Day 25, November 4, 1997: Globe to Douglas, AZ

Today had the potential to be a major disappointment. The terrain through which I was driving was boring squared. There were, for the most part, no towns. One place served to make the whole thing worth while: Chiricahua National Monument.

Before today, I didn't even know that this place existed. To me Chiricahua was the name of a band of Apaches and nothing else. It turns out to be one of the most delightful natural places I have visited. If you have been to one of the Utah "big rocks" parks such as Zion you can probably understand Chiricahua - it is about the same thing but on a smaller scale but where you can actually get down and touch the good stuff.

The main road through the park takes a path through a very narrow canyon where the trees and rocks tower only yards away on either side. The stone formations themselves are fantastic in the extreme. Those weird formations and balancing rocks so prevalent in the Roadrunner cartoons are real here. Balancing rocks easily number in the hundreds. Some formations seem to defy gravity for surely nothing so unbalanced looking could be standing.

There is a great assortment of wildlife in the area. I had my first opportunity today to see coati mundi in the wild. The ones living in the park, while not tame, are not overly fearful of man. Although I didn't manage to get a picture good enough to share with you they were definitely within photographic distance. On one instance, a pack (herd? mob? group?) of them approached within a couple of yards of the car while I was sitting in it transferring pictures from the camera to the computer. Unfortunately, while doing this I was unable to use the camera. After the transfer was done, at the first sign of movement they scattered into to brush. They seem to have been signaled by a leader which was wearing a radio collar. He gave a series of grunts/coughs when he saw me moving and they vanished. As I was sitting quietly in the car an unable to actually do anything the animals were amazingly noisy rooting through rocks and fallen leaves but after they knew I was there they were totally silent.

The coati mundi aren't the only "Mexican" wildlife in the park. There are several bird species seen nowhere else in the US living in the park just as they do in the Sierra Madres down south.

Photographing in the park is frustrating for the same reason that photographing the redwoods is - they are just too big and too close to allow any scale to be shown. I have given up on the redwoods for this reason. Take a picture and show it to someone who doesn't know about them and tell them that the base of the tree is the same diameter as the length of two Miatas (26 feet) and they will simply glaze over. In the park the rocks are so close and tower so high above you that you can't tell if they are six feet or six hundred feet high. In any case I am sending one attempt at the formations just to show that I tried.

I urge anybody traveling through the southwest to make a detour to Chiricahua and try it. Pack a lunch and the family. Wear your hiking boots (there are 20+ miles of trails). Take your camera (you might do better than I did). It is an amazing bargain at the $6.00 per car entry charge!

One major disappointment was finally seeing the town of Willcox. A couple of years ago I was researching places to retire and was a hair's-breadth away from purchasing land there, sight unseen. From the descriptions, it was an earthly paradise. The reality doesn't, to put it very kindly, live up to the hype. I can see why they are trying to attract people though. The downtown seems to be dying bit by bit. There are many empty storefronts and the two auto dealers have given up. The wonderful orchards and farms that were described turn out to be many miles from the town. I guess in the case of the Willcox land purchase, I did the right thing by doing nothing.

As I write this I am in Douglas, Arizona which is about a mile north of the Mexican border. For all practical purposes it might was well be a mile south of the border. In all regards, this is a Mexican town that just happens to be a bit misplaced.

Tomorrow I will press on toward the east into New Mexico. I suspect that I will see very little to slow me down along the way. The southern part of that state is not known for attracting tourists. If it proves as uninteresting as I fear, I might well be in Texas before I stop tomorrow. I had better give the Buckbees in San Angelo a call to warn them that the northern invader approaches their border as I continue the 12,000 mile journey around the edges of the USA.


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