Chiricahua Mountains

Its been 30+ years since I last visited the  Chiricahua Mountains or  Portal AZ.  I grew up in the tiny Phelps Dodge copper smelter town of Playas New Mexico, it is located about an hour from Portal Arizona. We would take trips to Portal and the surrounding area on occasion, sometimes to play in the snow or just to get out and hike around.   At the time I didn’t have a real interest in photography, honestly I didn’t appreciate the wildlife or the beauty of the mountains.  

The Chiricahua Mountains are about 25 miles south of Wilcox, Arizona. Wilcox is where you will make the turn to the south if you are coming from Tucson.  If you are heading west on I-10 you would turn off the I-10 south at Road Forks and make your way to Rodeo, New Mexico and then on into Portal, Arizona. 

On this trip, we first visited the  Chiricahua National monument and enjoyed  the views from the top, which allow you to see miles and miles over a number of mountain ranges. The view points are at about 8000 feet. The air was crisp and fresh with the smell of pine trees. The 8 mile loop is fully paved with facilities scattered along the way. 

On the way out we decided to make the trek to Portal on the mountain pass road. It’s a single lane road and under fair weather conditions  a 4x4 isn’t needed. I don’t think it would be wise to attempt taking a car through the road as it’s fairly rough even in a truck.  It’s about 20 miles of road cut through the mountain range and as you climb the views are pretty amazing. 

There is a portion of the road where you pass through a few meadows. This is where we ran across several white tail deer grazing, there were a few bucks we came a across, unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture any shots as they quickly left the area. 

All along the way there are plenty of photographic opportunities and a number of trails to hike.  I can’t wait to go back in a few months to shoot the stars. Growing up in Playas, the night skies are something I remember vividly, from meteor shows to viewing the satellites passing over, the skies are dark and clear.  Portal is a destination for astro photographers as it’s a “dark zone” with no real light pollution. 

This last couple of shots were taken as we were leaving Portal and heading into Rodeo, New Mexico.  If you haven’t visited the  Chiricahua Mountains or Portal, it’s well worth the trip. Pack a picnic as there are many camp sites to enjoy and don’t forget to bring a camera, so much to see and photograph. 

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