Chiricahua National Monument Hikes

Again, we are woefully behind with reporting on our hikes and explorations…but life sort of got in the way with the purchase of our new RV. But in the interest of at least keeping up with the HIGHLIGHTS of our journey we must include our hikes in the Chiricahua National Monument… so we are rewinding to a few weeks ago for this post!

Ric and Lin along the Heart of Rocks Trail at Chiricahua National Monument

Ric and Lin along the Heart of Rocks Trail at Chiricahua National Monument

The Chiricahua National Monument is in eastern Arizona – very near to the border of New Mexico and close to the town of Wilcox. We decided it would be a good place to explore on the way back to Silver City from our visit with friends, Shorty and Hazie, in Sunsites, AZ. We could only spend three days at Chiricahua because our offer for the new RV was in play and we had to get back to Silver City to seal the deal.

A Mosaic of Hoodoos Seen from Massai Point

A Mosaic of Hoodoos Seen from Massai Point

A Landscape of Hoodoos

A Landscape of Hoodoos

Chiricahua means “Land of the Standing Up Rocks” in Apache and it is a wondrous fantasyland of immense and towering rock formations. The rock was spawned by the Turkey Creek volcanic eruptions (27 million years ago), which laid down massive volumes of thick ash and pumice, to create a rhyolite rock formation 2000 feet thick. To put this in perspective, that is one-thousand times larger than the Mt. Saint Helens eruption of 1980. The ash trapped bubbles of gas which became distorted as the ash cooled and fused, and can be seen as these white inclusions (called “Fiammes”) in the rock today:

Fiammes at Chiricahua

Fiammes at Chiricahua… Fingerprints of Volcanic Origin

But is was the steady force of nature over the succeeding eons … blasting the rock with wind, carving the rock with water, and fracturing the rock with icy freeze-thaw cycles that produced the amazing formations that exist here today. Nature is AWE-some…powerful and patient.

Mushroom Rock at Chiricahua

Mushroom Rock at Chiricahua

We stayed at the Bonita Campground, and did two hikes while we were there. The first hike was from Massai Point (we took a hiker’s shuttle to Massai Point itself).  We took a few minutes to explore the exhibit building and then the “Lookout” which had an old and beautifully designed mechanical “Viewfinder”…

Viewfinder at Massai Point Lookout

Viewfinder at Massai Point Lookout

A Close Look at The Viewfinder at Massai Point Lookout

A Close Look at The Viewfinder at Massai Point Lookout

We descended from this peak down a series of trails that took us through ridges and canyons as the massive formations towered over us. Shortly after entering the trailhead we saw this touching memorial that someone had placed in a tree along the trail. The little bell was inscribed “RIP” with initals on it…

Memorial Bell along the Trail near Massai Point

Memorial Bell along the Trail near Massai Point

That first thing, that was hard to ignore, was that the forest fires of 2011 had made serious incursions into this area. Almost immediately after starting the hike we descended into a canyon littered with burned trees. At once it seemed tragic, and yet as we walked we heard the constant drumming of woodpeckers backed up by a chirping, twittering, warbling chorus. We watched as the birds worked from tree to tree, gathering the insects that had taken residence in the burned, decaying trees. Nature finds a way, and some niche critter benefits from the worst of circumstances. It gives a hopeful feeling.

Hiking Through a Burned Area at Chiricahua

Hiking Through a Burned Area at Chiricahua

Ric Hikes Through a Charred Landscape

Ric Hikes Through a Charred Landscape at Chiricahua

Woodpecker at Chiricahua

Woodpecker at Chiricahua

Flicker at Chiricahua National Monument

Flicker at Chiricahua National Monument

Pecked Holes in Charred Tree

Pecked Holes in Charred Tree

Feathered Friend along Trail at Chiricahua

Feathered Friend along Trail at Chiricahua

(Sorry about those blurry pics – one of these days we’ll get better at photographing busy birds… we’re working on it!)

The Civilian Conservation Corps played a big role in building this great system of trails… and it leaves one wondering, why couldn’t we revive this idea? On many of our travels we have encountered the works left by this “New Deal” Program of the 30s.

Massive Rock Wall along Trail at Chiricahua

Massive Rock Wall along Trail at Chiricahua

So often these projects are on a massive scale – the Civilian Conservation Corps left an amazing legacy across our nation. In this place the workers in the CCC gave names to many of the rock formations, especially along the “Heart of Rocks Trail” here are a few of our favorite formations in this area, and a few other of the many impressive “named” formations along the trails:

Big Balanced Rock Stats Sign

Big Balanced Rock Stats Sign

The "Big Balanced Rock" Formation at Chiricahua

The “Big Balanced Rock” Formation at Chiricahua

The "Pinnacle Balanced Rock" Formation at Chiricahua National Monument

The “Pinnacle Balanced Rock” Formation at Chiricahua National Monument

Lin Beneath "Camel Head"

Lin Beneath “Camel Head”

 

As is usually the case, some of the best and brightest moments when hiking are the little wonders… like seeing the streak of bird poop which gives away a prime nesting site…

Prime nesting site on formation along Rhyolite Trail

Prime Nesting Site on Formation along Rhyolite Trail

Or seeing a lichen formation that looked like a petroglygh…

Lichens as Petroglyph

Lichens as Petroglyph

Throughout the descent we were surrounded by the passage of time, and in touch with our own miniscule moment on this planet. Chiricahua reminds you every step of the way that the forces of nature work these wonders over a long… a very, very long time.

2 Comments

Filed under Geology on the Rocks, Southwest, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Chiricahua National Monument Hikes

  1. The first time I had ever hiked into a ‘burn area’ it was a bit of a shock and left me hiking silent and solemn for miles. I went back the next year and was amazed by the changes! As much as seeing smoke or hearing ‘forest fire’ will send chills down my spine – I now fully appreciate that often they are nature’s “Phoenix.”

    CCC. You have so ‘hit a nerve’ with me! I agree with you that such a program should be revived. My husband’s father was in the CCC and was up in Vermont. He went back up to ‘his camp’ in his 70’s and brought many of his photographs from those days to become part of one of the museums dedicated to the CCC. (We have a small CCC museum right off Route 190 in Stafford, CT on the way to Somers, CT. I am very proud it is so close to us!)

    I stop often to photograph and ponder the areas that were obviously built during the era of the Civilian Conservation Corps. My father-in-law was so proud of his service during those years. And so much of that work still stands as testament to the hard work of honest people that just needed ‘a job’ so that they did not lose hope.

    Thanks again for bringing me along on your adventures! Much love to you both!
    ~Amy

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