Search This Blog

Monday, April 3, 2023

Still Keeping Up at the Three-Quarters Mark


This first image is not where we began our hike on Saturday (my 75th birthday), and it was far, far below where Therese and I had begun last April (on her birthday). It wasn’t even last year’s beginning spot. No, this “beginning” is where three of us branched off on Saturday in a direction new to Kathy, Sunny, Yogi, and me, after we'd climbed already considerably.... But let’s backtrack a little.

You’re not seeing the 25-mile drive from Dos Cabezas to the Chiricahua Monument, nor the more than seven miles of very rutted road to the place we left our cars. Therese and I had parked higher up last year, but this year, with two cars, we decided to do more of the climb on foot – which turned out to be a fortuitous choice in more ways than one, as our last year’s “parking place” was flooded, providing our first encounter on foot that day with flowing water, which the dogs loved as much as the humans. (We had no idea then how many more watery thrills awaited us.) But I anticipate again, because before we got to that first flowing water, we had a long uphill climb, mostly in sun, along a boulder-lined – and sometimes boulder-strewn – road.

Therese and Kathy look down over the steep edge.

Is this mudstone? Are these fossils of ancient trees?

For Sunny, it's simply -- Big rock!!!

As I say, the road climbed. The sun was hot. As we went around the mountain, however, we were met with a cool, refreshing breeze. Ah, that was more like it....

Dog buddies on the trail

Old formations from prehistoric volcano

Below you see the water that had flooded an open pace, crossed the road, and taken water’s general downhill habit. Observe the happy dogs. Note the cool shade. And only a little way farther up the rocky road, back in the sun, we spied a congregation of spiny lizards, which I found very exciting.

A confusing sign, but we got the message.

Is it a mountain spiny lizard? That would be Sceloporus jarrovi.

The Chiricahua Monument itself is the official “wonderland of rocks,” but for me the entire mountain range is a wonderland of awe-inspiring formations. Therese was particularly captivated by manzanita in bloom, and look at the size of this single plant! I had her stand in front of it to illustrate the scale. 

Gigantic manzanita!

And now, water again. It never gets old. The sight and sound of it, the way it makes the colors of rocks sing, the way it calls to us --

Yogi (left) flees after being surprised by a deep pool.

Sunny is crossing cautiously, so as not to drop a bone she found, while Yogi hopes the bone will drop.

Oh, the heavenly scent of pine trees! And the towering majesty of the Ponderosa pines! After our usual diet of dusty desert walks, the tree-shaded creek canyon -- with water, too! -- feels and smells like paradise.

Along this minimally maintained mountain road were many boulders, deep ruts, and at one point it was clear that someone had very recently cleared away a fallen tree. 

No speeding here!

And now, at probably our fourth or fifth encounter with the creek (not counting walking a road that roughly paralleled the creek below most of the way), we decided it was time for our picnic. And the perfect place, despite the noise of rushing water. 

Maybe if you zoom in on the image of the (yet another) big rock below, you’ll be able to see the patterns that drew my eye and set me to dreaming of its distant past. 

The far side of the creek. We did not go across here.

What has this tree been through?!

What forces twisted these rocks? But life finds room to cling.

And it isn’t only rocks and trees that have history. The road itself speaks mutely of what it used to be. 

Here almost half the road has crumbled into the creek.

Bedrock exposed on the road

Now we have climbed up away from the creek and back into the sun. This might be close to our highest elevation of the day, 6,365 feet above sea level. Or maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t really keep track, but bear in mind that our ghost town is somewhat less than a mile high. 

This is close to our highest elevation of the day.

But even this high, snowmelt has sent flowing water across our road, on its way downhill to reach the creek. 

Ah, shade!

What do you see here? What can you imagine or speculate?

We had left our ghost town at 9 a.m., and when I got back it was 3:30, so I’ll say we hiked for about five hours. And it was a glorious way to celebrate reaching my three-quarters-of-a-century mark, 75 years of age! Congenial company, vigorous exercise, exciting vistas, the thrill of flowing water, and the always amusing antics of our canine companions – I couldn’t have asked for more. And yet there was more, because another neighbor had us over for dinner that evening! Can you believe it? In short, I had another birthday, am halfway through my eighth decade of life, and despite losses along the way I am surviving. 


Of all the photographs in this post, which one is your favorite? Or how about top three? I know at least two that would make the cut for me, but I’ve not scrimped in presenting our adventure, because three images would not have been nearly enough. I’ll close with a funny one, though – at least, funny if I give you the story that goes with it. At 9 a.m., Sunny and I were in the car at the bottom of the driveway, down by the highway, waiting for Therese and Kathy to drive by so we could convoy to Pinery Canyon, Sunny with her most alert expression…. And then their car went by, and Sunny knew it was Therese, and she knew Yogi was in that car, so she sat forward, eyes fixed on that vehicle for over 30 miles, not about to lose sight of her friends and miss any fun! And of course, as you have seen, she certainly did not. Happy ending!

Always up for adventure!


Karen Casebeer said...

Great story and pictures, Pamela! My favorite was the last one of Sunny, always up for adventure. I also liked the closeup of the big rock. You had a couple nice pathway shots that I enjoyed too. Happy Birthday! You sure found a great way to celebrate.

P. J. Grath said...

It was a lovely day! Now it's Tuesday, cold as can be, fierce wind, horrid dust -- and I'm glad my birthday was Saturday and not today!

Jeanie Furlan said...

What a GREAT way to celebrate 🎉!!! Happy Belated Birthday 🥳, Pamela! It sure looks like you found the most interesting rocky corners of this trail! The photo of the crooked rock wall with a big space on one side: my thought is that it was an earthquake and the space is from rushing water at some point, maybe where the root of a tree was. But the gnarled trees and oddly-shaped rocks, well, there could be so many causes: mostly natural I believe. Manzanita! I’m not sure why that shrub is called that because in Spanish, at least in Colombia where I was, it can mean little apple. But then, languages often have lots of head-scratchers when looking at origins of words. I LOVE the dogs just wandering and having a blast sniffing around in every nook and cranny! And I still love that last shot of Sunny J next to you, so ready and so sure that his friends are right near her! A great day for all!!

P. J. Grath said...

The only sense I can make of "little apple" is that manzanita does bear fruit. But they are small berries, and many shrubs have berries, so -- ???