To complete my visit to Chiricahua National Monument, I hiked the 7.3 mile trail from the Echo Canyon trail head to the visitors center. Although 7.3 miles might not be too impressive to some of you, it's actually the longest hike I've ever done. Here's my route highlighted in yellow.
At 8:30, five other hikers and I took the shuttle up to the Echo Canyon trail head. Although it had been windy for the hike Ron and I did two days earlier, this day the weather was perfect. I was so excited that I left the others in the dust from the start. Of course it helped that the first mile was the same trail we had finished on during the previous hike - nice clean trail with a gradual downhill grade.
Since I had hiked it before, I also saved time by not taking any pictures, but I did see something I hadn't seen before. This Duck with a Hat wasn't even one of the named rocks in the park. How could they have missed it?
The next mile gained 600 feet in elevation, but since it was early in the hike I still felt fine. Along the way was this named rock called Mushroom Rock.
The next mile mostly followed along the top of a ridge with wonderful views like this.
As you can see, there was a massive fire in the area just a couple of years ago. Sad as it is to see all the burned trees, it's good to see all the new growth. Also the fire created this half longhorn steer, half alligator log that I discovered.
This guy thought he could hide from me, but I chased him down.
Mile three ended with a view of Big Balanced Rock. As opposed to all the little balanced rocks, this one is 25 feet high with a diameter of 22 feet and weighs 1000 tons. As you can see, the one next to it just fell over in amazement.
The next mile was the Heart of Rocks loop which was challenging because of the many rock steps (both up and down) and because I was starting to get tired. The trail here was not as obvious but somebody had thoughtfully added these painted footprints to guide the way. (Weirdly enough, they were all left footprints.)
The Heart of Rocks loop has many named rock formations, such as this one called Old Maid. Hey! That's not very nice.
And Kissing Rocks.
Heart of Rocks was pretty cool since you wander right in among the rocks. (And you know how much I love rocks.)
Rounding a corner, I was stunned by this incredible view. The tip of the mountain in the background is named Cochise Head. He's facing the sky with the top of his head to the far right. You can plainly see his forehead, proud nose, lips, and chin. (You really have to click on this for full effect.)
Mile five was steeply downhill, which I think is as tiring as uphill. I barely managed to snap this picture of a yellow Indian Paintbrush. I don't think I had ever seen a yellow one before.
By mile six the vultures were circling and I didn't even care. I just put one foot in front of the other.
However by mile seven, the trail flattened out and was less rocky. I perked up enough to take a picture looking across the canyon. Although at one point I hallucinated thinking I saw the visitors center up ahead, it turned out to be just another rock.
The final .3 mile was literally a walk in the park and I made it to where Ron was waiting for me with the car at the visitors center. (BTW, Ron did his own hike, but since he won't write in the blog, you'll never hear about it.)
After reading this, I'm sure one thing is perfectly obvious. I loved this hike and would do it again in a minute. (Well, maybe I'll wait a few days until I recover.)