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2020-02-27 – Drive from Thatcher to Las Cruces

My chosen route out of Arizona and into New Mexico was long and arduous, but I loved the scenery.

Leaving Safford and Thatcher Arizona, I drove east towards New Mexico on the most remote roads I could find on the map. I traveled on roads ripe with twists, turns, and incomparable scenery. I’m reminded that this is best the way to meet North America. By staying on the interstate you see little of the beauty of this amazing continent. Only by choosing to follow two or four lane black top roads can you really appreciate the scenic wonders of this land.

One road I explored this day was Arizona-78. At Milepost 167, I was going up a steep grade and I stopped to take pictures of the scenery. While walking to a vantage point I realized there were plenty of birds in the area such as Rock Wren, Northern Flicker, American Robin (heard only), Western Bluebird, American Kestrel and sparrows that I did not ID. But this was not a day for gathering bird images. Further up the steep grade there were some amazing cliffs sculpted into the roadside canyons to the South. I found a place to pull off and take pictures. The light was not ideal, but I shot anyway.

After cresting the pass, the habitat transitioned to mature conifer woods, with many places tempting me to stop and spend time, but this was not a day for lingering. There was an appointment for Friday morning in Las Cruces I needed to attend, and miles to go before I sleep (and promises to keep). I had to content myself with birding while I drove. Other than Red-Tailed Hawks soaring, kestrels on power lines, and the occasional passerine flyover, there wasn’t much worth reporting. A high point was about 5 or 6 miles east of Black Jack Campground, when 15 to 20 jays crossed the road in front of me. They looked too bulky to be Pinyon Jays. Scrub Jays (Woodhouse) would seem possible, but it would seem more likely they were Mexican Jays, given how large the group was.

Coming down off the mountain pass, I was now in New Mexico. The road crossed a wide grassland prairie and through a small settlement called Mule Creek. What a difference this was from the conifer habitat I just came through.

The remainder of the drive was a bit of a grind, and before I reached Hatch, I began to tire. My route zigzagged northeast to Cliff New Mexico, southeast through Silver City and Demming, and northeast again to Hatch. Out of Hatch I headed south on old highway 185 to reach my ‘campsite’ in a Las Cruces Walmart. Friday I’ll wait on Larry the mobile RV mechanic to find me here and get the batteries changed out.

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