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jbnbsn99 goes to Arizona, California, etc.

Discussion in 'United States' started by jbnbsn99, 30 May 2014.

  1. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    So...

    School will soon be over and my first year of teaching will be done.

    In a few weeks, once school is out, I'm planning on embarking on my first ever epic road trip. It will be a mix of birding and zoos. My goal is around 2 weeks and to travel through West Texas (Big Bend), New Mexico, Arizona (Madera Canyon and Tuscon), and South California (SD and LA). I plan on camping all along the route. I'd love to meet up with people along the way (and maybe bum a hot shower every now and then :) )

    Here is a tentative itinerary:
    Day 1: Drive 10 hours to Big Bend National Park - bird along the river and camp
    Day 2: Big Bend State Park - bird the Chisos Mountains - drive 9 hours to Madera Canyon. (Possible stop at El Paso Zoo).
    Day 3: Bird Madera Canyon (birding Mecca!)
    Day 4: ASDM and Mount Lemmon in Tuscon
    Day 5: Bird Salton Sea (with mstickmanp - the first ever US moderator shindig)
    Day 6: SD Zoo and SD birding
    Day 7: SDWAP and SD Birding
    Day 8: Boat ride out to Santa Cruz Island
    Day 9: LA Birding (Possible LA Zoo)
    Day 10: LA Birding (Possible La Brea Tar Pits)
    Day 11: Possible Sequoia National Park
    Day 12: Grand Canyon
    Day 13: Travel home
    Day 14: Travel home

    Obviously the last few days are not fully planned. I could venture into Colorado, New Mexico, etc. Need to find some exciting places to bird to maximize my species.

    If you're along the route, message me on the tread or via PM and I'll get back to you.
     
  2. TeamTapir223

    TeamTapir223 Well-Known Member

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    Sequoia to Grand Canyon is tough you would need more time but we highly recommend you make more time they are both worth it.

    Team Tapir223
     
  3. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Like I said, that end of the trip is more flexible. My main goal at the Grand Canyon would be to see the California Condors.
     
  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    While southern Arizona is one of America's birding hotspots, winter is the prime time. Most birds migrate out for the summer. I am sure you know more about this than I do though. Sequoia and Kings Canyon (neighboring parks that form one large unit) is one of my favorite places and of course Cat Haven (another favorite) is on Kings Canyon Highway on the way to park entrance.

    It looks like about a nine hour drive from Sequoia to Grand Canyon, which is doable for someone like you who likes long drives. You will be going right past Bearizona, which I have not been to, but a hoofstock fan like you might want it just for the white bison. Sightings of elk at dawn and dusk inside Grand Canyon are virtually guaranteed. Also mule deer both there and Sequoia. Black bears strong chance in the Morro Rock area of Sequoia (and possibly Mount Lemmon here in Tucson).

    If you want a break from camping for a real room, southern and central Arizona have cheap motels in the summer. Unlike other parts of the country, summer is actually the off-season here for tourism and the hotels cut their rates nearly in half. You could get a Days Inn or similar in Tucson for probably 40 bucks. Motel 6 for 30 bucks.
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Are we having fun yet? Here are some of my photos to entice you (and to make those outside the southwest jealous :p).
     

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  6. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Looks great my friend! I'll be embarking on my own epic trip across the north-central part of the United States to see 50+ zoos and you'll be going to the south-west section to see plenty of birds. I'm excited for you to visit San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park and the other 3 zoos you mentioned (El Paso, Los Angeles and ASDM) are all pretty neat as well. A single guy camping along the way, or crashing in cheap motels, should mean that the trip won't be very expensive and your main monetary concern is how much it costs to fill your gas tank each evening. It is going to be hotter than hell but you are definitely used to Texas summers so there will be no problem there.:)
     
  7. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    And unlike semi-humid central Texas, Arizona is a dry heat! :D
     

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  8. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    I'm getting really excited. I've currently got a list of 113 possible new year/life birds from only 5 spots. As I add more sites to my list, I'm sure that 150 birds will be possible.

    Plus, there's Blue and Humpback Whales, dolphins, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, and California girls.
     
  9. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Up to 134 target birds with the addition of San Bernardino National Forest.
     
  10. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a lot of fun! I look forward to reading about it:)

    ~Thylo:cool:
     
  11. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    I just found several cheap whale watching trips on Groupon. There will be wildlife!
     
  12. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 1

    Teachers are more excited about the end of school than the kids are. True fact. Ask any teacher and they will tell you the same story, they cannot wait to be rid of those little hellions.

    Today was the last teacher workday. We had to clean our classroom and turn in all of our materials. Technically, we were supposed to stay until four. If it was four, that means I might not be able to start the road trip on time.

    I got out at 11 instead. I jumped for joy, shook some hands, and was out the door. I unloaded my school stuff at home and loaded up my camping and travel gear. I made one last trip to the store for some last minute necessities and was on the road by 1:00.

    From Fort Worth the Big Bend National Park if roughly 7.5 hours. It's a pretty monotonous drive. The landscape slowly changes, if it ever does. There's a constant rise in the elevation, but nothing too perceivable. If all went well, I could be at the Park by 9:00, just in time to have a bit of light to set up my tent.

    What I didn't take into account was how big the Park actually was. Big Bend is aptly named. Once inside the Park, it was close to another 40 miles until my camp site in the Chisos Basin.

    Wildlife had been fairly sparse on the drive - until the road into Big Bend.

    I counted 5 species of mammal on the drive.

    jb's Mammal Count

    1. White-Tailed Deer
    2. Mule Deer
    3. Texas Collared Peccary
    4. Desert Cottontail
    5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit

    I set up my tent in the dark - and subsequently forgot to put in the stakes that hold it in the ground. That would have been fine, except there was a windstorm at night and the tent wanted to blow about - with me inside.

    Lovely...
     
  13. tschandler71

    tschandler71 Well-Known Member

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    That sucks we've been out close to 5 weeks. And yes we love getting out of school as much as the kids.
     
  14. zooman

    zooman Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Hi mate,

    Looking forward to reading your adventures! The idea of camping and then getting no sleep sounds terrible but l think makes for great TV ( I know ur not broadcasting your adventures but in my mind I can see you and the tent ) all the best reality shows in OZ sleep deprive the contestants as it creates more drama :) anyways makes sense to me LOL....
     
  15. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Day 2: Hiking the Chisos and the toughest bird in the US

    After being literally tossed and turned in the night, I awoke at about five in the morning with only a modicum of sleep. It was still two or so hours before the dawn, and more then that before the sun peaked its face over the Chisos Mountains. I got things settled away at the camp site, and started out on the trail at a little before six. Not another soul was up. I knew if I wanted to reach my target, I had to have an early start.

    Birds were singing, but I couldn't quite identify what species yet. As the sky lightened I slowly ticked off a few species from my list.

    And I began to ascend.

    One of the real joys of the ascent was getting within feet of a pair of White-Tailed Deer. They had absolutely no fear. If I wanted, I could have reached out and touched them. Simply wonderful.

    I kept climbing.

    My rough rate of walking is about a mile ever 15 minutes. On a slow birding hike, that might be a little longer. I figured I could be done with the hike by noon or so before the heat of the day set in.

    What was all this for?

    The hardest bird in the lower 48 states.

    I might not have said that phrase before yesterday. The Colima Warbler is a small passerine typically found in the mountains of Mexico. There is only one place where its range crosses over into the U.S., and that's the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend. This bird makes you work to get it. The nearest big city to the area is El Paso four hours away (with an 80 m.p.h. speed limit no less). Unlike other American mountain birds, there's no easy access to the top of these mountains. When I was in Idaho and Utah, we could simply drive up the mountains and spot the birds we needed. A mile or so hike wasn't out of the question, but it was nothing like this.

    I blame the maps. I'm pretty sure the hiking trails were not drawn to scale. Those trails were a lot longer than anyone told me. I figure it was all told 11-12 miles of hiking. I could do that easily in my home region where everything is flat. At a mile above sea level, the altitude didn't think that was such a good idea.

    The day before, the temperatures had been lovely in the mid 80s. Today they had soared to 100 or higher. "It's a dry heat." That's what we all say back in "normal" Texas. What they don't tell you is that dryness sucks the moisture out of you. I though I had plenty of water for the trip. About a gallon or so. Turns out I had half of what I needed (or less). My mid-way, I could tell I was dehydrating, and I only had half a bottle of water left. I would be a rough descent.

    Why was I doing this again...

    Oh right, tiny, little bird, about 4.5 inches long, found nowhere else.

    I kept telling myself, "just a little further, just a little further." Surly, the trail where the bird was wasn't much further. 5 miles in, I reach the trail. I was exhausted, tired, thirsty, and felt like I was going to vomit. The birds better damned well be here.

    I turned the corner, and saw a tiny gray bird. I almost didn't have the strength to raise my camera. I got one photo. Blurry. But, I could tell there was a patch of yellow on the back side. It was a Colima Warbler. I hoped I could get a better glimpse. The Colima Trail is about a mile long, and as I walked it, birds started to be ticked off my list. Gray Vireo, Acorn Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch. And I finally got a good look at a Colima Warbler. It was a 5 second glimpse, but I got it. I had just hiked 6 miles in 5 hours for a 5 second view. I hope my other birds weren't like that one.

    Good news is, I ticked the Colima Warbler off my list. Bad new, I had to go back down. Another 5 miles. By now it was just before noon. The temperatures were soaring to near 100. I looked down at my hands. My fingers were now swollen and painful. I was having altitude sickness. Couple that with the dehydration, I was not in good shape.

    Another 5 miles.

    As I trudged down the mountain, I made up my mind that I was not going to spend the night in the tent again. I had to go somewhere where my body could recover. I decided to make for El Paso as soon as I could get my camp cleared. That means I would be a day ahead of schedule, more or less.

    8.5 hours after I set out, I finally reached the bottom. I raced (well, actually I shuffled like an old man) to the general store and bought two huge bottles of Powerade. My fingers were aching. I could barely move them. I finally packed up my tent, and by 3:00, I was on the move again.

    I was exhausted. When you are struggling to stay awake at 3 in the afternoon, you know you are tired. El Paso was four hours away. Sorry, make that 5. The time zone changes before you get there.

    The funny thing about El Paso, it is the mid way point on my trip from Fort Worth to San Diego, yet I still have not left the state of Texas.

    As I type this, I am fully exhausted in a Motel 6, but I feel tons better. My life list has grown by 6 birds, and my year list has grown by fourteen. I will pass 300 for the year today.

    Well, the zoo opens in about an hour, so I will finally get to tick off the last Texan zoo from my list. Hot digity...
     
  16. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    A very enjoyable read! Having spent the day with you at Dallas Zoo it is neat to imagine you slogging your way through the wild in hot pursuit of a tiny bird. I'm also intrigued by what people are passionate about, as for me the notion of ticking birds off of lifetime lists is silly. However, today the most popular sporting event of all time begins with Brazil taking on Croatia in the World Cup. I plan to watch the majority of the tournament (64 matches in total) and thus be glued to my couch for the next month and I know that some folks believe that I'm the one who is silly.

    Hopefully you are recovered enough to enjoy El Paso Zoo, and while it is small almost all of the exhibits are fairly nice and I really liked touring it in 2010. The future is bright for that establishment as the Chihuahuan Desert complex that will open in the next few years will make the zoo even more impressive.
     
  17. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    I don't get out of school until Monday!

    And great read so far!

    ~Thylo:cool:
     
  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    ha, that story reminded me of Samoa where I suffered from heat exhaustion and felt like I was going to die right there (probably nearly did)!
     
  19. mstickmanp

    mstickmanp Well-Known Member

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    Great read indeed! Luckily the mountain birds we will be looking for here in California are easily accessible and no hike is required!
     
  20. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Are we on for Saturday night at the Desert Museum?

    (I will send you a personal email to follow up).