Searching for the Cranes - Ascaping Covid and Winter in Arizona - CycleBlaze

December 26, 2020

Searching for the Cranes

Today our ride took us SE of Wilcox on Highway 186. It was a pleasant road with a wide, smooth shoulder and light traffic. But except for the distance mountains, the scenery was a bit drab.
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This was the view for most of the ride. The soil looks very sandy here.
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Not even an interesting cactus to see out here and not one sandhill crane to be found!
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There was quite a large fertilizer plant outside of Wilcox. The valley south of town is a huge agricultural area, although we didn't ride past any orchards on our route today. They must have easy access to an aquifer for watering the crops.
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After it warmed up this morning, Don got to work on the back tire, this time putting on a new tire and fixing a hole in the tube. 

As it was a nice sunny day with no wind, we opted to drive to Wilcox and do a ride into a valley south of there. I had read that this was an area that hundreds of sandhill cranes migrated to during the winter, mostly in an area called the Wilcox Playa. While we've seen cranes on other trips, we've never seen that many of them in one spot. 

Once in Wilcox, we parked in the lot at Safeway and headed SE on Highway 186. Traffic was light and we had a beautiful wide, smooth shoulder. Oh, if only all the roads were like this one!

After about 7 miles, we turned south onto Kansas Settlement Rd. This road was named for the Kansas farmers that settled the area in the early 1900's.

That took us deeper into the valley which was all desert. The soil looked to be very alkaline and sandy, with a few cattle scattered here and there. 

This is supposed to be a large agricultural area where many crops are grown - apples, peaches, pecans, pistachios, cotton, alfalfa, corn, melons, grapes for wine and many vegetables. But we didn't encounter any fields on our ride.

The road itself had more traffic and the surface a bit rougher with a smaller shoulder. 

But the cranes were illusive with none to be seen, so after about 4 miles we gave up our search and returned to our start. I had hoped to find some local apples to buy and I had found a farm store nearby that supposedly carried produce from their farm. But  we discovered that the store sold no fresh produce, only expensive bottled touristy type foods. Forget it! 

So we headed back to Benson where we stopped again in St. David at the nut stand to buy more pecans and some pistachios. The owner of the stand gave us a nice discount so we bought 30lbs of half shelled pecans. The pistachios were a little pricey at $10.00 a lb. but they were already roasted and salted. Very yummy!

Back in camp, we both took showers before dinner and our movie.

Today's ride: 22 miles (35 km)
Total: 276 miles (444 km)

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Scott AndersonWe went to the Wilcox Playa to see the cranes about 4 years ago. They were there in modest numbers, but too far off to really appreciate. When you come to the region again, go to Whitewater Draw instead. It’s incredible. They claim up to 30,000 birds in some winters.
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6 months ago
marilyn swettTo Scott AndersonThanks for the tip Scott. I see on my map where that wildlife area is located . We'll definately check it out next time! It's not as if we've never seen cranes before, just never in that number.
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6 months ago
Scott AndersonTo marilyn swettI should have given you a pointer: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/2020part1/to-douglas/. Be sure you watch the video. The video gives you a good idea of how close in they were and of their numbers.
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6 months ago
marilyn swettTo Scott AndersonThanks for the link to your video! That was exactly what we were hoping to find on the Wilcox Playa. And your description of riding on Davis Rd was also helpful as I had tagged it as a future out and back ride from Tombstone. The cranes also migrate through Monte Vista, CO in March where they also gather in the thousands at a wildlife refuge. They normally have a festival but I see it's been cancelled for this year.
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6 months ago