yuma AZ for a couple of month stay during the winter months??

  6. Everyone that visits that area just loves it. I put it on our list. Gorgeous photos!

  7. Looks like a great place to visit, I had not read about this area previously, but will keep it in mind for when I travel that way. Great pictures.

  8. Your first pic is picture postcard perfect!
    and loved the "Guard Cat" !!!!
    KarenInTheWoods and Steveio
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard