Chiricahua National Monument

If you have been following me for any length of time you may have noticed that we enjoy getting in the car and seeing where the road takes us.

I love road shots. I take them everywhere we go.

On Labor Day the road happened to take us to Chiricahua National Monument in southern Arizona.

The area is the result of a volcano that exploded millions of years ago, covering the land in ash and lava.  Cracks and joints appeared in the ash as the rocks cooled.  Over time the cracks were eroded by wind and rain creating the pinnacles, spires, columns and balanced rocks you see today.

It is still crazy hot in the southwest.  It’s been hovering around or just slightly over 100 where we live.  It’s slightly cooler in the Chiricahua’s but it was still really hot.  We drove through the monument and hiked a short trail.  We’ll save a longer hike for when the weather cools down.  I would like to see some of the more famous balanced rocks the monument is known for.

The Massai Nature Trail, which is at the end of the Bonita Canyon Drive (the scenic drive through the monument) is an easy .5 mile loop.  There are quite a few steps so a stroller is not practical but it’s fine for kids.

Along the trail is a lookout that provides an incredible view of the valley.  There is a viewfinder/telescope (I have no idea what to call this) that narrows in on specific formations.

I am sure I have said this many times before but I will say it again.  I love the Junior Ranger program.  Not only do my kids learn about where we are, it keeps them busy while we are driving around or waiting for a program to start, but I always learn something, too!  Here’s a fun rhyme regarding snakes (if a rhyme regarding snakes can be considered fun):

Red touches yellow kill a fellow

Red touches black venom lack

This is in regards to the deadly Arizona coral snake and harmless Sonoran mountain kingsnake that look fairly similar.  Fingers crossed the rhyme is not needed by me or you!

In 1887 Neil and Emma Erickson bought 160 acres in what is now Chiricahua National Monument and built a homestead, and then in 1903 Neil became the first ranger in Chiricahua Forest Reserve.  Neil and Emma had three children and their daughter Lillian took over the property and with her husband, Ed turned the house into a guest ranch.  Eventually the homestead became part of the monument and is now considered a historic place.

The junior ranger packet required the kids to complete bingo, which is a common junior ranger game, but instead of boxes to check off the kids had to draw pictures of what they saw in each square.  It was a fun twist and I enjoyed seeing how each kid interpreted the sites we were seeing.  In this picture Little Mister is drawing the Faraway Ranch House, which was part of the Erickson/Riggs property, on his bingo page.

Right outside the monument is a dirt road named Pinery Canyon that leads to a couple off roading trails.  (I would not go down this road if it has been raining or if rain is predicted.  There were several areas where we had to cross streams and judging by the breadth of debris near the streams it appears flash floods are not uncommon.)  The husband was wanting to hit the dirt so we left the monument for lunch.  Turns out there is a small stream that follows the road and it made for the perfect lunch stop.  We found a nice, shaded area to eat lunch and then we played in the steam for a while.  The cool water felt so nice on a hot day.  One of the things I love most about getting in the car and driving is moments such as these.  This, my friends, is what memories are made of.

Fun fact:  Chiricahua means wild turkey.  And on the drive back to the monument we happened to see wild turkey’s!

We had such a nice time in Chiricahua National Monument.  The area is beautiful and I hope to make it back soon to explore more of the monument.  If you have hiking suggestions for the area please share!


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