Monday, March 22, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument

A group of us headed south to the Chiricahua National Monument for a ranger led talk on "Buffalo Soldiers". In 1885 the 10th Cavalry established an encampment. It consisted of a troop of black soldiers who were originally from Pennsylvania. They served in the Civil War, then spent time in Texas and New Mexico before being sent to Arizona. "Buffalo Soldiers" were the name the Indians gave to the Negro's because of their black skin being like the color of the buffalo. They did not leave much behind. There were few permanent buildings. They did build a structure to hold the flag which was flown in the center of the encampment. The men scrawled their names and dates on the stones while they were there.
Near the location of the encampment, following the surrender of Geronimo, was the cabin built by Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson in 1888. Although the original cabin was three small rooms, it was later expanded two more times to what is seen above. The ranch was centered around cattle which Emma managed while Neil found work in the area around Douglas, AZ. Neil continued to work away from the family while Emma tended the ranch until he took the job as the first ranger for the Chiricahua Forest Reserve about 1903. His home here at Faraway Ranch was also his headquarters until his retirement some years later.
They say the name of Faraway Ranch came about because it was so dog gone far away from everything!
During the addition of the fireplace to the home Neil used blocks from the Buffalo Soldiers encampment.
In 1917 the Erickson's daughters started a second business at the ranch, entertaining guests. Thus began the Faraway Ranch Guest Resort. The guests could take walks, watch birds or ride horses through the 'Wonderland of Rocks'. Eventually the eldest daughter, Lillian, and her husband, Ed Riggs, took over the ranch and Lillian ran it until 1972.

During its heydey it even sported a pool.

The Erickson's. Neil and Emma are seated with Lillian standing on the left. Next to her are her brother and sister. Following the death of Lillian in 1977 the park service purchased the property to be preserved as part of the Chiricahua National Monument.

This Grey Breasted Jay watched us eat lunch hoping we would drop some crumbs.

Following lunch several of us hiked the 5 mile round trip to Natural Bridge.
In 1924 Chiricahua National Monument was established to protect the isolated mountain range containing the pinnacle rock formations which are the heart of its unique beauty. In 1934 the CCC took on the job of improving the roads and creating trails. Known as "Sky Island", the origins of the rocks are said to be from the volcanic eruptions of the Turkey Creek Volcano some 27 million years ago.
A visitor on our path.

I was expecting to walk out on a natural bridge formation in the rocks, but that wasn't the case.

Looking where the sign pointed, across the ravine we could see the natural bridge. Even though I didn't get to walk out on the natural bridge, the hike was beautiful. The Chiricahua's aren't just mountains. We hiked through desert terrain, pine and juniper forests, alongside Bonita Creek, and through wonderful rock formations and along the tops of ridges.
The next day another group returned for the "heart of the rocks" hike. Riding a park shuttle bus to the top of Bonita Canyon, 9 of us hiked 7 miles back down to the visitor center. One person took the shorter hike of only 4 miles.

At a little over 6000 feet it was a little cool.

The Apache's called these pinnacles 'standing up rocks'. It's not hard to understand why.

Everywhere you looked you saw a landscape of pinnacles.

Yet we started our hike in the trees.

One of the first named formations we came to was Mushroom Rock.

In some places there was still the remains of snow.

Standing atop a rock formation with the snow capped mountains in the background.

Someone said this looked like piles of pancakes.

We finally made it up to the top so we could walk through the pinnacles.

This is called 'The Old Maid'. I don't know why it couldn't be called 'The Old Man'.

Camel's Head.

Cochise.

Punch and Judy.
Usually I don't see the resemblance when rock formations are named, but I had no problem recognizing all of the formations I saw on the hike. There were many more, but I couldn't put them all in.

I especially like 'Duck on a Rock'.

At the bottom of the trail it was like walking through an oasis.
I know I have lots of places in the U.S. yet to visit, but I was really impressed with the Chiricahua Mountains.

1 comment:

Barbara and Ron said...

Thanks for the hiking tips - we'll be coming that way soon.

Maybe it's the Old Maid because of the Old Man in the Mountain in New Hampshire. Of course he fell off the mountain and she's still there. Hum, does that say something about the staying power of females? :-D