Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chiricahua National Monument

One of the places in the country that makes you marble at the wonders that God has created on this Earth.  What an amazing place.  I will say as I have said before pictures do not do this place justice, but this time I mean it more than I ever have.  Pictures just cannot show you the beauty that is here.

First a little history lesson so that you will understand the importance of these mountains and the beauty that lays within.  If you are coming to the area I would recommend that you first stop in Willcox and go to the Chiricahua Regional Museum as a lot can be explained in there about the area and it history.  These mountains were form from the eruption of the Turkey Creek Volcano and were form from the ash that melted together.  Cooling and weather of ice and erosion formed the cracks and the weaker particulars were wash away leaving the variety of spires, balanced rocks and different shapes.  God’s hand was truly at work here as the forms left leave so much to your imagination.  Fred and I found teapots, rabbits, totem poles, and many other items, it is so left up to you and your imagination as to what you see in these rocks.  The shapes are as different as the clouds you see in the sky as a kid trying to figures out what they look like. 

As far back as the 1400’s the Chiricahua Apaches have lived in these mountains.  The valley area around is a sea of grassland, cactus and mesquite.  As you travel up the mountain there are sycamore, juniper, oak, cypress, pine and fir woodlands.  All of which houses all types of wildlife and plants that the Apaches made their home from and/or ate.  Of note, the Apaches never ate fish or bear; fish were to much like snakes which were evil and the bear was to much like man.  Apaches called these mountains and their shapes as “standing up rocks” and they served them well through the years for protection as it was so easy to hid in them.  These are the mountains and the Dragoon Mountains, (which is across the meadow from the Chiricahua Mountains) in which the greatest of all the Chiricahua Chief, Cochise, hid from the army for years.  The mountains themselves honor Cochise.

In 1888 Swedish immigrants Erickson settled here and started a homestead.  In the 1920’s their daughter and her husband turned it into a guest ranch and up until 1973 people came to relax, bird and hike the hills.  They worked for years to get the area protected and in 1924 the Chiricahus National Monument was established.  In 1934 the CCC came in and improved the road, hiking trails and many of the structures including the old homestead and it additions added through the years.  The park covers over 11,000 acres of which most is designated as wilderness. 

The drive to the mountains is not one of the best but it is worth the drive.  You will go to Willcox and go about 35 miles southeast through the grassland of empty field, cattle, and farming.  There is one small area of hill that you cross but nothing of interest to see along the way.  This is the best route into the park from what I have read as some of the other routes are not paved road.  Once you enter the park the cemetery of the Faraway/Erickson is on your right.  Further down you will come to a picnic area that runs along the Bonita Creek and lead pass the old homestead – Faraway Ranch and Stafford Cabin.

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As you get to the Visitor Center you began to see some of the beauty and amazing rock formation that are hidden within these mountains.  The wildlife is everywhere and do not seem to really be phased by people.  In fact the Mexican jays are all over and will sit and pose for you to take their pictures.  Here at the Visitor Center is where you get the map and all the information about the park and pay your fee.  There is 8 mile scenic drive up to Massai Point where all the views are at a 360 degree view, trails everywhere for hiking, picnic areas, and camping sites.  The camping is primarily tent but you can get up to a 26 feet trailer and/or a RV up to 29 feet per the park service. 

There are a number of pull out up the scenic drive, but we were told to go to the top and then on our way down take the pull outs as the views are better as you come down.  Ranger knows best as he was right; we did both and the views were better on the way down. At Massai Point we parked and walked out one of the hiking trails and OMG – if you ever doubt the amazement of God’s creation of this earth you will no longer doubt once you see it.  There was a formation at the beginning of the hiking tail that made the perfect lounge chair and Fred had to try it out.

As you walk out the trail you come to an open area where a viewing area has been established so that you could see out into the canyon and see the Dragoon Mountains in the distance.  Walking out there the views were amazing.

We spent the day hiking the trails and the more we hiked the more amazed we became.  You can feel in the air the peacefulness, the reverence, the wonder of nature everywhere within the area.  Sitting and just looking out over the area you can see how wonderful life must have been within the valley and within the mountains, no wonder the Apaches fought so hard for the area and honor it so much.  We did not hike within the formations as time caught up with us, but I would love to have time to spend there.  To bad our rig is to big for the area or we would be moving so I could spend more time within the area, but hopefully before we leave we can make another trip here to see more.

As we started down the drive we did stop at the formations pointed out on the map.

And, of course I had to get some pictures of some of the birds. .

If y’all are in the area again I would highly recommend that you stay in Willcox as there are a number of RV parks in the area and visit the Monument area.  It is more than worth you time!!

 

As I stated at the beginning these pictures just do not do justice the the beauty that exist.