Lucy and I travelled out to the Sky Village using the same flights that Lesley and I had used previously, that is, direct from Heathrow with British Airways to Phoenix. This was Lucy's first visit to the Sky Village and we were going out in advance of our first guests to make sure that everything was ready for them.
We had planned to arrive several days before our guests but our trip was delayed and theirs brought forward so we arrived just one day ahead of them. They were staying in our house and we were staying in a friends.
We arrived to find the skies completely clear and Venus shone brightly as soon as the Sun disappeared.
The Next Day
Snow on the mountains reminded us it was winter although the daytime temperature was quite a bit warmer than back in England. We went over to our house in the morning to check out the inside. The exterior work wasn't finished, which was a disappointment, but the interior had been fitted out very well and looked excellent.
Inside the House
We spent some time taking photos of the inside, many of which are dotted about the web site. This shows the kitchen and breakfast area; the washing machine and drier are behind the doors to the left of the breakfast table. Donald and Christine arrived later n the day and we left them to settle in.
This was the first time I had seen water running in Cave Creek as it crosses the road into the Sky Village. Normally it is completely dry but the winter rains and snow melt were keeping it flowing. This is the water that sinks into the desert to resupply the aquifers from which we pump water to the house.
Exploring Cave Creek Canyon
We spent some time with Donald and Christine during the few days we overlapped with their stay and took them into Cave Creek Canyon. This photo was taken at Vista Point where there is a telescope you can use to look around the mountains. Vista Point is quite close to the village so makes a good place to begin.
An Unexpected Pleasure
While driving out of the canyon we saw some long-tailed animals run across the road ahead so drove slowly up to the crossing point to see if we could see them. When we reached them they were still visible in the long grass and appeared to be foraging.
Don't look now but you're being watched
After watching the animals in the grass for a while we tried to get a better view of them. Our attention had been so taken by those we had seen cross the road that we failed to notice about twenty more of them in the trees just to our right who were watching us.
We were able to get a much better view of them and the animals in this shot were only fifteen feet away. They didn't seem concerned by our presence and carried on eating. I tried to get an even closer photo and got out of the car. One of the females who had a young one with her wasn't too happy when I moved closer. She started to scold me then sent the young one higher into the tree. When she started to come slowly down the tree, all the time looking directly at me, I decided to retire to the car.
We continued to watch them for some time after this then took some photos of the rock formations behind the trees to remind us where we had seen them. We were told that these were coati which are occasionally seen in the area but rarely in such large groups. The groups consist of females and young, males living a solitary life most of the time.
Later we took a walk alongside the creek which was very picturesque, although the light was starting to fail. The previous evening some of our friends had been telling us about the bears that raided their dustbin in Portal so Lucy was feeling a little apprehensive. She was convinced she could smell bears but we never saw any.
Later in the week we took Donald and Christine to Bisbee, a former mining town built in the victorian era. In fact the locals refer to it as a victorian town which surprised me a little.
On entering the town it is impossible to miss the massive open-cast mines. The colour of the rock is characteristic of the copper on which many fortunes were built.
Many relics of the mining days are on display in the town and it is interesting to wander round and imagine the machines hard at work. The noise and dust would have been a stark contrast with the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of today.
Town in the Hills
Houses, shops, hotels and other buildings are mostly original and line the steep hillsides into which the town is built. We spent some time exploring before returning to the Copper Queen Hotel (built 1902) for an excellent lunch.
Those Virile Men
Bisbee is proud of its copper heritage and this statue was erected in 1935. The inscription reads: 'Dedicated to those virile men the copper miners whose contribution to the development of the wealth and lore of Arizona has been magnificent'.
Back at the Sky Village we visited the bird-feeding station maintained by David Jasper. We watched a variety of birds for some time then heard a heavy rustling in the scrub. After a few moments a large javelina appeared and started hoovering up the spilt bird food. He seemed not to be bothered by our presence but we weren't sure whether we should be bothered by his.
Peccaries don't normally approach humans but it turns out that this one is an old male who has been turned out of his herd. He makes a living by scrounging and can often be seen snuffling around Portal and the surrounding area. He's believed to be almost blind and completely harmless.
Although javelinas look like wild pigs they aren't pigs and are not related to them, even though we saw children's story books where the Three Little Javelinas take the place of the Three Little Pigs (with a coyote instead of a wolf). Javelinas are collared peccaries.
Norrick Peak is a small mountain with the same altitude as Kitt Peak. It is available to residents of the Sky Village who want to get their telescopes higher. Gene Turner took us up the very primitive road to see it and the exclusive building plots for people who really want to get away from it all.
The views are lovely and it is so peaceful there. We didn't go right to the peak as this involves scrambling up the last section, but we did see paw prints left behind by a mountain lion.
The ride down the mountain is quite dramatic as the road is far from finished. Gene's jeep copes well with it and we tried to capture the nature of the drive on film. This shot through the windscreen gives an idea of the road surface but it felt a lot steeper than it looks here.
We had really clear weather for most of the time we were at the Sky Village, despite being there in winter when some cloud and rain is expected. At the end of our stay the clouds started to appear but didn't stop observing completely.
Typically in winter you should expect some cloud and rain but it rarely lasts long. Dull, overcast skies that go on for days like they do in England are extremely rare. Prevailing winds strike the Chiricahuas which forces the air up high causing snow or rain on the mountain tops, rather than on the plain where the Sky Village is located.
Whilst on the subject of weather it is worth mentioning that nights in the desert, especially in winter, can be very cold and you need warm clothing if you plan to spend much time out of doors observing.
On the way back to Phoenix we called in at Trail Dust Town in Tucson. We had planned to eat at Pinnacle Peak but discovered it doesn't open for lunch. We ate in another good restaurant nearby but I have promised to take Lucy back one day to sample Pinnacle Peak steaks. Any excuse to return to Arizona.