May 15 – 17, 2016: Our next destination after White Sands National Monument was Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona.
On the way, we stopped for an evening in Las Cruces, New Mexico where we did some grocery shopping before crossing the border into Arizona. Shortly after entering Arizona we were diverted off the interstate due to a dust storm. Traffic was paused for a short while to let the dust settle (haha, see what I did there?) and then we were allowed to re-enter the interstate and continue on our way.
The Chiricahua Mountains sit at the crossroads of the Chihuahuan and the Sonoran deserts, and the Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madre ranges. We were in the Chihuahuan desert whilst in Big Bend National Park and will soon be in the Sonoran desert as we move towards Tucson and Saguaro National Park. The Chiricahua Mountains are an inactive volcanic range, surrounded by desert grasslands. The rock formations include pinnacles, columns, spires, and balanced rocks; the floral and faunal biodiversity is great as well. The mountains are referred to as a ‘sky island’ mountain range because it resembles an oceanic archipelago but here the ocean is a desert grassland.
We loved Chiricahua National Monument. There’s a lovely eight mile scenic drive located within the monument and, it was at the end of this drive (Massai Point) that we started our day with a short .5 mile self-guided interpretive walk. We had majestic views of the surrounding valleys, mountains, and a balanced rock.
The rest of our day was spent on a fabulous – super fabulous – long (9+ mile) hike called The Big Loop. This loop combined the following trails: Ed Riggs, Mushroom Rock, Inspiration Point, Big Balanced Rock, Heart of Rocks, Sarah Deming, Upper Rhyolite Canyon, and Echo Canyon. We had perfect weather with a high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit and clear skies. We could have used even more water than we had, especially for the last 3 miles, but we were fine. We enjoyed a snack at Inspiration Point, overlooking pinnacles, columns, and spires; and ate lunch in the Heart of Rocks, amongst balanced rocks and other named rock formations. Some of the trails led us through forested areas whilst some led us up and down rocky outcrops.
See, the photos prove it was indeed fabulous.