Zen On Dirt

Patagonia with neighbors of the feathered and ‘illegal’ types

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There’s a little town call Patagonia just 12 miles north of the Mexican Border. It consists of a main street, a half dozen side streets, and the some outlying residences, including the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. There’s also a hippy commune, an amazing pizza place that is only open four days a week, a coffee shop, and a bakery.

This little town is world-renowned among birders, especially those looking to catch a glimpse of a Violet Crowned hummingbird.

We like Patagonia because it’s quiet, there’s free camping close to town, it’s cooler than Tucson, and there’s not a palo verde tree to be seen anywhere. This, in the spring time, is a great thing because Scott’s massively allergic to the big green trees that bloom a beautiful yellow and fill the air with pollen. Everyone and their mother seems to be allergic to them.


We love Patagonia, so we went to Patagonia and were tickled pink to see that our favorite camp spot was still open. We had to share our site with Fred the Coopers hawk who hung around laughing at us for several hours each day. (Ok, maybe he wasn’t laughing *at* us, but his call definitely sounded like a laugh to us.)


We also had a daily visit from a little Hermit Thrush.


Plus, we heard the call of an Elf Owl each night, which is the size of a sparrow and is the smallest owl in the world. We had beta on which telephone pole he liked to inhabit each year, but we never did manage to get eyes on him. It’s okay, he barked away all night and every time I heard him, it made me smile.

One morning we went out for a little pedal to a place where Scott thought we could find some cool birds. He promised a whole mile of good single track on a two hour ride. In the Canelo Hills area, any good trail is worth exploring.

And the birds!


First we happened upon a flock of Montezuma Quail. These guys usually flush like gunfire and give me heart attacks, but this flock seemed to be pretty content to just waddle off.


Their camouflage is amazing.


The singletrack, as promised, was fun. Primitive, but fun.


And then as we pedaled the road back, we flushed two Elegant Trogons from a tree! As they flew across the road in front of us, bellies red as can be. I think my exact words were, ‘Those were f-ing Trogons!’ We dropped the bikes in the middle of the road (safe, I know) and followed them up the hill for a bit. They were much shyer that the one that’s been living at Patagonia State Park and is used to being photographed. It was pretty neat to see these birds so unexpectedly.

As we pedaled back mid-morning, we saw the road crawling with Border Patrol, something not entirely unexpected in the area, but the sheer number of them indicated that something was up.

We left our campsite soon after, headed to town for breakfast and then to Patagonia Lake State Park for more birds and showers. The birds were cool, but this lizard stole the show.


Looks like someone lost their tail!

We got back to camp and heard voices in the campsite next to us.

‘I wonder if we have neighbors,’ I said, thinking nothing of it. The next door site was well within earshot of ours, but well out of eye sight.

‘Sounds like it,’ Scott said. ‘It sounds like a group, maybe on bikes coming down the canyon?’

We never saw any bikes come down the canyon.

We continued on with our afternoon of lounging. Scott napped. I hung out with Fred the Cooper Hawk.

Our bubble of tranquility was burst when a pickup truck came into our camp. A cowgirl (Ranch girl? Ranch woman?  She looked tough, I wouldn’t have picked a fight with her) got out of the front seat.

‘Hey there,’ she said. ‘Border Patrol has been searching for some illegals all day, have you seen anything?’


‘Well, they were seen up by the Spirit Tree Inn about 40 minutes ago heading up the canyon, but if they come wandering into your camp, could you call Border Patrol so that they can get a free ride back home?’

‘Sure thing,’ we said and took the number scribbled on a piece of newspaper.

We watched Border Patrol race down the road in all manners of vehicle towards the Spirit Tree Inn and now understood why there had been so many this morning.

A few minutes later, I turned to Scott, ‘Hey, have you heard our neighbors lately?’


I wandered over to find an empty campsite with a handful of catholes dug into the wash with toilet paper strewn about. I had to laugh. We knew exactly what route our ‘neighbors’ had taken over to the Spirit Tree Inn after we’d flushed them out from their afternoon bathroom spot when we’d gotten back.

We headed back to the Rincon Valley the next morning for the first of our Tucson engagements. The cloudy skies and mild temperatures made for pleasant evening riding.


The next morning, showers pummeled Tanque Verde Ridge all morning. We wondered if weather really was going to shut down our weekend plans.


But then, as predicted, the weather cleared, and the Salsa Cycles demo van showed up at our door with a pile of brand new, soon to be released bikes. An amazing weekend of riding bikes was in store, but that story is going to have to wait for another time and an other place.



One thought on “Patagonia with neighbors of the feathered and ‘illegal’ types

  1. Gorgeous birds, all of them.

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