Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Southwest AdVANtures: Day 5

Day 5, Wednesday, March 2nd

photo cred: Frank

photo cred: Frank

If you want to start back at Day 1, click here.

Although it can be dangerous navigating new lands at night, there is something kind of cool about arriving in darkness then waiting until morning for the site to be fully revealed. This site in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, was AMAZING. It was a dirt pullout within the Lincoln National Forest, situated in the Sacramento Ranger District, near the Sleepy Grass Picnic Area, just off Apache Canyon Road. In the light of day, we could see the mountain ranges along the horizon, and realize just how high up we were (something like 8,500 feet). Upon getting the full scope of this landscape, we knew this would be another few-night spot. If you'd have told me our first stop in New Mexico would be snowy, mountainous, and covered in Juniper and Pine, I wouldn't have believed it. This was far from the barren, flat, dusty, monotone desertland I had imagined, and I Loved it.

The morning birdsong was bustling, revealing a few more life birds: Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, and the stellar Steller's Jay - what a beautiful bird (though, true to jay form, a raucous, talkative sort). We took a few short hikes and a bit of stationary birding, to which Frank was quite dedicated, and I was quite impressed! More bird discoveries included the dapper Williamson's Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, a heard-only Northern Pygmy-Owl, and, not a lifer, but still cool, a single Red Crossbill. We also saw some sort of cat we first misidentified as a bobcat, but then, realizing it had a longer tail, wondered if it could've been a mountain lion. We settled on "I don't know," because it was dark in color and seemingly smaller than a mountain lion, but much larger than the average house cat. I believe it's alright to let some things remain mysteries. On a more certain note, we watched wild horses and groups of Mule Deer roaming through our campsite. It was another amazing day feeling relaxed, connected, and full of wonder.

Mountain Chickadee
Steller's Jay
Williamson's Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

Sleeping Spot: Near Sleepy Grass Picnic Area, off Apache Canyon Road, Sacramento Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft, New Mexico

New Birds: Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, Steller's Jay, Williamson's Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Northern Pygmy-Owl

Other Notable Wildlife: Red Crossbill, wild horses