“Land of Standing Up Rocks”
Since we moved here we have done what we always do when we move to a new location; we take a day every weekend, or every other weekend, pick a direction and just drive, exploring the new territory. Actually, we even did this when we lived in upstate New York, where both Bill and I grew up. We don’t always get out and hike or shop or eat, but we love to drive and just discover the lay of the land and enhance the geographical map we carry in our brains.
Last Sunday we decided to head east towards the Chiricahua Mountains. The mountains here are very different from the mountains we were used to in New York, or even those in Alabama. There they are the Appalachian Mountains, and while there might be smaller mountain sub-divisions, like the Smokey Mountains, the Catskills, etc., those divisions between where the Catskills morph into the general Appalachians or the Smokey Mountains into the Appalachians are really very nebulous. Here in Arizona, there is no doubt which mountains are what. While they are all part of the Rocky Mountains, we have within easy driving distance several different mountain ranges: Huachuca, Whetstones, Chiricahua, Mules, Santa Rita, Dragoon, Swisshelm, Little Rincon, Pedregosa, Perilla, Dos Cabesez, Empire, and Patagonia – and those are only the ones south of Interstate 10 and east of Interstate 19! Mostly you can tell one range from another because there are miles of valley or plateau areas between the mountain ranges. I am used to rolling mountains that gradually taper to plains and seacoast, but here it is mountain range, high plateau or valley between, and another range. And for the most part, the valleys are not deep valleys, not like we experienced in Colorado. It’s very interesting terrain and makes for great difficulties in judging the distances between one mountain range and another.
So we headed northeast out Sierra Vista, drove through the center of Tombstone (yes, THE Tombstone), headed south and then east some more to McNeal, north to Elfrida (where there is a lot of farming country – corn, cotton, hay, dry beans – all irrigated, of course) and then further north, east past Sunizona, north and finally east into the National Monument. We didn’t intend to actually visit the monument that day. We really just wanted to see the general area and see if those were the mountains that we could see from Sierra Vista off to the east that had all the snow on them (they weren’t, that was the Swisshelm Mountains). But, someone (who shall remain nameless) absolutely had to find a restroom and it was either the Visitor’s Center at the monument or wait another 30 miles until we got to Douglas. Not a difficult choice to make!
If you’ve never heard of the Chiricahua Mountains, you have likely heard about their more famous inhabitants, the Chiricahua Apache, of Geronimo and Cochise fame. The Chiricahua Apache were the ones who called the mountains the “standing up rocks” and that is an excellent description! One certainly gains a better understanding of the indomitable spirit of the Apaches when visiting the area in which they lived.
I took many pictures (of course), up until the point my camera batteries ran low and I subsequently discovered that my backup batteries were equally dead. Most of the spectacular, picture-worthy “standing up rocks” are in the entrance area, which were best viewed while coming back down and out of the monument area and those were the pictures that I missed due to dead camera batteries. So we will have make a return trip, this time an intentional trip in which we are prepared with extra charged batteries and some hiking shoes. There are many, many hiking trails which will be fun to explore when it is just a little warmer and there is a lot less snow!
Here are a few of the pictures that I took and I will probably post some more throughout the week. Enjoy!
How did we end up living where there’s snow???
Looking south from Massai Point, which is at the end of the switchback Bonita Canyon Drive.
A view of the western valley and possibly the Dragoon Mountains off in the distance, with some balanced rocks formations in the foreground.