Friday, April 19, 2013

Chiricahua National Monument - the path not taken

Roger here....  What a great day we should have had!  Don't get me wrong.  Nothing horrible happened, but I am very disappointed that we did not get to have the wonderful day we expected, partly our fault, very much the fault of the National Park Service.  I also know that this sounds a little whiney.  I apologize.

Last night Dianne investigated the trails at Chiricahua National Monument where we intended to spend the day.  The trails through the rock formations do not allow dogs, not a surprise.  However, one of the trails (a five-miler to a natural bridge) did allow dogs.  After some discussion, we decided to take the dogs instead of taking them on a long walk and leaving them in the motor home.  It should have been a good decision.

The high temperatures for the day were forecast to be in the lower 60s, and the winds were supposed to die down.... a perfect day for a five-mile hike in an interesting place with the dogs.  

The drive to the national monument was about an hour and a half, a little far, but not too bad.  As you can see, the winds were a little more than predicted.  We were thankful that we were not driving the motor home through that sand storm.

We bypassed a local tourist trap on the way.  We also, after a quick drive through, bypassed Tombstone yesterday.  There seemed to be a charge for everything there.  They even walled off the OK Corral so they could charge admission.  No thanks.  Did I mention that I am in a poorly mood?

Anyway... on to Chiricahua.  We pulled into the visitor center parking lot so that I could show my National Park Pass and get a windshield pass into the park.  When I mentioned to the ranger how pleased I was that at least one of the moderate trails was allowable for our dogs (a rare occurence), she informed me that the Natural Bridge Trail was no longer accessible to dogs.  When I told her that the night before we downloaded different information from the National Park website, she informed me that information has changed.  When I asked her when the change occurred, she said over a year ago.  WOW.  We based our entire day on a decision that was made more than a year ago, and not changed on the website.  It was not the ranger's fault and I was careful to let her know that my irritation was not focused on her.  However, I am sure she perceive that I was upset --- an entire day of hiking that we now could not do because the webmaster did not update the information (for more than a year).  She gave me a complaint form to fill out.  Why would I relive my frustration?  Not worth it.

As you can tell, I am still fuming.  However, the day was not lost.  The dogs were allowed on a couple of non-challenging trails in the flat area of the park.  They were restless and ready for exercise, so off we went.

 The trails followed the banks of a dry stream-bed.... a pretty place.
Lots of nice views along the way.
At one point, the trail was diverted through the dry steam-bed and away from a bridge in disrepair.  Sad.
A very cool alligator pine tree hugged the trail next to the abandoned bridge.  Does anyone see the "tree gnome" in the right branch of the tree?

 More impressive views from below.
The one-way trail ended at the Faraway Ranch.  The total mileage, including the trip back logged about five miles. Not bad.  Good exercise for the dogs (and us), but not what we came here to do.

We packed a picnic lunch to eat along the trail.  After we returned to the car, we decided to go down the road to a sunnier spot for lunch.  It was chilly in the trees by the visitor center.

So up and onward we went in the car.  We saw lots of scenic views along the way.

It looked a lot like last year's trip to Bryce Canyon (without the pink colors).  What fun it would be to walk through those formations!  Not to be.

When we arrived at the end of the paved road, we ate our picnic in the car.  It was sooooo cold.  We expected it to be in the low 60s, perfect hiking weather.  We did not allow for the drop in temperature due to altitude (my fault).  We did not bring sweatshirts (my fault).  We did not expect the intense winds (weather forecaster's fault).  

It was sooo cold!  Even if the dogs had been allowed on the trail, we would not have taken the trails in our shorts and t-shirts.  Our bad!  There was so much in the pathways through the rocks; however, the pictures that you will see were taken during quick and windy (cold) stops along the roadway.  Lots of interesting stuff.

Ok. Ok.  We certainly did get to see some amazing scenery.  Time to head back to Benson.

The wind was still kicking up the dust and sand.

I can't wrap this up without a picture that we took on the way back at one of the rest stops on I-10.  We drove through miles of stacked boulders on both sides of the highway.  This area would be an attraction unto itself, if an interstate highway did not run through its center.

One more shot of the blowing dust.  The next post will be from the Phoenix area and will involve SNAKES!

Dianne here:  There is no pet picture of the day from our day at Chiracahua, so I looked back and found a cute one of the kids sharing a drink back in Texas:


Bill and Nancy said...

So sorry that your day didn't pan out the way you expected:( However, you still shared some spectacular scenery!!

I do think with all the cut backs within the state and national parks, lots of things are not being maintained. It is very sad to see these beautiful places deterioating:o((

Kathy Detweiler said...

Beautiful scenery but I'd be fuming also about not having good info.
Too bad about Tombstone, I've always wanted to go there.

Lori Moore said...

Not sure where you are in North Phoenix, but either McDowell Mountain County Park or Cave Creek County Park have beautiful hiking trails, dogs allowed ! We were just there, although the temperatures are getting warmer now. Do look out for snakes ! Wonderful camping sites too. Electric and water, no sewer, but a dump station. Enjoy the Phoenix area !

Travelwithwhippets said...

@Kathy... Don't let the comments prevent you from going to Tombstone. We did not pay the admission charges so we really did not see it. Besides, sometimes tourist traps are fun. It might be great. @Lori... We are actually staying at the Cave Creek County Park and it is wonderful. Dianne will be taliking about it in the next blog.

Travelwithwhippets said...

Always proofread before hitting send. I am really not sure what taliking is, so I don't know why I typed it :-).