Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona 3/12 - 3/13
Jimmy and I "raced" thru New Mexico from our last stop near El Paso, aiming for Willcox, AZ. We had two reasons for stopping in Willcox. First, since reading about Chiricahua Nat'l Mon, I've wanted to see it in person, and Willcox is the closest place to camp for a vehicle our size. Finding a quiet place to camp in Willcox isn't easy, as it's stuck between the freeway and well-used railroad tracks, sort of like between a rock and a hard place. We found a tidy C/G, and with ear plugs and a sound machine, we didn't hear many trains!
Chiricahua (pronounced cheer-i-cow-ah) lived up to and surpassed my expectations. Jimmy's too. The name is an Opata word meaning wild turkey (now all gone). For centuries this area was part of the Chiricahua Apache homeland. It's a land with strangely beautiful pinnacles, towers, spindle-thin columns, spires, and balanced boulders so huddled together that they seem almost surreal. The Chiricahua Apaches called these pinnacles "standing up rocks." Very apt. We hiked two trails, and repeated over and over, "Look at that," or "Wow!" Again, we took many photos and I'll try to pick a few representative of the region's dramatic views.
On the road to the Monument. The Chiricahua mountain range is what's known as a "Sky Island," one of the world's largest and most diverse ecosystems. This range is one of 40 in Southeastern Arizona.
A Wonderland of Rocks!
We didn't get to the Monument till mid-afternoon the first day (after driving from TX) and walked the Massai nature trail at the top of the park road, which whetted our appetite for more! We left Willcox early the next morning for the approx 40-mile drive, so we could hike the three-and-a-half mile Echo Canyon Loop trail. Rated moderate, the trail winds thru spectacular rock formations, inc the Grottoes and Wallstreet, where CCC trail crews widened some existing fractures in the bedrock to create a narrow passageway through imposing hoodoos - a truly awesome stretch. And I can say that at 6784', we could feel the elevation, having been lazing away at sea level for the past couple of months! This trail steadily dropped to Echo Canyon (544') and then we hiked up top again! A bit of climbing and lots of clambering over rocks, but t'was a beautiful hike!
Lean on me!
Amazing. Jimmy is looking at erosion that appears almost man-made, like a carving from hundreds of years ago. And check out the background!
I know they must fall; they have to... just please not while we're on the trail!
And what keeps these durn things up there anyway?
Walls and walls of oh-my-gosh and wowzers!
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And THEN... since we had our bikes on Smartie, we drove back up to Massai Point and parked. Jimmy took the bikes off the car and then we waited for the right person to ask, "Would you be willing to drive our little car down to the Visitor Center so we can ride our bikes down?" After a couple of tries, we found a young couple who said, sure. He drove our car and she drove their car. Jimmy and I donned our helmets (not all the brain cells are gone and we didn't want to lose any more!), hopped on our bikes, and FLEW six miles down the mountain - from 6870' at the top to the Visitor Center at 5400'. No pedaling. Just brakes, trying to keep the speed below 40 mph! We grinned and one of us (guess who?) let out a YEE-HAW every so often. We grinned all the way home, too!
Helmets on - ready to roll.
A couple of photos along the way - at the red arrow, Jimmy is flying downhill. (enlarge pic)
Here I come! What a wild 'n crazy rush!
Our car (and the driver!) was waiting for us at the VC. Oh, the second reason for stopping in Willcox will have to wait; my Internet connection here isn't so good. Tune in tomorrow!