Lifestyle / Travel
trogon, a tropical bird from
By Aubin Tyler
Globe Correspondent /
But it’s not just trogons that
make the place special. This remote corner of southeastern
Summer months are for scientists only, but each spring and fall the research station opens its doors - for a fee - to non-scientists, or guest naturalists, interested in birding, hiking, or simply communing with nature against a backdrop of soaring volcanic cliffs, burbling mountain streams, and high-desert forests of oak, juniper, pine, and sycamore. If there is extra room during the summer, non-scientists can sometimes snag a private cottage by calling two weeks in advance.
“The biodiversity is the reason we’re here,’’ said Dawn S. Wilson, the research station’s director and a herpetologist who studies the Chiricahua leopard frog. “People come from all over the world.’’
Climatically, temperate and subtropical regions meet here along this chain of 10,000-foot mountains, “sky islands,’’ of spruce and ponderosa, separated by lower elevation grasslands, scrub, and desert valleys.
Hiking trails in the surrounding
Lucky visitors may glimpse black
bears, mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, javelina -
small boar-like creatures - or encounter a band of chattering coatimundi, fleet-footed, comical relatives of the raccoon.
Alden Hayes’s 1999 history of the area, “A Portal to
Nestled in the eastern range of
“The peak research season is July
through the end of August,’’ during the rainy season,
This winter the station is building a 55-bed dormitory and remodeling its nine private cottages to be ready by spring. “We’re remodeling the cabins into family units to provide more housing for researchers who want to bring their kids,’’ and couples, Wilson said.
The price to stay in a cottage, $90 per person per night for non-scientists, includes three meals, generally well-prepared, filling fare such as chicken fajitas, warm tortillas, fresh salad, and fruit. Sack lunches can be requested the night before.
A word of caution: There are no TVs and cellphones do not work here, though there is a pay phone that takes calling cards. Wi-Fi will be available in the newly renovated cottages.
During the summer seminar series, visiting researchers give talks about their work, which are open to the public. For interested amateurs, the research station also sponsors popular weeklong birding tours in April and May and a nature tour in September.
During the season, 20 to 30 student volunteers are needed from March 1 to Nov. 1. Volunteers can work 24 hours per week for six weeks in exchange for free room and board.
“Most [volunteer] applications are
in January and February, but we tell people to call to see if we’re full,’’
In late March or early April, the
trogons usually arrive along the South Fork Trail, an oasis crisscrossed by a
meandering stream with numerous waterfalls. “Because the creek is right there,
they’ll nest fairly close,’’
Last spring, a wildfire burned
almost 223,000 acres in the
If you go...
Southwestern Research Station
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