Our last week in Green Valley flew past. February is a darn short month when you’re having a great time. So many things left undone – guess we’ll have to try to catch up again next year. I did manage to capture one image that I’ve forgotten about every year……pecan trees. Green Valley Pecan Company has thousands of pecan trees in the area. By the time we arrive in February, the year’s pecan harvest has been collected, and the trees are in the process of being trimmed for next year. But, in one area through which we cycle weekly, there are many trees not part of any commercial enterprise. The pecans eventually drop to the ground, but in the meantime, they are a woolly accent to the stark branches. Against a bright blue sky, it’s a great image. The bird is an accidental bonus.After a flurry of packing and cleaning, we hit the road – headed toward Kartchner Caverns State Park for two days of camping, caving, and hiking. It’s windy as hell – “30mph, gusting to 125” as John described it. It’s miserable to be outside, although the temperature isn’t bad. The wind just sucks the life and spirit out of everything.
We decided to take the scenic route to Kartchner. Last month, we passed through the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Sonoita, AZ. It was breathtaking – we needed to pass through one more time. What’s significant about this area is the expanse of grassland, free of mesquite trees. Like this.Compare these view to the typical grassland area which had been planted with mesquite trees. Their unruly multiplication casts an unwanted shadow across these semi-desert grasslands. Although once considered desirable, the water-sucking mesquite is now seen a scourge, and many areas have active programs to remove them from the landscape. The government and ranchers have partnered in the effort to restore the natural grasslands. It’s a treat to drive the extra miles to experience this magnificent view.
Kartchner Caverns State Park is home to two enormous caverns, discovered in 1974 by two college students. In a previous visit, we explored the Big Room, so this trip, we elected to take the Rotunda/Throne Tour. It’s spectacularly beautiful, although I really cannot comprehend two young kids making this discovery, and keeping it to themselves for a couple of years. The area became part of the AZ State Park system in the 1980s. Today’s facilities were opened in 1999. It’s a gem. No cameras are allowed, so I don’t have photos. It was actually nice to just look and listen without the burden of taking photos, too.
We had the whole afternoon available, so the Guindani Trail called our name. This Trail winds along the Guindani Wash, leaving the State Park boundaries and wandering into the Coronado National Forest. The 4.2 mile loop was a perfect blend of easy strolling, challenging rocky trails, and small streams. Never have I seen Jezzy plunge unhesitatingly into a shallow stream to cross. At least six or seven times – maybe she’s finally growing up?
The last leg of the Trail offered us some spectacular views of this old ranchland.The open expanse of these Arizona lands are still a constant source of amazement to this Michigan girl. We were treated to quite a cloud display, probably in anticipation of the storms scheduled to roll in tomorrow.One special treat of this stop was stumbling across a spectacularly-restored 1950 Spartanette. Wow – what a beauty.Jim and Diane, the owners from Sierra Vista, AZ were gracious about showing their home to us – only their third trip after nearly two years of restoration. Jim had so many creative touches in the interior.All the wooden sections were removed, and refinished. The decorative tile was his own idea, as were all the maroon-painted surfaces. The joints between the wood sections were finished with hemp tape and rope. It was beautiful. Check out this vintage refrigerator! The bummer is that it works on electric only – no battery or propane power. Looks like it rolled right out of I Love Lucy, doesn’t it? Much to Diane’s surprise, Jim let it slip that he’d like to get other trailers, fix ’em up, and keep them all. Oops – happy hour is over!
Moving on tomorrow morning. The weather forecast has changed our plans to head to Gila Cliffs National Monument in NM. The higher altitude there has a very snowy outlook for the next couple of days. We’re going to re-route….no certain plans yet.