Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Walk in South Fork

The beauty of the South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon never fails to enchant those who stray into it. Most know it in spring when neotropical migrants pour through the canyon corridors, or in summer, when the croaks of Elegant Trogons echo off the burnt orange cliffs, overlain with lime-green lichens.

Arizona Sycamores in South Fork (Photo by Narca)

Now it's winter, and peacefulness lies as deep as the drifts of sycamore leaves.

I often hike up the South Fork road with friends, usually Peg or Rose Ann, but some days when the call of the canyon is especially strong, I go alone, quietly. That's when a Black Bear is more likely to amble across the dirt road, oblivious to a hiker. That's when I'm more likely to tune into the small flocks of confiding Yellow-eyed Juncos that forage unobtrusively at the road's edge.

Today sparkles, after last night's mix of rain and light snow. The luminous cliffs glow intensely orange against the skyblue. Flocks of ubiquitous Mexican Jays probe into crevices and under leaves. An Arizona Woodpecker taps softly in the oaks.

The cliffs of South Fork (Photo by Narca)

Today a troop of Coatis cavorts in the creek bed and noses through the drifts of fallen, rusty-gold leaves. Females and young gather in troops like this one. The males (like this big guy who visited our house last month) are solitary. In Costa Rica, people used to think that there were two species of Coatimundi––those that lived in groups, and those who were solitary, the "Lonely Coati."

A lone male Coati (Photo by Narca)

When our own quiet matches the forest's quiet, we find its life.


  1. A most enjoyable post. Wish I were there.

  2. Thanks, Rich! You're welcome any time.

  3. Hi Narca, I just stumbled on your blog and really like it. We just spent two night near Portal (which coincided with the big storm unfortunately), but we did manage to get out and hike a bit in the canyon. We love the beauty and wildlife in the area and we will be back. In the mean time, I will continue to check in on your blog to see what you are up to.

  4. Hi Alan, and thanks. Come back to Portal in early May to catch the peak of spring migration, or in June or July for the nesting season. Once the monsoons start––in years when they start!––the heat isn't so bad.