|Famous hoodoos of Chiricahua National Monument in southeaster Arizona|
We took an overnight camping trip to Chiricahua National Monument over Mother's Day weekend. We are National Park junkies (and volunteers at Saguaro National Park), and with my husband three weeks from retirement, we thought we'd give ourselves a taste of times to soon come when, at the drop of a hat, we throw our camping stuff in the SUV and take off. With entrance to the park free thanks to my husband's Access pass (if you are 62 and a US citizen, buy one for $10 and enjoy your National Parks and Monuments free for the rest of your life!), including a half price camp site ($6 a night) thanks to his pass (age does have it's privileges), the price of gas to get there was our only real expense.
|Still waiting to host guests since the 1960's|
|This room was originally used as a "fort" for protection from renegade Indians|
|White-tailed deer in the Silver Spur Meadow|
|Arizona Cypress bark|
|Alligator Juniper bark|
Amazing trees of the riparian woodlands
That night we slept with a view of the trees, stars, and moon above us through the mesh screen of our tent that sloped over our heads. The breeze rustled the dried oak leaves nearby and we slept deep. After an early morning of coffee, oatmeal, and birdwatching (Mexican Jays, Hermit Thrushes, Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, a Hooded Oriole and a boat load of birds I couldn't ID), we de-camped and headed for the Visitor Center where we were registered to catch a ride on the shuttle to the top of the trails that threaded their way through the hoodoos back to the Visitor Center.
|Mexican Jays mobbed the campground|
We had done the Echo Canyon hike down from the top eight years ago [note: that's eight years younger], just over four miles with a 1200 foot descent, and I remember it was gorgeous, downhill, and cold -- it was a Thanksgiving camping trip. This time we were almost doubling the distance and as we found out within a mile of leaving the top, far from all downhill with extremely rugged trails most of the way, and many of them exposed to the intense May sun. Over the course of the hike we climbed several hundred feet, much of it over trails with rock "staircases," some with treads of two feet! The views, when I could look up from the trails (which was not often), were often spectacular, but by mile four of the toughest hiking I've ever done, I was starting to think of the rescue horse, Boomer, that the park service employed. Very high winds with gusts to near 50 mph buffeted us most of the way, blowing grit into our faces and eyes, and making the birding binoculars I lugged a moot point. While it became a bit of a Hoodoo Death March about half way through our hike, we did see some amazing scenery.
|Big Balanced Rock|
|Duck on a Rock in Heart of Rocks|
|Take the stairs up...|
|...and take the stairs down|
|Pinnacle Balanced Rock|
|Last look back at the Heart of Rocks|
|Arizona Mountain Kingsnake...hard to miss|
We made the two hour drive home elated and exhausted, an interesting combo. After the use of a considerable amount of hot water we took our achy selves to bed and were asleep before 8:30. I was surprised to not only find myself able to get out of bed this morning, but feeling pretty darn good. Maybe our vows not to try anything like that again will go unheeded. There's a lot of retirement time to come with lots of time to hike in lots of National Parks. Maybe next we'll go rim to rim in the Grand Canyon.
Well, maybe not next...