Saturday, April 18, 2015
April 5, 2015 Chiricahua National Monument
When we started making a list of things to do in Southern Arizona, this place wasn't on it because we had never heard of it. Chrissy found Chiricahua National Monument online and told me to check it out. We both thought it looked pretty cool. So this morning we got up early and drove two hours east from Tucson. Today is Easter Sunday. I always listen to Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter Sunday. That tradition remains unbroken as I sang along for all two hours of our drive. Kennedy put on his headphones and listened to his own Godless rock & roll music. Unlike me, that heathen is going to Hell.
After talking with the very friendly park rangers at the visitor's center, we drove up the scenic Bonita Canyon Drive to Massai Point. We walked along a few of the short trails looking down into Echo and Rhyolite Canyons.
The rock formations were incredible.
After checking out Massai Point, we drove to the Echo Canyon Trailhead to start our loop hike through the park.
We decided to make a loop of the Ed Riggs Trail to the Mushroom Rock Trail to the Inspiration Point Trail to the Big Balanced Rock Trail to the Sarah Deming Trail then back up to the car on the Upper Rhyolite Canyon Trail to the Echo Canyon Trail...a 9.5 mile hike...sounds ambitious for three flatlanders...especially for the two old and fat ones...you'll have to read on to see if we completed the whole loop.
So we loaded up our backpacks with water, food and sunscreen...
...and began our hike. I have to admit I have been really excited about this trip. Just to be in warm weather after another long, cold winter was a thrill. It is also interesting to me to hike in the desert because it is so different from back home in Chicago.
A local greeted us right away.
Another reason I am looking forward to this trip is getting to spend time with my nephew, Kennedy. He is graduating high school next month so I know he doesn't want to hang out with us old folks back home. Chrissy told him it was his job to make sure he gets me back to the hotel everyday. Kennedy told her he will need a wheelbarrow to guarantee that I get back everyday. I have no idea where this kid learned to be a smart ass.
I quickly learned that there are two types of lizards...runners and posers...all the lizards you see on this blog are definitely posers.
The hike down below Massai Point lead us through pine forest down past rock columns, spires, pinnacles and hoodoos into some desert plants...
...and prickly pear cactus.
Chrissy on the Mushroom Rock Trail.
I think this was Mushroom Rock.
The trail followed a dry wash down into the canyon.
Lizards were everywhere. Since we don't see them back home, it was exciting to see them running across the trail and across rocks all day long.
We hiked through recently burned out forests on our way to Inspiration Point...
...but nature always rebounds.
This little guy loved the camera.
At this point we were pressed for time but decided to take the spur trail to Inspiration Point. It was definitely worth it. The views were incredible.
Again there were burned out trees but the soft willowy grass gave this area a surreal look...
...so did the amazing views into the canyons.
Big smiles from both of them.
Kennedy enjoying the view.
Back on the Big Balanced Rock Trail
This loop takes you through the rock formations...
...we let Kennedy lead the way.
This Heart Of The Rocks loop trail was the highlight of our hike. It takes you through an area of densely packed rock formations.
After the Heart of Rocks trail, we were running out of daylight...
...hiking along the Sarah Deming Trail.
A Mexican jay
We were resting here before our hike back to our car...2.8 miles with nearly 1000' elevation gain and daylight quickly fading...when fate intervened. A father with his daughter hiking down the trail stopped to talk to us. He offered to drive us back to our car...so we ended up hiking 1.5 miles downhill through Rhyolite Canyon to the visitor's center.
Rhyolite Canyon was also filled with rock formations.
Jeff gave me a ride back to my car while Chrissy and Kennedy stayed with his daughter Marie. You never know what will happen when you stop to talk to people hiking the trails with you. Our experience has proven that you almost always meet friendly and interesting people when hiking in the wilderness. Today just reinforced our past experiences. Thanks Jeff.
We took this picture on the way out even though I used it at the beginning of this blog.
We saw highway signs for this place in both directions today. So we stopped. Yes, it sold cheap shitty souvenirs just like you thought it would. We celebrated Easter by having dinner at the Dairy Queen inside this gas station. It didn't really seem like Easter to me...if they only had a marshmallow peeps blizzard that might have helped.
Why not end an incredible day spent outdoors with a beautiful sunset over a mountain. I want to thank those responsible for protecting places like Chiricahua in the past, so I could enjoy it today.
"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." - Gaylord Nelson