With yet another friend from Traverse City, this one coming to us from weeks spent with other friends in New Mexico and in the Tucson area, we made our first expedition of the season to the Chiricahua National Monument on Saturday, St. Patrick's Day. I always enjoy the drive from the ghost town in my "home" mountains of Dos Cabezas down the road east to Chiracahua almost as much as I enjoy being in the excitingly tree-filled Chiricahua Mountains, and our friend Joe had never been to Chiricahua before. So we were eager to show it to him, and he was, I am happy to report, duly impressed. --But then, who wouldn't be? In one direction, we looked down on the plain we had crossed to get to the Monument; in another, our view extended clear into New Mexico.
As you can see from the way this little girl's hair was blowing every which way, the wind was fierce up on Massai Point, and air was cold, too. I regretted not having worn my sheepskin-lined buckskin jacket, and the Artist could also have used a heavier coat, but notwithstanding the cold we did quite a bit of up- and downhill walking -- not attempting the trail to the shelter you see on the mountaintop below (are you kidding?) but climbing stone steps to a small exhibit building, where the origin of the rock formations was explained.
We ran into our friend Tom up on Massai Point and didn't have to introduce Joe and Tom to each other, as each had spotted the other's Michigan license plate. We were glad to see Tom and invite him to join us for Irish dinner later in the day. We Michigan people, it must be said, were all a bit giddy being in the company of real trees up there in the higher altitudes. "It's like being in Canada," I exclaimed to the others. Here in Arizona, gains in altitude are like gains in latitude back in Michigan.
A notable feature visible from Massai Point is the mountain known as Cochise Head. It is a striking profile, but I wish the famous Apache were seen looking proudly out across his home territory, rather than lying on his back as if in death.
Going up the mountain, I had the alarming sensation that I could be crushed any minute by a rock wall that seemed only inches away from my head. (This is no reflection on Joe's driving, only on my nerves.) Riding down it was the nearness of the edge that had me gripping the armrest for dear life, but the views were worth the fear.
We had a chance to pull off the road once or twice on the way down to photograph the columns of rock towering above us. Either looking down on them from Massai Point or looking up from the winding road below, the formations inspire awe and wonder.
Recrossing the beautiful grassy plain as we returned to our own "sky island," I thought the sky and clouds in the south looked like burnished platinum. Sometimes you would think I have the mind of a grazing animal rather than an omnivore, the times when I can't help saying out loud, dreamily, "What is more beautiful than grass?"
Back at the cabin, though, it was time to put aside reflections on nature and get practical about dinner, a meal planned for omnivores, Irish and otherwise. I had been delighted to find the most beautiful little green cabbage I ever saw at the grocery store the day before, but the carrots and cabbage had to wait. Even the potatoes (cooked separately) had to wait while the corned beef simmered slowly in its herbs and spices, making a delicious broth. Eventually it all came to the table together, each item's cooking perfectly timed, if I do say so myself. Tom brought Guinness, the perfect accompaniment to our St. Patrick's Day dinner, and we were too busy eating and drinking (and drinking and eating) for me to remember to photograph the plated portions. You'll have to take it on faith that everything was delicious.