In Bisbee: Whitewater Draw - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

February 11, 2021

In Bisbee: Whitewater Draw

One of the primary reasons we put Bisbee on this year’s map was because we wanted to revisit Whitewater Draw, a wildlife refuge we stopped by on our ride from Tombstone to Douglas last winter.   From our one experience there, Whitewater Draw is a stunning place to visit in the winter when it hosts upwards of 20,000 sandhill cranes.  

From Bisbee, it’s a very easy 22 mile ride to Whitewater Draw, down in the heart of Sulfur Springs Basin - easy because it’s all downhill for thirteen miles, and then completely flat for the remainder.  Of course, at the end you have to climb back up those thirteen miles, but that’s a concern we won’t think about until later in the day.

The first seven miles, dropping southeast past the mines and out of the Mule Mountains on Route 80, are the only truly scenic part of the day’s ride.  Nearly all of the day’s ride video were shot dropping through or climbing back up this stretch.  Now that I’ve predescribed the video, we may as well go ahead and look at it now:

I’m sure you’re disappointed to have the video already behind you, but read on.  Today’s is that rarest of posts, a four video day.

The Raven rests, in front of our home in Bisbee: the Brownstone apartments, in the historical Shattuck-Schmid Building built in 1904.
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The ride begins by dropping past the enormous open pit Copper Queen Mine, an huge open wound that we’ll coast past for nearly two miles. This is the upper end of the mine, only a quarter mile from the foot of Ok Street in old town.
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Looking north from Route 80 to the southern end of the Mule Mountains. We were somewhere up there on yesterday’s hike.
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Dropping through the Mule Mountains. Route 80 isn’t quite this quiet, but traffic is modest and there’s a good shoulder nearly the whole way to our turnoff. And it goes quickly - in this direction, at least.
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After seven miles we’re off Route 80, now on Double Adobe Road and still coasting eastward into Sulfur Spring Basin. The next 6 miles look pretty much just like this.
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For reasons not worth going to, between the photo above and this one Rachael dropped nearly half mile behind me. Here, I’ve stopped to wait until she came back into view again before continuing on.
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We’re done with long, straight, rather featureless Double Adobe Road for now, and are going north on the long, straight, rather featureless Central Highway. It will be like this nearly all the way to Whitewater Draw.
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The Central Highway isn’t the most interesting ride - a flat, straight run through a barren expanse of scrubby rangeland extending for miles on either side of the road.  It’s not depopulated though, with scattered prefab houses set back from the road every quarter mile or so.  In front of one of these homes, we experience the big drama for the day.  Looking up the road a couple hundred yards ahead of me, I’m surprised to see Rachael stopped on the side of the road, chatting with a woman there.  The reason isn’t clear until I come close, and realize there’s an aggressive dog on the loose - a medium large beast, maybe a pointer - with his eyes set on me.  Rachael is warning me about him, and the other woman is calling to him, ordering him to return to his yard.

He stays put though, fiercely growling at me from about ten feet away, as I stand there facing him down and straddling my bike and trying to decide if I should hop off the bike and place it between us or whether that will just provoke him into lunging at my leg.  One bite per year is quite enough, thank you very much.

Finally the woman walks over and herds him back off the road.  I was a bit put out that it took her so long, but in fact it isn’t even her dog.  Rachael and I express our thanks and ride on.  As we ride, Rachael recounts her experience and her shock as the dog leaped over the top of its fence and came at her.  As we bike on, both the dog and the fence grow larger and higher in size in her retelling, and we discuss options for riding back by a different route so we don’t pass this animal again.  Fortunately, she forgot that she had the camera rolling the whole time.  You can’t see the dog, but the narrative is entertaining.

Also, a note about the video for those interested in such things.  It’s sped up a bit to shorten it.  The interesting thing to me is that even though Rachael’s voice has been sped up, the correct pitch is preserved.

The remaining miles to the refuge are thankfully uneventful.  At the end, we bike down a well maintained sandy dirt road for the final mile.  Occasionally a car passes, all but one of which considerately slows to a crawl as it passes to avoid kicking up a dust cloud around us.  The exception?  A large mobile home that passes without slowing down, briefly showering us in a gritty cloud.

On the access road to Whitewater Draw. Almost as soon as we leave the Central Highway we hear the cranes in the distance. Their sound will be with us without interruption for the next hour.
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It’s been such a dry year, that I’ve been wondering if the draw would be dried up also and how it would affect the wintering population; but I needn’t have worried about it.  They’re here alright, in massive numbers.   it’s midday, and they’re mostly settled down after their morning’s foraging excursions.  Even when they’re mostly at rest like this though, it’s truly a thrilling sight.

The best time to be here would be around dawn or dusk, when I imagine they must fill the sky with their departures and arrivals.  As a note to folks with camping resources, you can bring your camper here and stay overnight.  I overheard one couple discussing what it’s like being here at night.  The cranes croak incessantly all night long, and loudly enough that they said they needed earplugs. 

There must be many thousand cranes here today. This is a large concentration south of the visitor center. Note the wide grey band at the bottom: solid cranes.
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The concentration by the visitor center is at least as large, if not larger; and much closer to the road. The nearest birds can’t be more than 100 yards off.
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At Whitewater Draw.
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At Whitewater Draw.
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At Whitewater Draw.
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At Whitewater Draw. This photo gives you a good sense of how close the cranes are, since I’m just working with my super zoom point and shoot.
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How long should you sit around watching cranes?  Days probably, but we need to have lunch and then bike back to Bisbee.  The ride back is as you’d expect - miles of flat, and then the climb up through the Mule foothills back to town.  The only news here is that we add six miles by taking a longer way back, biking north to Davis Road and then west to Frontier Road and following it south back to Double Adobe.  We decided it was worth it to us to add the extra distance in the interest of avoiding passing by that kangaroo/dog a second time.

The climb back up to Bisbee is no big deal - a steady but modest grade.  Still though, it’s been a full day; and I find myself singing “Ibuprofen; ibuprofen, ibuprofen, da dum dum dum” to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus on the climb, to keep my spirits up.

Southbound on long, straight, rather featureless Frontier Road. Not the most exciting, but preferable to the Central Highway. Quieter, greener, and NO JUMPING DOGS!
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Pecan orchards? There are a number of large ones along Frontier Road.
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Wheels of Steel. Reminds me of my favorite cookie recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, from back when I used to cook a bit over 40 years ago.
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Kelly IniguezI used to own a Moosewood Cookbook! That has been a couple of years ago . . .
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2 weeks ago
Andrea BrownI still use my Moosewood cookbook but don't remember any ferrous cookies.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYou still have it? I’m sure they were called wheels of steel.
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2 weeks ago
Patrick O'HaraI own one too....
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2 weeks ago
On Double Adobe Road: the purple loo brigade.
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Jen GrumbyHats off to the purple loo brigade ..
More fun than Rose Festival Parade!
They're lined up on the truck
Squeaky clean, free of muck
An event for a tall lemonade!
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1 week ago
Climbing back past the mines. Almost home.
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Ride stats today: 50 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 2,730 miles, 103,000’; for the year:  33 riding days, 1,467 miles, 46,000’, and 2 flat tires

Today's ride: 50 miles (80 km)
Total: 2,731 miles (4,395 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesTechnically this would have been the first dog bite for 2021 so....... We were told that there is something about the sound of the air passing through the wheels when they are turning that really gets dogs riled up. Glad you found an alternate way back.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYes, but still within the same 365 day period.
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2 weeks ago
marilyn swettYou found the cranes! Had we known about Whitewater Draw when we were down there, we would have gone over there. Love the videos and pictures. Do you use a tripod with your camera? Interesting note about camping there. We might consider that for our next trip.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo marilyn swettNo, I don’t use a tripod. There are times like this when I wish I carried one, for the videos especially. Sorry they’re so jerky.
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyLove the wading crane video! And always wonderful to hear them, too.

So glad that lady was out to help keep the dog from doing any damage.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyHey, welcome back! You must have juice again?
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyWe spent a couple nights in Eugene (closest place with hotel availability!!!)

We're back in Silverton and power came back on this afternoon.

Look forward to catching back up with your blog. :0)
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyAll the way to Eugene! A long ways, but I’ll bet you were relieved to find any place at all. Such an ordeal, for you as well as countless others. It’s so awful about those downed oak trees.
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1 week ago