February 25, 2010

Chiracahua National Monument...An Amazing Place

Today we took our third trip to the absolutely wonderful Chiricahua National Monument. This is the National Park Service's best kept secret and one of my all-time favorites. In fact, despite the well-deserved fame the Grand Canyon gets, there are reasons why I like this little park tucked way down in the southeastern corner of Arizona better.

The Chiricahua mountains were formed by a violent volcanic eruption some 20 million years ago. The falling ash was still so hot it welded together to form distinct layers. The ensuing erosion, particularly through ice wedging, created the amazing standing columns, grottos, and formations you see here.

Linda and Hilina soaking in the view

These mountains also contain some really interesting plant and animal species, many of which have Mexican affinities, including Apache and Chihuahuan pines, Mexican fox squirrels and coatimundis.

Hilina noticing some interesting formations down the canyon. One of them was called "Buba Rock" and then she spent the next 10 minutes looking for the "Hilina Rock", which we eventually "found".

This park also officially entered Hilina into the realm of junior ranger. She was so excited to get the junior ranger vest and that ran all around the visitor center telling everyone.

Here you can see Hilina showing me on the map where we are going. She must have inherited that interest in maps from both me and opa Werner, because she is all about maps and always wants to know the route we will be taking.

Hilina showing her bird named "Bee-Bee-Beep" the lichens she discovered

The elevation at the top of the Echo Canyon Loop was about 6700 feet, where some residual snow remained. We did make a small snowman, but Hilina said "let's knock it down" and it was promptly destroyed, much like she does with every tower or building we make with blocks.

This place is just such a wonderful place to explore. If you are ever in Tucson or SE Arizona, it is most definitely work the drive to visit this unknown wonderland.

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