My day got off to an early start this morning when, from the cozy warmth of my bed, I saw light first hit the delicate clouds forming in the eastern sky. My back and hip cooperated a little more today than yesterday, and I was out of bed and dressed before the sunrise peaked. I was outside in 25 degrees to take this photo – a bracing beginning!
Back indoors, I realized that I felt good – not completely free of back pain, but significantly better… definitely good enough to do some exploring – once the temperature rose.
Because they are so often mentioned in the same sentence, Portal, Arizona, and Rodeo, New Mexico, seem like the “Twin Cities” of the AZ/NM borderlands – except that neither is larger than a pinprick on a map. Just ten miles apart, both can be explored in an afternoon, with plenty of time for hiking besides. We headed out the door around 11 am, maps in hand.
We’ve decided to stay at Rusty’s RV Park through Sunday, waiting out the cold weather to our east. When Odel paid for the additional days, Rusty mentioned a potluck at noon on Sunday. We decided to attend and picked a simple rice dish that doesn’t need any fancy ingredients, a few of which we didn’t have on hand: cheese, corn, and a green pepper. Consequently, our first stop was in Rodeo, at the tiny grocery store/gas station/RV park.
As it turns out, Rodeo has not one, but TWO markets – both about this size. We found all our ingredients (and not much else). Just down the street, I wanted to visit the Chiricahua Gallery, housed in what appears to have originally been a church. Odel had packages to be mailed, so took off on foot to find the post office while I browsed the gallery.
What an unexpected treasure! Beautiful paintings and gorgeous woven scarves adorned the walls; appealing jewelry was displayed in wooden cases throughout the shop. As I wandered through, chatting with the stylish woman staffing the gallery, I gleaned a few more bits of information/gossip about an interesting bit of recent history of the area – the arrival of multi-millionaire John McAfee (of McAfee Anti-Virus software fame) in this little valley, and his subsequent departure two years later, mid 2009. Its a subject for another blog, another day – and a subject that residents are happy to discuss.
Odel returned, and we took off to Portal, Arizona, gateway to the network of dirt roads piercing the southern Chiricahua mountains, both of us looking forward to an easy hike or two. We had a great day to be outdoors, sunny and a little warmer. Passing through tiny Portal, we stopped at the (very) short Vista Point hike for a close up view of the imposing rock formations closing in on both sides. I was thrilled to find that hiking felt good, no particular back problems.
Back at the car, we continued on up the canyon to Sunny Flat campground, where we found the trailhead for a 1 mile hike to the Portal Ranger Station. We were the only people around, walking slowly along an easy trail through mostly leafless trees. The sky was brilliantly blue; we were serenaded by water running down a nearby stream bed - Turkey Creek? Soooooo relaxing.
Another point of interest on the map caught our eye: the Southwest Research Station, which Rusty had recommended. We set off once again in the Jeep but, as the canyon narrowed, icy patches began to appear with more frequency, then snow. Why push our luck? We turned around, and headed back to Portal for a lunch of chicken enchiladas and refried beans at the Portal Store, Cafe & Lodge – topped off with ice cream bars. Diet? What diet?