Cindy and Jeff Getting Ready For Bat Walk Tour at Kartchner State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, AZ April 25 – May 2, 2024

I know the Google map screenshot in our photo album shows it should have taken us almost 4 hours to drive from Radium Springs in New Mexico to Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson, Arizona, but we ended up driving for almost 5 hours. Winds were sustained at 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph. Since I was still not completely recovered from the cold or whatever that sickness from Hell was, it was especially exhausting.

Plus, about 2 hours into our trip I looked in my outside rear view mirror and saw a thin black rubber strip flying from the roof of Nomad. We pulled over and I got the ladder out, climbed up to the roof to find that the winds had blown the RV roof side seam out of its track on the driver’s side of the trailer. It was still secured at each end so I cut away the silicone that was anchoring it and threw the now-useless seam material into the back of Voyager.

About an hour and a half later, the RV roof side seam on the passenger side did the exact same thing. They’re not even connected. It’s just that the wind was so bad (and they have been exposed to sun, rain and wind for almost 3 years) it pulled them out of the track. They were both subsequently so stretched out that they are useless now and I’ll have to buy new stripping and reinstall them on each side.

And, of course, when we crossed into The Grand Canyon State I HAD to play “Arizona” by Mark Lindsay.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

We arrived at Kartchner State Park and started setting up. Our site had an asphalt pad that sloped down to the front with 50 amp power and water. When it came time to extend the living room slide-out…nothing. Not even a motor grinding. I ended up having to manually crank it out and let me tell you THAT is no fun. Especially when your arms, shoulders and upper back are already sore from driving 5 hours in heavy winds. Later in our stay I would crawl up underneath and find that one of the wires from the motor was disconnected. I got it reconnected and the slide-out worked fine. So glad it was a simple fix.

Friday we hiked on the foothills trail with Bella in the morning, then went to Benson, 10 miles away, for lunch. We had hoped to get pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut, but this bustling metropolis had neither. We found a pizza restaurant that had good ratings on Yelp and stopped in to enjoy their pizza buffet. It was actually pretty good. The coolest thing was they had a video jukebox that played old music videos. We watched/listened to “If This Is It” by Huey Lewis and The News, “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel and “Walk Like An Egyptian” by The Bangles, among others. Then we went grocery shopping because our cupboards were bare due to our not shopping when we were ill.

Saturday morning while we were making breakfast we suddenly found ourselves in a hail storm. Thankfully they were only tiny BB-sized hail, but it was still a surprise as there was nothing in the weather forecast for such a thing. Later in the day we just walked around the two loops near us.

Bat Walk

Saturday night we enjoyed a Bat Walk tour. The rangers, Susan, Cindy and Trish, used iPads with a special microphone and app. The mike would hear the bats and the app would identify the species and pop up a photo of what was being heard. Kind of like the bird app that Cindy uses.

There are 1,462 species of bats in the world, 28 of them are in the state of Arizona and 13 of those are here in Kartchner State Park. Bats are a keystone species, meaning they are important to the ecosystems and scientists can judge how healthy an ecosystem is by how many bats are there. They are the only flying mammal and communicate and navigate using echolocation and sonar. They speak in frequencies too high for us to hear and can beat their wings 12 to 17 times a second. Out of the bats at the park, most are insectivores, but the Mexican long-tongued bat and the lesser nosed bat are both pollinators. These bats take pollen from blooming plants, like agaves, and also pollinate other plants. Bats are very helpful and eat thousands of bugs. Most bat species have only one baby a year and may live from 10 to 40 years. They have been around for as long as 52 million years, and have been in Kartchner Cavern for 45,000 years.

As for us, most of the time all we could see was a flash of movement as the bats flew out from underneath the bridge or out of the cavern to snag bugs in flight. Their diet of bugs meant we didn’t have too many around the campsite which was nice.

We didn’t bother taking the cavern tour during our stay because they don’t allow photography. We’ve toured lots of other caverns during our travels so we decided to pass since we couldn’t take photos. But the nighttime bat tour on the bridge and near the mouth of the cavern was fun and informative

Bat Cave Cafe

During the rest of our stay we hiked the trails around the park, getting to see the various plant life and a few of the animal life that live around the area. Saw evidence of some but the only actual animals we saw were birds and a Peter Cottontail rabbit one morning sitting on the ground outside our window as we ate breakfast.

Tuesday we walked up to the Discovery Center to try out the Bat Cave Cafe for lunch only to discover they were closed that day due to mechanical problems, according to the sign. So that was disappointing but we also stopped by the gift shop and Cindy got some retail therapy in for the day.

This was a nice stay. The illness from Hell was still hanging on to us, but we had some time to recuperate and were feeling a bit better by the time our stay was over. When we leave here we’ll be spending one night at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and then a week in a more remote part of Arizona.

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