I hope your Memorial Day was fun, reflective and spent in the sun. While the rest of the country was out seeing "Pearl Harbor," Layla
and I were driving it, the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway (I -10), that is. We made our way to a corner of Arizona that, believe it or not,
we had not seen, the Chiricahua Mountains. Known as the "Land of the Balancing Rocks," It typifies the wonder of Arizona. Located in
the southeast corner of the state, two hours from Tucson, it has a long and mythical history. 27 million years ago a volcanic explosion
left dollops of lava that were later sculpted into conical aberrations of gravity by wind and water. Millions of these totem-like poles
stand at skyscraper levels as if in posture class. Most of them balancing a weight of rock on their heads. Clustered, like a forest of
stone, there is no end to the images that they conjure. There's Yogi Bear, Duck on a Rock, Indian Princess, even Uncle Dick! The
scientists cannot even explain its actual formation...the rocks, not Uncle Dick!
The beauty is breathtaking but the area is decidedly desolate. The range starts in the low Sonoran Desert, (1000 feet above sea
level), and the road rises to a coniferous 7000 feet. It is in these southern badlands that the great Apache Chiefs, Cochise and
Geronimo, conducted raids on settlers for years before being captured and hauled away to a place that they could be more readily
contained. Their legend still thrives here in the names of Cochise County and what suicidialists say before plunging from the towers.
The jumping point to the National Monument is amongst the scrub brush and cacti of the desert but quickly rises to evergreens, oak
and Arizona juniper trees. Trails abound from short hikes, (0.7 miles) to rocky treks, (9 miles). Shade is plentiful and needed.
We choose the only path allowed for canines. A 2.3-mile hike past the structures of pioneers, clapboard houses built in the 1920's.
They are all documented with the National Historic Register. These people were basically the first people that were not killed by the
Apaches. The area is in the lowlands and the more spectacular vistas are along the driving trail. We march in the heat of the day and
with Layla's black fur her only goal is to find shade. I read that this is bear country and I wonder if I brought my knife! Of course I
didn't. Just because my name is Daniel doesn't mean Boone follows it. This is why I brought the dog isn't it, to shoo bears?
As we meander away across dry riverbeds and lush meadows where we spot three disinterested white-tailed deer. The mountains
can spit into the valley and it is so hot, I wish they would. Soon, Layla is drinking all of our supply of water. This dog was bred in the
Sahara! And it is drinking water like a hippopotamus!
The end of the path has the welcome respite of a gift shop! My favorite thing! I get the perfunctory kitchen magnet, T-shirt and pin as
we slobber down water like zebras on the Serengeti. Now it is time to head back to the truck. This was no loop trail; we will have to
"bear" the burden of a return trip back through the thickets.
Speaking of bears...we encountered one on the way back! It saw us and stopped. There I was with bear bait on a leash. Layla exacts
a pointing stance. I lay a brick. We begin moving the other way. It keeps moving parallel to us and then stops to look at us again. I
snap a couple of photos, which by the time they end up on my website will surely be a "Bigfoot" sighting. We survived as this email
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