Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Land of Standing Up Rocks

Arizona Desert Sunset

November 19, 2017
Thanksgiving week and we have made it to Arizona.
We will be spending the next week in Benson, down in the Southeast part of the state.
There are several National Park sites in this region that have been on our list for a while and the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee are close by.
We are staying the week at the Saguaro Escapees Park. It's lovely here with a great view of the desert and mountains as a backdrop. We are at the border between the Chihuahuan Desert and the Sonoran Desert and are beginning to see a change in the landscape. Today we spotted our first Saguaro cactus.
The sunsets are lovely painting the sky with a pink glow for 360 degrees.
The neighbors in this large well maintained park are friendly and welcoming. They have invited us to attend their annual Thanksgiving feast.
Monday we drove back toward the east with a plan to visit Chiricahua National Monument.

Once again we found ourselves on dusty back roads climbing in elevation to reach the National Monument. We stopped at the Visitor Center for a trail map and to watch a short video before driving the 8 mile scenic route  through Bonita Canyon to Massai Point.

Gravity Defying rock formations

Chiricahua was named by the Apache as the Land of Standing Up Rocks.
It is an incredible configuration of top heavy rocks that look like they shouldn't be able to hold themselves up.
The gravity defying structures resemble stone cairns carefully balanced by the hands of a giant.

Chiricahua is a sky island

Chiricahua is called a Sky Island. The isolated mountain range is surrounded by meadows and grassland for miles around.
These rocky peaks, like much of the landscape of Arizona and New Mexico were formed by the ash of volcanic eruptions. The ash particles fused into a type of rock called rhyolite. Thousands of years of weathering and erosion of the weak spots in the ash formation created the individual spires that we see today.

A view from Massai Point

The rock formations capture your imagination. They look like castles or cityscapes, ships and faces. Many of the prominent features have been named. Balanced Rock, Organ Pipes, Geronimo, and the Sea Captain are among them.

The face of a reclining Geronimo
We were delighted to see hawks soaring around the peaks and to hear woodpeckers in the wind blown pines. Mexican Jays harassed us for scraps while we picnicked at Massai Point.

Mexican Blue Jay
There are miles of trails to hike at Chiricahua. We chose the Massai Nature Trail and a portion of the Ed Riggs trail for their amazing sky views.

Balancing rock in Bonita Canyon.
From Massai Point we could see the Dragoon Mountains where Chief Cochise and a small band of Chiricahua Apache lived and evaded being forced to Reservation life. We hiked into Cochise Stronghold from the State Park 2 days ago and enjoyed seeing the Dragoons with their lookout points and hidden canyons from this perspective.

Organ Pipes

Chiricahua National Monument
12856 East Rhyolite Creek Rd

Willcox, Arizona


  1. Very interesting, Bonnie! It's remarkable that those rocks don't fall over!

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Especially when we were standing right underneath them!