Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chiricahua National Monument

    Willcox, Arizona is also an ideal staging stop for planning a visit to the beautiful Chiricahua National Monument.  This is just another of those very special places in Arizona and if you have never been to the Chiricahuas, it certainly is time to make that journey.  Southeastern Arizona is a great place to discover during the region's mild fall weather and the Chiricahuas are just a great place to hike, bike and take endless pictures of the magnificent rock formations.
    The picture we used for our IN&OUT story and this blog were provided to us by Suzanne Moody who works for the National Park Service.  We are happy to include Suzanne's photos here.  Here is our story...

    “A spiritual place of geological wonder” is how the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona were once described.  Located some 40 miles south of Willcox, Arizona, the Chiricahua National Monument is just another of the spectacular places to visit in the many unique landscapes of Arizona.
    The Chiricahua Mountains are one of the many unique sky-islands of southeastern Arizona.  Rising out of the desert floor to a height of 9,759 feet, this mountain range of ancient volcanic rock has been called Arizona’s “Wonderland of Rocks.”  For the Chiricahua Apache, these mountains are their ancestral home and they call them the “Land of Standing-Up Rock”.
    Yet words do not do justice to this landscape of rock monoliths and deep canyons.  Here the forces of nature have created an amazing collection of boulders balances atop other boulders, looking as if they could fall at any moment even though they have stood together for centuries. 
    Some 27 million years ago a catastrophic eruption occurred in what is called today the Turkey Creek Volcano.  Over 100 cubic miles of volcanic debris were blown from the earth during the enormous eruption. By comparison, the eruption of Mount St. Helen in 1980 only expelled 1/10 of a cubic mile of molten lava.  The great Krakatoa eruption of 1883 was only 1/10 the size of the eruption that once occurred here in the Chiricahuas. 
    When the Turkey Creek Caldera cooled and then eventually died, the elements of erosion began to slowly destroy its volcanic walls.  The result of those many millennia of erosion is the magnificent Chiricahua Mountains we see and enjoy today.
    This sky island of the Chiricahua Mountains is also unique because it is here that four great biomes converge.  The Rocky Mountain and the Sierra Madre ranges come together with the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts to create a natural environment rich and varied in flora and fauna from all four of these natural zones.   For those who like to watch and photograph wildlife, the Chiricahuas are paradise. 
    The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924.  In 1984 this unique Arizona environment was further protected when 87% of the monument was declared a Wilderness Area.
     The 11,985 acres of the national monument are crisscrossed by 18 miles of day-use hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy to challenging.  An eight-mile, paved scenic drive leaves from the charming Visitors Center and provides breathtaking vistas for those visitors who wish to view the sights from their car.  Twenty-two individual campsites are also available.October brings a beautiful fall to the Chiricahua Mountains so now is a great time to get out and visit this unique and beautiful place found in the southeast corner of our Arizona. 

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