The Bighorn fire continues, now at 14,000 acres and growing. More ominously though, only 5 miles from the town of Summerhaven close to the top of Mount Lemmon. In 2003, the Aspen Fire burned most of the town and there are many dead trees standing or falling that would provide excellent fuel. Lot of work going on up there. Meantime…..
…..many other places to hike so today we are at Chiricahua National Monument, about a 2 hour drive southeast of Tucson. The Meetup group, "Oro Valley Outdoor Fun" scheduled yet another good hike. Other hiking groups (other than the superlative "Arizona Strong Hikers") are mostly dormant, still. We are doing a combination of trails known as "The Big Loop" which will provide almost 10 miles of hiking fun.
The sights begin early as our group of 14 begins a long descent. Maybe the highlight of the hike is a visit.....
…...to "The Grotto". Kenn, Lilly and David navigate the irregular surface. Really a beautiful spot.
We get back on the trail and continue our descent. It was a long descent and I began dreading the inevitable ascent since two days ago I hiked to Mount Wrightson.
The route took us through and around many amazing rock formations. Note the pillar above the posing hiker. Hundreds of those abound in this park. With all the stops for exploring and picture taking, we had gotten strung out so we paused to regroup. I had brought more then enough fluids for a 9 mile hike but not enough for a 9 hour hike, which was what our pace indicated. The age old question, "Stick with the group that was being held back by the pace of the slowest" or.....
….Kenn decided for me as he began hiking, followed by Barry, then I slotted in, then Amy and not long after, Kate, from Alaska. She was paying a babysitter by the hour so every extra hour was associated with a cost. We finally reached the bottom of the descent, 2 miles into our hike.
From the low point of our hike, Kenn told me it was 1.6 miles up hill to the entrance of the "Heart of the Rocks" loop. I wanted to get my heart rate up there and see what I could do. Some of you know I am a "Strava" user so yes, I was aware there would be a segment for this and other climbs and hit it hard, later happy with the outcome. Reaching the aforementioned loop, we gawked at all the formations.
Above, the Punch and Judy formation. Many other named formations were seen including.....
….Thor's Hammer. Incredible, no?
Equally incredible are the many balanced rocks. The above weighs over 1000 tons.
We exit the Loop and begin the long trek to the parking lot.
Looking in one direction it is of one type of view and in the other, hundreds of hoodoos and similar rock formations. At this higher elevation (we basically started at the top of a mountain and worked our way down and up) the high was only in the 80's but dang, in the direct sun, the final couple of miles wore us down.
Evidence of a past fire and of building clouds which would produce some rain during our drive home. Finished with 8.8 miles (we declined the option of a 1 mile out/back hike to Inspiration Point) and 2900' of climbing.