Arizona Sky Village

Visit January 2007

Eighth Visit to the ASV

My plan on this trip was to work on the observatory. I wanted to motorise the roll-off roof and install the Cape Newise. As it turned out the snow turned the desert briefly into a winter wonderland and I spent a lot of my time enjoying the scenery and the birds which were much less timid in their hunt for food.

Car in Light Snow

Light Snow

ASV Visit january 2007

I flew out with British Airways to Phoenix, stayed a night there then drove to the ASV. Soon after arriving there was a light dusting of snow which is not unusual in the winter. Peaks on the nearby Chiricahuas go up to 10,000 feet and generate a bit of overspill that reaches the village.

It usually disappears fairly quickly but it hung around long enough for me to dash around and take lots of photos. If I'd known what was to come I would have saved my energy.

Observatory Construction Site

Mountain-top Observatory

A businessman from the west coast has purchased a mountain-top site near to Norrick Peak so Gil Clark took me up there to see the construction work. The observatory and house are situated right on the top of a peak with beautiful panoramic views all around. It's a bit isolated and the access road is tricky making popping out for the milk a bit of an expedition, but the views are stunning.

Snow-covered Car

Waking to a surprise

By the time we returned to the village all the snow had disappeared and I retired for the night. The next morning I woke to find it has snowed again, but this thime there was a complete blanket across the desert. I measured it on the decking and it was six inches deep. Locals said they couldn't remember such a heavy fall for a very long time.

The house was surrounded by footprints, mostly cottontail rabbits and jack rabbits but with a few coyotes attracted by the rabbits. A family of rabbits lives under the decking and the snow made them even more friendly than usual. I supsect that I could have them eating out of my hand if I lived there.

Bird Table in the Snow

House Finches and Friends

The birds are also inclined to come to the house for food when it is scarce elsewhere. My improvised bird table proved very popular. Positioned just outside the kitchen patio door it was ideally positioned for watching birds while having breakfast.

Horses in the Snow

Those Horses Again

In my last visit report I mentioned the horses that often escape from their own land and wander through the village. Despite being rounded up last time and the fences being repaired they were on the loose again. I expect they were finding it hard to get enough to eat but they seemed in good condition. I guess they are used to fending for themselves.

Fog Band in San Simon Valley

Fog Band

Weather conditions produce some interesting effects. This cloud band nestling in the San Simon Valley produced a very well-defined bank of fog running along the Arizona/New Mexico border. I hadn't seen anything so sharply defined as this but saw something similar a year later, but that's for a later report.

Clear Skies after the Snow

Snow Clears the Air

After the snow had fallen the sky was beautifully clear and we had sunny days and clear nights for the rest of the trip. As`usual, I was amazed at the deep-sky objects I could see with the naked eye, ones that I wouldn't even look for at home.

Road Runner on Eagle Path

Beep Beep

Roadrunners are unmistakable and their characteristic dashes across the road bring to mind the familiar cartoon character. This example appeared near the house after the snow had cleared and didn't seem bothered by me or the car. He or she walked alongside the car as I drove along slowly taking pictures. Possibly the same bird kept returning to the house. Mary and Gil have one they hand feed with pieces of meat and I'm sure this one was hanging around waiting for similar treatment.

Coyote by the Animas Road

Lone Coyote on the Animas Road

While driving to Valley Mercantile in Animas to collect some hardware I spotted this coyote alongside the road. It posed for quite a while and seemed just as interested in me as I was in him. coyotes come through the village fairly regularly but mostly at twilight or after dark. It's less usual to see them in broad daylight.

Venus setting over the Mummy

Venus setting over the Chiricahuas

We`call this range of peaks the Mummy; I hope you can see the resemblance. In this picture Venus is shining brightly as the sky darkens. The small amount of whispy cloud heralded some more snow on the mountains but I had left for home by the time it arrived.

The journey home was one of the most enjoyable I've experienced. A BA pilot I know was visiting the Sky Village and when he realised he would be flying me home he offered to do what he could to 'make my day'. As it happened I was upgraded to first class. Pity this doesn't happen more often.

Neil Parker

(Written in April 2008)