For my final adventure on my little Arizona trip last month I headed out to Chiricahua National Monument, which I didn’t even know existed when I first arrived in Arizona, but somehow found through happenstance down an online rabbit hole. Chiricahua is composed of bright green and neon yellow lichen-covered pinnacles, hoodoos and balancing rocks made of of volcanic ash and is set in the forest in southeastern Arizona, about an hour outside of Tucson. It’s a nice contrast from the beating sun and desert scenery of the surrounding Sonoran. It’s unbelievably beautiful but under the radar and sparsely visited both because it is hard to photograph (I presume, since none of the photos I took or have seen online remotely convey the magical effect the lichen has on these rocks, especially since the colors match those of the shrubbery growing alongside them) and because it’s somewhat remote.
There are 17 miles of hiking trails within the monument grounds, from very easy half mile walks to 8 mile strenuous hikes that give you a glimpse into everything there is to see in the area. I opted for a moderate hike through the Echo Canyon Loop and then a couple of other random trails because again, the government shutdown meant no map and no real clue what I was doing beyond heading towards what looked most attractive. Luckily the trailheads are well marked with posted maps and distance markers. I have to say, I had so much freaking fun on this hike. I passed exactly one person the entire time I was hiking (though there were a number of cars parked in the various lots) and spent as much time scrambling over rocks as I did walking, not because I needed to in order to proceed, but because they were there and I could. It was rad. I don’t know how else to convey the childlike joy it gave me and desire to keep going further and stop at various extra trails even though I knew I was running out of time.
It actually made me remember two very different previous hikes: one about 9 years ago to Mirror Lake in Yosemite with my boyfriend at the time when I wanted to give up and he had to remind me I could take my time instead of stubbornly trying to huff and puff my way up the mountains as fast as possible in an effort to end my trauma quicker (and resulting in burn out) –totally oblivious to my beautiful surroundings, and one about 3 years ago with a who-knows-what-he-was in Big Sur where our 4 mile hike somehow turned into a 10 mile one and I very dramatically screamed at him to leave me behind for dead when it became clear we were nowhere near the end point while an older couple hiking alongside us looked at me like I was a complete nutter. By contrast, now that I have taken it down a notch and figured out that hiking isn’t about “getting it over with” but exploring the unknown and enjoying the discoveries, I could have spent all day here had I not needed to head back to Quartzsite to meet up with my mama. This place isn’t really next to anything but if you’re ever going from Tucson to White Sands or Texas and thinking of going through Tombstone, go here instead. It’s worth the minimal detour.