This past weekend, I was introduced to the wonders of Southern Arizona. My friend Andrea had been dying to get out of the cloudy, cold, & dreary days of pre-spring Wisconsin so she caught a flight down here to visit. We spent 4 days hiking and camping- it was a getaway for me as much as her. We set off early on Thursday morning, after 2 wonderful breakfast sandwiches cooked by yours truly, and made it down to Chiricahua National Monument by early afternoon.
Located in the Southeastern corner of Arizona, close to both the Mexico and New Mexico borders, Chiricahua is literally an island of rocks in the sky. After consulting the map and buzzing through the visitor center,we took the scenic Bonita Canyon Drive up to the trail head of Sugarloaf Mountain.The tallest mountain in the park, Sugarloaf made for a very easy ascent. We were soon atop the rounded mountain scanning the vast area around us. Larger, snow covered mountains stood several miles to the South. An informative sign explained how these were the remnants of a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago.
The wind continued to howl while we explored the summit. As it did, we noticed dark clouds moving in. We raced down the trail and made it back to the car just in time as the snow… YES, SNOW! …started to come down. Inside the Dew Mobile, we laughed at the irony of the situation.But since we were still in Arizona, the precipitation didn’t last long, and within the hour we were making our way along another trail. The clouds had disappeared and the late afternoon weather made for a great hike. We spent the night beside a fire in the nearby Coronado National Forest. It was a chilly night, but we welcomed the fresh air!
The next morning we were back, making a loop out to the park’s most popular spot: the heart of rocks.
The native Chiricahua Apaches used to call this the “Land of standing up rocks”. They didn’t lie- the area is chock full of hoodoos and odd rock formations.Trails lead you through the heart of these rocks and offered many opportunities for self-exploration. We spent the day winding our way through the maze of formations and back down Echo Canyon to the Visitor Center. Afterwards, we sped over to Tombstone and caught the last reenactment of the shootout at the O.K Corral. Wyatt Earp and the boys put on a show, as did the corny Historama. As far as I’m concerned, “The Town Too Tough to Die” will live another day! We squeezed into Kartchner Caverns State Park and spent the night looking up at the stars.
The next day found us in Saguaro National Park- the Rincon District. Much different from the Western section of the park, we made our way through several biomes- desert, scrub, up to junipers and pines. It was good, steep hike and we were pretty worn out by the time we returned to the car. That afternoon, we relaxed at our campground in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Situated right above Tucson, they are a world away from the hot dusty desert. We made friends the next morning with the hillbillys next door and warmed up around their fire in the early morning chill. Another day of hiking through the Ponderosa pines and aspens and we were spent. The drive back to Phoenix was a breezeand we had time to grab a bite to eat at In-N-Out before it was time to drop Andrea off at the airport. It was great spending some quality time with my friend and forgetting about our “lives” for awhile. I hope we can always do trips like this, no matter how many miles are between us. Thanks for a great weekend!