Jody Victor Suggests the Chiricahua Mountains
In the furthest southeastern corner of Arizona are the Chiricahua Mountains…
The Chiricahuas are one of several so called ‘sky island’ mountain ranges. These ranges are surrounded by vast desert grasslands. The Chiricahua Mountains are part of an inactive volcanic range about twenty miles wide and forty miles long. Deep inside these steep, forested valleys resting beneath the craggy peaks are the remains of a violent geological activity that took place over millions of years. Pinnacles, columns, spires and ‘balancing rocks’ scatter the landscape of the Chiricahua National Monument.
The Apache called this place ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks’. A suitable name for the extraordinary, almost surreal landscape. Early pioneers in the late 1800s understood the unique beauty of the Chiricahua range and were instrumental in persuading Congress to protect this ‘Wonderland of Rocks’. The Chiricahua National Monument was created in 1924. The monument consists of about 12,000 acres of wild and rugged terrain. In 1976 Congress decided to further preserve the land by designating 87% of the monument as “wilderness” – meaning absolutely no human intervention.
Although the geological wonders seem reason enough to protect this land, the park is a biological crossroads of sorts, a meeting place of four distinct ecological regions. In the Chiricahuas, the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, the Rocky mountains and Sierra Madre ranges all meet. This convergence of these biomes makes the monument unique in its biodiversity. From the Rockies, Ponderosa pine and Englemann spruce live side by side the Soap tree yucca from the Chihuahuan desert. Arizona sycamores and oaks dot the surprisingly well watered canyons. Douglas and White fir, Arixona cypress, Cane cholla, Prickly pear, ferns, mushrooms, and fungi all grow together in the monument. The widlife includes coatimundi, white-tailed deer, javalina and many bird species—over three hundred bird species, in fact, make their home here.
All of these wonders can be enjoyed by you and your family for extremely modest fees that allow actives from day hikes to campground and back country camping. Adventurers from non-desert regions remember to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen! Everyone should remember sturdy shoes and, the proper gear, over all will make for a safer more enjoyable trip.
More information on desert camping/hiking and other questions can be answered be finding the park online at www.nps.gov and by contacting the park directly.