We arrived at Chiricahua National Monument very late afternoon and secured a spot at the campground which was as our friends had told us, quite a nice one. It was heavily treed for the Southwest so our first truly comfortable spot in our still short trip. A river ran through it and the sound was comforting. It would have been easy to set up camp and relax but though we were in the shade, we knew there was a sun setting somewhere and warm light glowing on the park's renowned rock pinnacles. So, after the tent was erected, we set off to explore but as we pulled away, our campground neighbor waved hello and told us when we came back he'd make up some food to share with us. We thought it very hospitable but said we wouldn't return till dark. He was camping alone and said it wasn't a problem, he'd enjoy the company.
The park road had some scenic pullouts and as we had thought, the impressive rock outcroppings were indeed bathed in amber hues. We did some small walks to viewpoints that put is right in the thick of pinnacles and vowed to do a longer hike the next day. Happy we listened to the couple at White Sands, we headed back to the campground once the sun was down. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Saguaro sorted itself out well enough but the next morning I discovered I'd lost my car keys. I tore the car apart looking in vain and finally asked at the Visitor Center if the could call Chircahua to inquire for me about them. They nicely obliged and their park counterparts some 135 miles away confirmed that someone had turned in keys the afternoon before. We deliberated on them sending them but the only place it sounded we might be long enough was the Grand Canyon and they didn't feel comfortable that we'd ever get them in what the saw as a bureaucratic mess. So, drove back we did. That very afternoon.
It was a pretty ride again and oddly it was nice to be back in Chiricahua. The rangers were as nice as could be and said the keys were out on the bench, the same one undoubtedly we were sitting on, planning. We might have even camped there and left the next day but we'd left our stuff set up at Saguaro and we didn't want to take a chance on another neighborly meal. This was such a Great Escape, we had to do it twice.
Fondest memory: We were glad to be in our bags. It was such a great spot and perfect weather for camping. We could have stayed here a couple days but spending another night with our bitter buddy wasn't as appealing. We made a plan to get up early, pack up all our gear before our hopefully hungover late sleeping neighbor woke up, and hit one of the trails. We did just that, eating breakfast on the way to avoid any possibility of confrontation. The hike was fantastic, getting us right into the heart of the pinnacles. There was a lot of ups and downs, which was good for us as it was our first real hike in a couple years. The hike had many side trails and though we only planned on hiking for a couple hours, it was so interesting and varied that we hiked a lot more. It felt great but we were sore by the time we got back to the car. No amount of training at the gym can quite mimic the effects of hiking on the knees especially. We stopped by the Visitor Center on the way out to check out what else there was to do as well as read a bit about this enigmatic park that we'd not heard of prior. We sat on a bench and checked our map to see how far we'd have to drive that day as well as our routing. It was only about three hours but it was probably 2:00 PM by the time we got on the road and we knew nothing about Saguaro or its camping possibilities. We drove out of Chircahua, a bit saddened by the briefness but glad we had come and the Great Escape was under way. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: Our friend was already cooking up some chicken and we felt bad we didn't have some beer or wine to contribute to the meal so cooked some pasta as a side dish. To be honest, we were tired from the drive and used to bedding down early after our White Sands days and we'd have preferred to eat our own stuff and climb into our bags. But we'd gleaned some good information and had a good time with a few other acquaintances on the trip and figured an extra hour wouldn't hurt with our obviously lonely new friend. He, however, seemed quite different than the mild mannered man who'd invited us a couple hours earlier and once we got to talking to him we could tell he'd been drinking the whole time we were gone. We couldn't very well back out and tried to make the best of it but he was an embittered guy with many axes to grind with the US government. We're not exactly right wing conservatives ourselves but he was going a bit overboard and worse yet putting a huge damper on our good spirits. We told him we had to get up early to do a hike and bid him goodnight. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
We fell in love with the alligator juniper.
Fondest memory: Here we were heading to Chiricahua for a second time. In three days. And to think that we had never heard of this particular Arizona National Monument just four days ago now seemed almost surreal. We met a couple at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico that day. We'd just come back from an overnight backpacking trip into the dunes and were readying ourselves for the trip west by filling up our water bottles at the Visitor Center when we got to talking to an animated German man and his long time Finnish girlfriend who now lived in the US Southwest. They had explored the area extensively over the course of their long term intermittent relationship and had much to share. Since we had just begun and were headed west we listened eagerly.
So, instead of trying to make it all the way to planned Saguaro National Park in Arizona, we now had a nice halfway point at which to stop. This would make our drive a lot easier and with six months ahead of us we had at least a day to spare. Besides, this gave us time to stop at the brewpub in Las Cruces for lunch en route. The ride was pretty enough but when you are this excited, the scenery doesn't really matter much. We had only been on the road for a little less than two weeks and in White Sands had finally captured the feeling we came seeking. We knew there would be lots more and now we were headed right for it. Not only to places dreamt of and planned but to ones like this, mere whims introduced by someone else's fancy. That's the beauty of a road trip built of loose ends. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
The Visitor Center is located along the Bonita Canyon Road, 2 mile from the monument entrance. You will find exhibits and a film, plus a section of books, postcards, and educational materials for sale. The park employees in the Visitor Center can also help you plan your activities while in the monument, as well as give you information about, and directions to nearby Fort Bowie National Monument. The Visitor Center is open 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily, except for Christmas Day.
To contact the park by mail send inquiries to 13063 E. Bonita Canyon RD
Willcox, AZ 85643-9737
Visitor Center phone number is 520-824-3560
Web page: www.nps.gov/chir
Fondest memory: My favorite memory of Chricuhua is hiking among the wonderful eroded rock formations.
Favorite thing: The Chiricahua National Monument is also a place that the great Indian Cochise held up in for a long time while trying to avoid the soldiers that were hunting him. There are many legends abound about this famous Indian in and around the Chiricahua National Monument.
Favorite thing: Chiricahua National Monument is a place of wonder and beauty. The park is known as having some of the best marked trails in the United States and there is a trail for all young and old. At the peak in one area you will even find a nice ¼ mile trail that is paved and is wheelchair accessible which is nice.
You must take a hike through the rock formations, drive the park road for good views of the formations from a distance and catch a sunset from one of the mountains!
Fondest memory: My favorite thing was waking up early in the morning before there was really anybody up at the campsite and walking around looking at the formations nearby without the sound of cars or anybody else around. There were deer and birds to be seen and all the great sounds of nature!