November 20, 2016

11/15/16 - Chiricahua NM (Revisted)

We went to Chiricahua National Monument in February of 2011, the first year we were on the road.  I liked it, and I wanted to go on a hike, so I added it to the itinerary for this year. 

After the standard stop at the Visitor Center and the movie and the passport stamps, we headed up the road to the sky island, described as an isolated mountain range that’s surrounded by a grassland “sea”. The grassland looked an awful lot like desert to me...
The pinnacles the Chiricahua Apache called “standing up rocks” (I love that name!) are the results of volcanic ash that melted together forming rhyolite.  It cracked and broke over the eons and left spires, balanced rocks and weird shapes.    Some have names—like this one they call China Boy.  I have no idea where you have to stand to see that in this shape.

Cochise and Geronimo were Chiricahua Apache—hiding out in these canyons, melting between and behind the rocks, drove the soldiers nuts.  Think about that as you look at these rocks.  I do.

We couldn’t find a parking place at Echo Canyon, so we detoured to the Sugarloaf picnic area for lunch.  There’s a good view of the wilderness that’s classified as “Class I, pristine wilderness”.  No franchises out here!
We were joined at lunch with a pretty little Mexican Jay, but when we ate our own sandwiches and didn't share, he didn’t stay very long. Definitely not long enough for me to take a picture of his good side.

After lunch, we went back to Echo Canyon and easily found a place to park the truck.  We’d barely started when I began noticing balanced rocks.  This one looks like a bird, with a lizard friend in the background. 
Balanced rocks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Sometimes I wonder how some of them got there.  I imagine this whole place as a playground for the gods...tossing rocks on top of pinnacles, getting points if they stay balanced, extra points if they’re bigger than the one they’re on.   (Pretty sure it’s my overactive imagination again, but this is a great place for it to be exercised.)
The Echo Canyon Trail takes us through a section they call the Grottoes.    There are lots of slits and slots and windows created by rocks that are very close together.  Sometimes big boulders are lodged between.
I think these look like giant cairns.
There’s a rock wedged in here.  I thought it looked easy enough to climb I did.  George didn’t. 
After we got to the bottom, we got a different perspective on the pinnacles. 
There are a variety of plants growing in this canyon.  Although most of the flowers are long gone, some of the seed pods are interesting.  The purple one still has blossoms, maturing into some sort of berries.  As I was taking pictures, a group of energetic hikers passed me going the other way and someone said something about the plants.  They waited with me until the biologist in their group caught up.  I asked him what it was.  He hummed and hawed and looked like he was concentrating on whether he’d turned off the lights at home, then told me he couldn’t remember.  (sigh)  That’s the problem with asking old guys questions like that; they may have known once but the filing system has gone awry.

After a mile and a half on the Echo Canyon Trail, we turned off it and followed the Hailstone Trail for not quite a mile to the Ed Riggs Trail, which took us back to the truck.  That made the hike 3.2 miles with an elevation gain of 450’.  Piece of cake. 
We were definitely on the shady side of the canyon as we walked the Hailstone Trail.
It was a little late but after we got back in the truck, we turned right to check out the view at Masai Point.
On the way out of the park, several coatimundi ran in front of us, heading for underbrush on the left side of the road.  George had already put his camera away so he grabbed mine.  I know you can’t make them out, but this is proof that we saw them. Sort of.
More pictures of Chiricahua Natl Monument 

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