Sky Islands
Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

The Chiricahua Mountains of Cochise County, southeastern Arizona, form part of the Coronado National Forest. The highest point is Chiricahua Peak, 9,759 feet (2,975 m) above sea level. The mountains tower over the town of Portal, 5 miles west of the Chiricahua Desert Museum. These mountains were the fortresses of the famous Chiricahua Apache chiefs Cochise and Geronimo, until the late 19th Century.

Tell and I set out for the Chiricahuas early one morning, when we were back from the IHS at Fort Worth. Armed with cameras we planned to drive as far into the mountains as we could, then walk up the scree slopes in the hopes of finding and photographing Banded rock rattlesnakes (Crotalus lepidus klauberi), with Northern blacktail rattlesnakes (Crotalus molossus molossus) a strong possibility on the lower slopes and the outside chance of a New Mexico ridgenose rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi obscurus). It was also hoped other snakes and lizards might be visible along the way.


The Chiricahua Mountains from the Portal road.

The weather was promising and the vistas stunning as we drove from the Chiricahua Desert Museum, straight up the Portal road, and through Portal, enroute the mountain foothills.

The Chiricahua Mountains from beyond Portal, Arizona.

The scree slopes and other highly attractive rattlesnakes habitats were enticingly visible as we got closer.

The enticing Chiricahua Mountains up close.

The great canyons towered above us, promising a strenuous but hopefully productive morning of herping in the Chiricahuas. Tell waxed lyrical about some of his earlier jaunts up here with Bob, some of the rattlesnakes they had seen and .........

The signs that put an end to the trip into the Chiricahuas.

........ then we came to the first of the road-blocks.
Every route we tried for access the mountains, was similarily blocked.

The Chiricahuas had been subjected to some horrendous wildfires during May and June and they had still not recovered. The removal of the vegetation had destabalised the soil which washed down onto the roads in the heavy rains that followed, along with dead trees and boulder. These man-made road-blocks were a warning that natural road-blocks may lie ahead.

We had no alternative but to abandon our excusion and return to the Desert Museum.