Last night, I drove from Tucson all the way to the Bonita Canyon Campground in Chiricahua National Monument to meet up once more with my friend, Clifton, and his furry companion, Odie-Beast. We had a nice campfire-cooked supper, scented by clementine oranges, and a sound slumber in Clifton’s tent.
We awoke to a misty morning with more clementines and cheese, and after I helped Clifton pack up his car for a return trip to Santa Fe, we parted ways, because national parks don’t allow golden doodles like Odie-Beast on their trails. They say it’s because it scares the wildlife, though this wildlife wasn’t scared by Odie-Beast at all!
So I set off toward Massai Point but turned off at the Echo Canyon trailhead instead. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure where I wanted to go this morning, only that there was a vast web of trails to choose from that would, I hoped, eventually lead me to the “Wonderland of Rocks” I’d heard about when I first looked up this national monument!
I started down the steep, stone slope until a sign redirected me onto the Ed Riggs Trail, named for the fellow who first promoted this area for tourism and led to its declaration as a national monument in 1924!
Before long, I caught site of the first of Chiricahua’s otherworldly standing rocks! These huge monoliths formed from a major volcanic eruption about 27 million years ago! The ash and debris from what we call the Turkey Creek Caldera today fell and compacted into a rock called rhyolite. Over time, the elements have eroded that rhyolite into spectacular pinnacles!
Again, signs redirected me off the Ed Riggs Trail and onto the Mushroom Rock Trail, heading toward a place called Inspiration Point! As I passed into the trees and under the appropriately named Mushroom Rock, I was starting to sweat a fair bit! There was still a good mile of uphill slope ahead!
I ambled up through the woodland, which was still charred after the Horseshoe Two Fire scorched 223,000 acres here in 2011. The forest is recovering, and on this day, all was tranquil and cool, the only sound the burbling stream that ran along the trail.
At last, I reached the next filament of trail, heading right toward Inspiration Point. Now hot and sweaty, I couldn’t wait to take a break and enjoy the view! I had seen glimpses of the pieces, and now I was about to see the big picture.
Breathtaking is one word for this vista, peering out over the place that the local Apache called the Land of Standing-Up Rocks! The clouds were beginning to break, and a patchwork of sunlight glided over the landscape below. A cool breeze whisked around the Point, alleviating some of the hiking heat. I took a breath. Amazing!
These moments never last long, for I had more ground to cover today! I hustled back through the web of trails in reverse, backtracking just a bit to collect my hat, which I’d dropped. Overhead, the clouds parted and revealed the most beautiful blue sky! I could tell that the rest of the day was going to be spectacular!