May 11, 2017

Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area

"Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance;
they make the latitudes and longitudes."
Henry David Thoreau

We left Chiricahua National Monument with the excitement of reuniting with Tim and Denise who were making their way back west from Austin, Texas. On this post, we will leave it to "Gone with the Dogs" to share the details of our rendezvous. The fun we had enjoying each other's company and exploring this unique area can only be brightened by their story, photos and video. To see our time together click on the link above.

Indian Bread Rocks Recreation area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is the access point into 11,700 acres of the Dos Cabezas Mountain Wilderness (geologically, the northern most extension of the Chiricahuas). 
Sculpted with steep slopes and granite outcroppings, this rugged, remote and scenic wilderness proved to be a perfect waypoint for rock scrambling, hiking and no leash dog exploration.
And camouflaged within this backcountry are vibrant desert gardens on hidden terraces fed by natural springs seeping out of fissures in the rock wall. As we gingerly walked along trace trails, each oasis seemed like it was protected by multi-layers of rock and thick patches of prickly pear.
Although we experienced some fierce 50+ mph wind gusts and some heavy rains, our happy times were never threatened. Our tag along companions, Weber, Tin Cup and Iconoclast, made sure we never missed a bluesy beat...
Friendships bring something new to our lives, inspiring us to see our world from another perspective, provide wisdom to embrace, a shoulder to lean on or a new cheerleader team to root us on. These friendships offer something totally unique and are irreplaceable for they have contributed to who we are. These are but a short list of reasons of why we choose to spend whatever time we can cultivating these relationships and showing up for these memorable rendezvous...
"The people who are meant to be in your life will always gravitate back towards you, no matter how far they wander."
unknown author

At Waypoint 32.24072, -109.50611

April 30, 2017

Chiricahua National Monument

"I am alone in the world. I want to live in these mountains;
 I do not want to go to Tularosa. That is a long way off. 
I have drunk of the waters of the Dragoon Mountains and hey have cooled me; 
I do not want to leave here.
Nobody wants peace more than I do. Why shut me up on a reservation?
We will make peace; we will keep it faithfully. 
But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please."
Cochise-Chief of the Chokonen Band of the Chiricahua Apache

As a kid growing up in the 50's, my favorite tv shows or movies were never the cartoon shows of that time...but the old westerns. I rarely missed an episode of my favorite television shows...Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and The Lone Ranger. And I can honestly say I have watched the greatest westerns of all time...The Searchers, Red River, High Noon, Shane and Stagecoach over 20 times each. I idolized those fictional and historical heroes. The lawmen, cowboys, mountain men and Native American warriors were always in my dreams. And as an adult I became fascinated and "addicted" with the mountain man era, 1820 to 1840, and the sixteen Rocky Mountain Rendezvous (I visited the actual sites of 13 Rendezvous). Hovering at the top of my list though was my fascination and reverence of the Apache Native Americans especially, the fiercest band of Apache, the legendary Chiricahuas of Arizona and New Mexico. Who has not heard the names of Geronimo, Magnus Colorado, Victorio or Cochise? These were some of the most famous and feared Native American chiefs and warriors. And all were Chiricahua Apache.

Tim and Denise, Gone With The Dogs, had expressed to us their desire to explore the Chiricahuas and that is when the monument entered our radar. Then our friends, Susan and Kevin, shared how the Chiricahua National Monument was one of their favorite places in southern Arizona to visit. Well, we made sure that if we were within a days drive, the monument would be a new BlaNicS Waypoint.

As you enter Chiricahua National Monument you are climbing into an isolated mountain range rising above the surrounding sea of grassland. Meadows dotted with cactus and mesquite begin to fill with sycamore, juniper and oak, landscape typical of this part of the Southwest. It is the expansive canvas of rock pinnacles looming over like guardians of the forest that announce you have entered Chiricahua country.

The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles "standing up rocks' and from the early 1400's, the Chokonen band made these mountains their home. Nomads and superb warriors, the Apaches fiercely resisted colonization and were at a state of war with all neighboring tribes and emigrants until they surrendered to the U.S. government in 1886.

Established in 1924, Chiricahua National Monument comprises 12,025 acres and there are 17 miles of trails featured within the park. The NPS offers free shuttle service to the top of Bonita Canyon Drive to different trailheads. We hiked from the Massai Point trailhead and made a big loop, using four different trails, allowing us to see much of outer rim and inner canyons of this "sky island."

Each day during our stay we tried, but could not spot the elusive coatimundi native to this area. They were there though, as fellow campers and hikers did catch a glimpse of them running across the road. Bonita Canyon Campground offered many scenic views of the canyon and trails to the visitor center and along side the creek to Faraway Ranch. This historic ranch tells the story of how a family of Swedish immigrants turned their homestead within Bonita Canyon into a guest ranch for 56 years, sharing this wonderland of rocks with guests, photographers and birders from all over the world. 

I have no doubt the Chiricahua Apache believed their land was more valuable than money...that it would last forever and not even perish by the flames of fire. And so it will be, that as long as the the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will continue to give life to men, animals, memories and dreams.

At Waypoint 32.01071, -109.35528

April 2, 2017

Kartchner Caverns State Park

"The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the 
source of what you are looking for."
Joseph Campbell
Tombstone storefront prop
Powerful quote! It reminds me of my own past...of when I had to stop searching for Who I Am and begin searching for Who I Want To Be. It took 43 years dotted with fear, suffering, challenges and deficiency to find the courage to do so. I smile now, surreal, when I think about all those trials and can I not...they were my portals of discovery. Today, the most stress I have is following Imkelina's directions to Kartchner Caverns. And truth to be told...I still don't know who I want to be...but I am no longer fleeing, I found myself and I know what I am looking for.
Kartchner Caverns located under hill mounds on right, visitor center in background on left
The story of Kartchner Caverns started in 1974, with Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts never-ending quest for adventure. And they knew what they were find a cave that no one had ever found. Well they found it and the rest is history. Spelunking, is an extreme sport and the cavers that partake are definitely a unique breed of explorers. I quiver just thinking of my own claustrophobia, but I now know why those t-shirts say "Cavers Rescue Spelunkers".
Kartchner Caverns, was voted the best cave in the United States in a 2016 USA Today poll. The caverns feature an incredible cluster of formations that when illuminated offer a beautiful kaleidoscope of reflections, patterns, shapes and colors. As I am not a "cave boy" with my phobia...I have no doubt the cavern would be far more dazzling than I have just described to individuals who are fans of caves. Great measures are taken to protect the fragile formations and level of humidity inside the caverns and as such, no dazzling inside shots of "the Throne Room" and Kubla Kahn or the 45,000 year-old bat guano.
Dragoon Mountains
For me, the true attraction for was the wonderful interpretive visitor center and the desert landscape encircling the caves. The campground offered many panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges, the Whetstone, Dragoon and Chiricahuas. One afternoon, we were greeted with the foreboding signs of wild storm. And sure enough, that night we became engrossed in a wondrous display of lightning strikes, hail and ground shaking thunder, which freaked out Sydney, who spent the storm shuddering on Imkelina's lap. These snakelike strikes danced all around us for better than an hour. Quite impressive!

view of visitor center from Foothills Loop Trail
As usual, Imkelina found a hike, the 2.4 mile long Foothills Loop Trail. The trail yielded some impressive views of the mountain ranges and valleys as it meandered around the campground, the cavern site and visitor center.
2017 "Gunslingers" with cell phones and bic lighters
And for you history buffs or old west groupies that always had a yearning to visit Tombstone and the O.K. Corral, curb your eagerness. This "film set" is extremely commercialized, not historically accurate and for my taste buds, few opportunities to excite them. The actual shootout took place in a narrow lot six doors west of the Corral's rear entrance and lasted only 30 seconds. Tombstone and the O.K Corral only became famous after Wyatt Earp died. However, Imkelina did find a cool shop that sold some tasty Killer Bee Honey.

Well, I definitely have no desire to go crawl around in caves, but I really like the word "spelunking" and may use it in future conversations...per the Urban Dictionary there are many nuances for the word.

At Waypoint 31.83414, -110.35003

March 23, 2017

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

"Borders are scratched across the hearts of men,
by strangers with a calm, judicial pen,
and then the borders bleed as we watch with dread the lines
of ink along the map turn red."
Maryn Mannes

Pedestrian fencing dividing Sonora, Mexico and Organ Pipes National Monument
While at San Simeon State Park, a full time RV'er inquired if we had ever been to Organ Pipe Cactus? "Where I asked?" "Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona...right on the border of Mexico. The park is awe-inspiring and features a beautiful campground." Wow I thought...we gotta go there while we are in that part of the state...sounds like a perfect side trip to amplify one's experience...and with us having middle names of "InspireMe"...

But the story he shared with me sealed the deal. While he was camping there, the host woke up one morning to find an old man, fragile and thin, sitting on his patio chair. "The man was kind and polite...just needing a safe place to rest. He was from Guatemala, (a beloved country to Imkelina and her family), seeking a better life for him and his family. As there were so many US Border Agent patrolling the roads, this camper was surprised he had made it to Organ Pipe Cactus undiscovered." As of the result of this brief conversation, I knew I wanted to see this place, to help me grasp the risks and hardships that these "illegal refugees" endure to behold a glimmer of hope. When we were there, seeing the borderland, which in reality is a very daunting landscape, we were able to comprehend the desperation and despair that forces one to survive...for this great migration to see OZ is anything but painless and safe
Cactus Wren

Crested Organ Pipe
Just a short drive from Ajo, AZ, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is just a dazzling desert jewel. It is also an International Biosphere Reserve. Located in the extreme part of the state which shares a border with the Mexican state of Sonora, you have 330,800 stunning acres that celebrate life and landscape by showcasing the most pristine tract to the great Sonoran Desert of this American Southwest. The monument exhibits an extraordinary collection of wildlife, birds and plants, including the Saguaro, Ocotillo and it's namesake, the Organ Pipe Cactus rarely found in the United States. Here you can grasp that every seed is awakened and so is animal we yield to all the flora and fauna the same right we give inhabit this land. The monument is a true desert experience.
2.6 mile Palo Verde Trail to Visitor Center

1.2 mile Desert View Nature Trail

Vista of Desert View Nature Trail
Alamo Canyon Trail Views

1.8 mile Alamo Canyon Trail

historic corral Alamo Canyon Trail
Twin Peaks is a perfectly designed campground that allows everyone here to intertwine with the Sonoran Desert. And to assist you toward embracing your beautiful surroundings, the NPS offers daily interpretive talks at the Kriss EggleVisitor Center (named after a Law Enforcement Park Ranger killed by members of a drug cartel), ranger led hikes and tours throughout the Park and evening interpretive programs offered in the campground amphitheater. During one of these interpretive talks at the visitor center, we had the pleasure of connecting with a gifted photographer, a seasonal ranger at our beloved North Rim and a dedicated steward of our west, Gaelyn, the Geogypsy. And as we found out later, we actually were mirroring each other's adventure, i.e. stops at Kofa, Ajo and here. Imkelina and Sydney had a collection of hikes to enjoy...and if we would have stayed another week, she could have crossed each one off her list.

We experienced some beautiful sunsets and remarkable silhouettes through the moonlit nights. And although we had a little too much moonlight, they say the night skies here offer a true will witness the stars at peace, drifting slowly through the darkness and into our deepest being. 

Alas, there may be a day when the human race will be able to hear the pleas of our cherish, protect and share. No boundaries, No Wall, no rules, no violations
At Waypoint 31.94205, -112.81207