Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spelunkering and Chiricahua Mountain Columns....

Thursday's forecast calling for rain worked out well for us.  We chose an indoor activity.  We made a reservation to tour the 'Big Room' @ Kartchner Caverns State Park.  And rain it did....for most of the day.

Cameras, cell phones and other electronic toys are not permitted in the cave.
I copied these photos from the Kartchner Caverns WEB site.
What a fantastic work of nature this place is.  As with most caves discovered  in the continental US (or the world, for that matter), they were discovered by dedicated spelunkerers; cave seeking hobbyists.  That's the case here too.  It is a wonderful story. And we were thrilled to see the cave for ourselves. Here is the WEB site for those interested in learning more about it:  Arizona State Parks: Kartchner Caverns: Home 
This was the view from our windshield on our return from Kartchner Caverns.  Sun and cool temperatures were in the forecast for Friday.
With word that the overnight temperature was going to drop below freezing, I unhooked our water feed to the 5th wheel and removed the water filter.  Good thing too.  The overnight temperatures - these past two nights - fell to -5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).  That is cold for here!  Once the sun rises over the horizon, things heat up quickly.
Heavy frost covered anything that was exposed to the elements.
With a high of 11 Celsius and no winds, forecast for Friday,  we opted to ride to the Chiricahua National Monument - about 90 minutes east from Benson.  We wore all of our harsh weather gear and then plugged in to the motorcycle electrical system for full body heat. With the heated grips set, we rode off for the day.  It was quite cool - riding @ 70 MPH - but we were nice and toasty.
Interesting boulder formations along the route.
The ride took us east on I-10 towards the town of Wilcox.  We took on a full tank of fuel before heading further south and east to our destination - the National Monument.

Jeanette wanted this photo.  She recalls watching a TV program (on the Food Network or TLC...or such) that focused on 'The Dining Car' and its barbecue foods that make it famous.  It is situated in town of Wilcox, AZ.
We did ride through the small town and saw this claim.  We could not confirm whether this was Arizona's Oldest Store.
Heading south from Wilcox brought us into some interesting areas.  There are cattle ranches and even a large tree farm, that we saw.  The topography is quite stunning!  Our necks were well exercised from looking left, right, and up and around.  Remembering that this was Cochise and Geronimo country, it adds to the nostalgia when touring here.
A beautiful ranch home with a stunning mountain background.
Approaching the National Park gates.
A friendly fella greeted us at the gate entrance.  He explained that the road leading to the top of the monument had just opened. It was 12:30 pm when we arrived there.  He mentioned that it had been sanded and would likely be fine for our ride up to near 7,000 feet.  We took his word, paid our $5 each, and headed to the park information centre.
We opted to view the eight minute video before riding up.  It was well worth it.  We learned so much about the history and the geological formations.
It wasn't long before we rode into some stunning columns of intricate rock formations.  Erosion, from water and wind, has sculpted this mountain range over millions of years.  It is a beautiful area.
It's fun to imagine how the Apache tribes, who lived in this area, took cover from winter winds and rains (snow too, at tiimes) and where they could hide in the shadows of the columns in the heat of summer.
We could have spent hours staring at these huge columns.
We rode over some iced roads - well sanded - on the shady side of the ride up to 7,000 feet.
It was a slow but sure ride up the icy road.  I never felt uncertain of the traction - on two wheels - but it was a slow and steady ride through several of these areas.
The reward for our ride up.....
It is simply magical to stand up at the top this mountain range - 7,000 feet - and look down on the forest of rock columns below and the grass fields in the western horizon.
A couple from Vancouver, Washington, took our photo - and we reciprocated.
One major advantage to coming here on a cold day is the lack of tourists.  We were only a handful of folks up here.  We felt like we had the mountain to ourselves.

The ice kept falling from tree branches and made for some interesting sounds.
The cacti survive the cold too.
Impressive....and photos hardly do justice to the views we had.
Once more long look before we rode out of the National Park.
Well aware of our 90 minute ride back to the RV park in Benson, we left to ride back in daylight. We left Chiricahua National Park feeling rewarded for the cool ride up there.  What a treat!  
Some of the ranch lands in the area.
Back at our 5th wheel, we caught up on some of the Tim Horton's curling, texted Ginette, who along with husband, Trevor, and son, Easton, had flown to Edmonton earlier that Friday morning.  Ginette is presenting a few seminars.  They are staying with our son, Deni, and DIL, Courtney.  They arrived in Edmonton on one of the coldest days imaginable.  It was something like -30 without the windchill factored in.  The windchill would make it feel like -40.
Within a few minutes after texting, we Face Timed our little family.  It was fun to interact with Easton (as he tried to share some finger foods with us).  Happy little fella he is! 
Siblings, Deni and Ginette, chatted us up too...and Deni then took his iPad to show us the recent updates on their basement renovation.  Looks great!  Well done!  Ginette is always goofing off.....and she loves to make goofy faces.  Jeanette caught her with this photo.
Once we signed off with our little family, I fired up the Weber-Q and, before long, we enjoyed a nice dinner of chicken, veggies and more.....inside the warmth and comfort of the fiver.  It was not outdoor weather, let me tell you!

Mr. Frosty returned overnight.  There was a very heavy frost coating everything exposed.  As I am about to publish this blog, the sun has been heating things up for some time.  We plan a stay at home day before we pack to head west tomorrow.   We will pay for another night and I will spend some time shining up the fiver.  

That's it from here.  Thanks for dropping in.


  1. Looks like a nice day trip. We are staying south of you, so will have to plan a trip there.

  2. Bill,
    You will not regret the trip there - guaranteed!

  3. Glad you got to see the caverns so amazing.
    So much to see in that area too, we have toured it many times.
    We were supposed to be in Benson on Friday, now by the looks of it maybe Monday.
    Keep warm there.

  4. We really liked our walk in the Caverns. The Monument looks like a great spot too, but you do look cccold!

  5. The Chiricahua's are one of my favorite Arizona rides.

  6. JB,
    I sure can understand why. Stunning country. We did see several horse trailers but you weren't spotted there.

  7. Looks like a wonderful trip, thanks for sharing all of the great pictures!

  8. We never did get to the Caverns but did make it to the Chiricahua National Monument and found it fascinating. You got some great photos along the way.

    We're still cold here but looks like a warmning trend for the coming week - I'll be happy to see rain!

    Great to see Easton in your iPad screen as I guess we'll be doing a lot of that in the coming months too.

  9. Another National Monument to put on our list! Looked like a cool, but great ride!

  10. Sounds you had a great trip. Photos are amazing!!

  11. Great tour of the caves. We have been near there a few times and will have to check them out!