Sweet Refuge

Generally, the trip so far has been very suitable for a guy like me, one who prefers a quiet, rural location with good places to walk, some off-leash freedom, and nothing to disturb my afternoon naps. But, this place … this place tops the list.

We left Quartzsite on Boxing Day after spending five days at the Hi Jolly BLM camping area. It was far from problematic in terms of busy or noisy, but there were a number of other campers which meant I had to keep track of the comings and goings of the neighbours, bark where required, get up from the couch to see who was going by or what was going on. It was tiring. And they put a leash on me whenever we were outside to keep me from going off to visit neighbouring dogs. What’s the big deal? I do it at home all the time. But anyway …

When we rolled into the BLM area we’re in now, I thought Nollind had taken a wrong turn. It was just an empty hillside with a few fire rings. Not a motorhome, trailer, or tent in sight. But it turns out we’d arrived at the Cibola Wildlife Refuge and, for some reason none of us can figure out, it just isn’t a popular spot to stay. How do you make an incredulous face with the punctuation keys? :-0 maybe?


The desert to ourselves

I can’t say it was quiet when we stopped the truck and got out but the noise was like music, the sound of hundreds, maybe thousands, of birds down below in the refuge. I knew immediately that I was going to like this place. I’ve always liked birds, mostly from the standpoint of chasing them, but never with the intent to harm. I admire their ability to fly and feel compelled to get closer, even though I know it’s futile to chase something that can fly many feet above the ground. That said … my old friend Aspen who lived with Teresa and Nollind when I first met them, used to leap up and grab pigeons out of the air as they tried to exit through the barn door. She was impressive.


Waiting for the evening show to begin at Cibola.

The birds come and go from the refuge at sunrise and sunset, and we’ve watched the show from down in the park and from up here in our campsite. There can be a lot of geese, swans and ducks back on Sadler’s slough near the farm during migrations, but never have I seen the likes of the numbers and variety around here. I’m no birder, but Teresa and Nollind recognized Sandhill cranes, snow geese, Canada geese, snowy egrets, northern pintails, mallards, coots, and a bunch of others.


Snow geese coming in for the night

The big birds haven’t ventured over to the camping area but we do have hummingbirds. In fact, one flew right into the trailer today. Teresa had filled a feeder for them and it was sitting on the counter by the door while Nollind looked around for something to hang it from. The screen door was open so a little ruby-throated guy thought he’d just come on in and take a sip! Fortunately, he remembered the way out before I had to show him.


There are some gutsy hummingbirds in these parts

Birds are not the only wildlife we’ve seen and heard. A racoon crossed the road in front of us during one of our birding excursions, there are mule deer everywhere, and the coyotes sing for us during our evening fireside time. And, our first morning out on the trails up behind camp we came across a herd of wild burros. Chico and I were pretty excited and, although I’m generally a pretty well-behaved guy and fairly cautious in this hazardous desert environment, I think there may have been a canine-equine chase had it not been for the leashes. We tried to get a bit closer but the burros were having none of it and continued to trot away from us. We had to be content with sniffing their tracks.


Following the trail of the wild burros

We’ll be staying here at Cibola for another day and then headed a bit further south. We’re going camping with some friends from our first trip down this way in 2011. Please don’t tell Chico. He’ll get impossibly excited and therefore impossible to live with. Me? I’ll be happy to see them too and I’m thrilled we’re going to a quiet, out-of-the-way spot near the mountains instead of someplace where silly humans will be lighting up explosives on New Year’s Eve!



Morning walk just east of our Cibola campsite



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