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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Southeast Arizona’s South Fork Cave Creek Trail

April 27th, 2012 · No Comments

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The South Fork of Cave Creek is the jewel of the Chiricahua Mountains, and birders from all the world over know that. Sharon and I spent a lot of time walking along the 1.3 mile South Fork Road into the canyon. At one time I counted 20 birders along this dirt road, including several who had come from overseas.

But even better is the lower part of the South Creek Trail 1.5 miles up to a trail junction known as Maple Camp. The hike that Sharon and I took early in the morning of our second day at Cave Creek Ranch was the highlight of our exploration of Cave Creek Canyon. The morning was surprisingly cloudless and warmer after the storm that had blown through the day before.

While we waited out the rain the previous day Reed Peters, the owner of Cave Creek Ranch, had briefed us the about the best places to go. “This is the most beautiful trail,” he told us.

In fact, it is one of the most beautiful trails I have ever hiked. It’s right up there with the Fall Creek Trail near Santa Cruz and the Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. But with fewer people. I fell in love with Cave Creek Canyon and plan to return next spring.

Sharon and I hiked alone on the South Fork Trail and rarely saw anyone in the several hours we explored it. We saw lots more birds than people.

The trail follows the clear creek all the way, except when the creek runs underground. We didn’t follow it there.

The South Fork of Cave Creek

The South Fork of Cave Creek

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About one-quarter mile along the trail we entered a wilderness area. Whenever I have an experience like this, I think of the wise words of Henry David Thoreau in Walking, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Sharon Enters the Chiricahua Wilderness

Sharon Enters the Chiricahua Wilderness

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A Painted Redstart Rests on a Log

A Painted Redstart Rests on a Log

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While I always love to photograph vivid birds like this Painted Redstart, an Arizona Woodpecker gave me the biggest kick of any birds I saw on this hike. Sharon and I had discussed it, and I had hoped to see one. I got a special kick out of spotting it before Sharon did, something that rarely happens. She almost always sees birds that are invisible to me, often even after she points them out to me.

An Arizona Woodpecker at its Nest in a Sycamore Tree

An Arizona Woodpecker at its Nest in a Sycamore Tree

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After our hike, we stopped at a sign that said “Cathedral Vista” and walked a couple of hundred yards up out of the canyon to see a broader view.

Sharon Considers Whether to Climb Cathedral Rock

Sharon Considers Whether to Climb Cathedral Rock

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Recently, I’ve been writing about the health benefits of getting out in nature, including “Natural Exercise to Help Manage Diabetes” and “The Nature Principle.” The South Creek Trail hike gave me my nature fix.

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Posted in: Arizona

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