We left T or C and continued our journey West to Arizona. As you enter the Sulfur Spring Valley near Willcox AZ you find yourself in a vast grassland sea. Within this sea an isolated mountain range rises up, a sky island. These are the Chiricahua’s.
The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles “standing up rocks”. The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924 and protects these formations.
Twenty seven million years ago Turkey Creek Volcano erupted and spewed hot ash over this area of Arizona. The ash melted together forming layers of grey rock called rhyolite. Cooling and uplift created joints and cracks. Over time weathering and erosion did the rest. Wandering the endless variety of rock formations makes for a great hiking experience.
Continuing west, we set up camp in the foothills of the Whetstone Mts just south of Benson AZ.
Our destination was Karchner Cavern State Park. The park is home to a cave that was discovered in 1974. A great deal of conservation went into maintaining the cave’s pristine condition. The cave remains a living organism. No cameras or phones were allowed in the cave so no photos to entice you –but plan to visit this gem if you are anywhere near.
The San Pedro Valley
The Whetstone Mts. (a “sky island”)
The way up
We made it!
Just north of Sonita, AZ lies the vast Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Located within is the historic Empire Ranch. The Ranch began its life in 1871 and continued as a privately run cattle ranch until 1988 when the US Bureau of Land Management acquired it. The government leases the land and it continues to be a active cattle ranch.
Hiking, biking, camping, hunting and ATV use is permitted.
Giant Sacaton grass once dominated the flood plains of the Southwest. Today the Cienegas Watershed is home to the region’s largest remaining sacaton stands.
On to Tucson!