Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument 11/26/10

Chiricahua National Monument Hike
Chiricahua Wilderness, Arizona
Heart of Rocks Loop
Mileage - 13.43
Time - 5:11
AEG - 2600ft

The weekend adventure in Southern Arizona came to fruition a couple days prior to Thanksgiving, after making the decision not to join the members of our hiking group on their trip to Zion National Park. It was a good call too, Utah was blanketed in snow. So instead, Matt and I threw a few ideas together, organizing our own camping and hiking trek into some of the most spectacular wilderness areas the state has to offer.

Friday morning came and we had one other taker, Tiffany, who signed up last minute. The three of us hit the road early, arriving at the monument around 9:30am. We set up camp, stopped by the visitors center to get maps and talk to the ranger, then prepared our packs for a long day of hiking. Our plan was to make a big loop through the park to see all the famous rock formations before the sun went down. I really felt like a kid climbing on the boulders and making up our own characters in the different shapes and spires.

The ranger recommended a shorter 5 mile hike to the only natural bridge in the park. Since we had enough daylight left, it seemed worth the effort, especially after she said it was the best area to see wildlife. The route took us up along a ridge for 2 miles, then dropped down into flat wooded area that felt eerily quiet. I made a comment about this being our best chance of seeing something, and just as soon as I opened my mouth, two large Black Bears stormed across the trail approximately 50 feet in front of us! Frozen in our tracks, with no time to re-act (or get a camera ready for that matter), the bears raced into a side canyon and were gone in just a few seconds. With less than a quarter mile to go until the bridge, we played it safe and headed back the way we came.

At dusk we began to prepare dinner and get everything ready for what would be a frigid night in a tent. Arizona had a cold front move through recently, and with the campground sitting at 5,300ft, the overnight low dipped to 25 degrees. Brrr! I was awake first of course, fired up the stove for coffee and oatmeal, and began breaking down camp and loading the car for our next adventure...Cochise Stronghold.

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