Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument

A few days ago, we enter Arizona.  We stay a couple of days in a town called Safford, but we don't do anything there other than have our oil changed in the truck and do our grocery shopping, so let's move the blog along to the Chiricahua (Cheery-cah-wah) National Monument which is in southeastern Arizona in the Coronado National Forest.

Chiricahua National Monument
We find out about this area by picking up brochures from the Visitors Center in Safford, and it looks interesting so off we go.  It's only marginally out of our way (we're heading to Tombstone - yes, THE historic town of Tombstone).  The Chiricahua National Monument is like a huge City of Rocks State Park.  Rock formations, again caused by fallen volcanic ash, compressed into rock, have weathered into columns and pillars of vertical stone, standing like an army ready to march into battle.  The view is so bizarre, to see these pillars amongst the trees and set against the valley below, it looks surreal.

Brad standing on a balanced rock, Chiricahua Nat. Monument
There are many hiking trails in the National Monument.  We take two while we are here.  Echo Canyon to the Grottoes and we do go a bit beyond but because we forgot to bring the map and don't recall how far the trail goes exactly and it's getting late in the day, we simply retrace out steps (good thing too - it's a long trail), and the Massai Point trail at the top of the drive which is a short half mile trail.  You can also take a shuttle from the Visitors Center to the top in the morning and hike your way back down which would take several hours.  I'm sure that would be a great hike, but we decide to move on as the previous night was a very rough one for us because...

At the Visitors Center, one of the Rangers and one of the campers/visitors tell us that we can camp on the BLM land (Bureau of Land Management - equivalent to Crown Land in Canada) in the National Forest just outside of the park for free since our trailer won't fit in their campground and the nearest RV Park is 35 miles away.  We express how long and big our trailer is, and the camper says "Oh yeah, you'll have no problem.  Just don't go too far up the road, because it will get narrow.  But there's lots of dispersed camping up there."  Dispersed camping or free camping is allowed on BLM land anywhere in the U.S. where a previous campsite (with a fire ring or a pull-off) already exists.  AND, the Ranger has a map showing where the National Forest starts and where the dispersed campsites are on the road as the first 4 miles are private property.  So we feel confident that we will find some sites to camp for the night.  We drop our trailer in one of the park's parking lots first near the entrance station, do our hike, and at the end of the day come back and hitch up and head off to find a campsite for the night.  It is dark as we head up the gravel road - and it's a nasty gravel road with that washboard surface, so Brad drives really slowly.
Brad making room for the trailer during the night from hell!

I'll save all the intricate details - we got stuck.  There are NO large campsites for big trailers or motorhomes in this area of the National Forest - none, nada, zilch.  We spend 3 hours - yes 3 HOURS - trying to turn our trailer around in a campsite suitable for a tent or a truck camper.  But it is IMPOSSIBLE - the angles are wrong and there isn't enough space.  During this 3 hour period, I keep catching my pant legs on tiny nettle bushes that I can't see in the dark, scratching my legs and ruining my pants (I'm not wearing jeans tonight), I fall through the cattle guard that is on the road at this point and scrape and bruise my ankle (lucky I don't BREAK my ankle) and I bang my head on the underside of the trailer while walking between the truck and trailer and I stand up too soon, not realizing the trailer is on an angle, resulting in a really big goose egg on the top of my head.  I'm also freezing as I'm the one outside the truck directing Brad which way to turn and how far to back up and whether the truck bumper is going to hit the sign posts on the cattle guard and whether tree branches are going to ruin our roof.  Brad is sitting in the warm truck.  It's about 45F out tonight.  Several times, Brad has to stop, get out and cut down tree brances that are in our way, either beside or on top of the trailer, and yet we still manage to put a few small holes in the rubber roof.  After the first hour, I stop worrying about whether a bear, coyote, wolf or mountain lion will sneak up on me as I am too cold, pissed off and worried to care.  Brad is desperate for a beer.

We finally end up unhitching and taking just the truck up the road to see if there is a place where we can turn around and we do find something where we think we can.  We still haven't eaten dinner and it's after 9:00pm.  So we go back and heat up something to eat - now we're just exhausted.  What will we do once we turn around?  There's nowhere to go.  Up the road from where we are, there is a slight pull-off where we decide to just sleep for the night.  The trailer is hanging on the road about a foot, but we don't care.  This road isn't used much, so it's not like someone will hit us.  It's now after 10:00, so we just go to bed.  In the morning (everything looks better in the morning, doesn't it?), when we're at least rested and I'm not crying, we take the trailer up to the spot we found the night before and Brad has no problem turning the trailer around.  He makes an easy three point turn and we're outta there!  However, we do go back to the Visitors Center and give them you-know-what for sending us up there.  The Ranger (same one) feels really bad when we tell her our story.

We try not to let the night's events taint our feeling of wonder for this place, because it is beautiful and amazing.


  1. Hysterically awful and funny at the same time. And, Grady could handle the mountain lion!

  2. I would call this "Adventure" with a capital "A". Your alive, nothings broken, you have a great memory and story to tell. I like it! Especially as I read it from my cozy bed.
    Bob H.