It’s cold up in these mountains. Needing to move to a lower altitude, back down we go, down the Trail of the Mountain Spirits. Yes, there is definitely something in the air here. Some kind of spirit.
The vistas are so dramatic and enormous, you can’t help but feel small. Not just you, but the entire human experience on earth feels like it is but a speck. And in that tiny speck, you are an even smaller speck. A speck on a proton in an atom.
Valleys are dotted with ranches and what might be vacation homes. Many of them are log cabins and we start seeing a few taxidermy places again. Offshoots of the Gila River, as well as the Gila itself, run through these valleys.
Santa Rita, between Membres and Silver City has a huge open pit copper mine. In another million years, it might look like an unusual geologic feature.
Silver City was the boyhood home of Billy the Kid but we don’t see any Billy-themed shops or attractions. They could learn a thing or two from Roswell!
The road goes through Tyrone (another huge open pit mine) and down to Lordsburg and then we’re in the desert again. More open vistas with faraway mountain ranges. From Willcox (another wild west town) an empty road takes you to Chiricahua. Ohio J had talked about this park set within a deep, forested canyon.
It’s a small park – a National Monument, rather than a National Park – and the campground is not very big but we manage to find a nice spot in front of a couple from Oregon in an Airstream. The process is the same: fill out a money envelope, pay for the spot and clip the payment stub to the numbered post at your site. With our spot secured, we can now drive off to explore the park.
As you drive towards Massai Point at the top of the canyon, the famous rock formations come into view.
“Oh my god!” We gape up at the pillars rising on either side of the narrow road: incredibly huge pillars of boulders, stacked on each other. Some are reddish from the iron-rich rock, others are colored green and yellow by lichen. The road climbs steeply up to Massai Point, the overlook across a sea of rock pillars. Apaches called them Standing Up Rocks. That just about says it all!
“It looks like a giant army of rock people,” I whisper to Big Dog. Why do we whisper when we are in awe-inspiring environs? Is it because we do so in church and other holy places and somehow, our psyche recognizes these places as being just as “holy”?
Some of the pillars have “heads” balanced perfectly on “bodies.” The shapes are unreal and the whole scene is absolutely jaw-dropping. What an artist the earth is!
Sugarloaf – the highest accessible peak — is another vista point with super spectacular panorama views (“Yeah, that ridge over there does look like Cochise’s profile!”) It’s getting late now so hikes will have to wait until tomorrow.
Back in the campground, we are surprised by a group of usurpers who have taken our camp site.
“There was no tent here,” they complain.
“That’s what the tag is for,” I snarl.
It takes them forever to move out, but we just patiently wait, parked on the side of the road, having a cocktail as we do.