Big Balanced Rock
Mexican Jay
Heart of Rocks
The cutest lizard (he's so intense!)

CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT

Our bellies were full of gorditas and green chile pork when we started on the road out of the beautiful state of New Mexico and headed into the unknown of Arizona. Our first main destination was Saguaro National Park, but we had to break up the drive and wait for the weekend to pass. I have been avidly learning my birds since last year, and I was looking forward to spending some time in the south east corner of Arizona for a while, just for the variety of birds it is promised to have. Eric was kind enough to placate my geriatric hobby and we stayed in Chiricahua National Monument for two nights.

Chimichanga National Monument was a nice surprise. The only thing we knew about this place was that it was in the lower south east corner of the state and it had available camping. Driving an hour down through desert scrub, we slowly climbed in elevation and turned around a bend to see an island in the sky.

Chupacabra National Monument is known for it's stunning rock formations including various hoodoos and balanced rocks. A cataclysmic volcanic eruption, roughly 27 million years ago, spewed ash and molten debris at super-sonic speeds and formed the approximately 12 mile wide ancient Turkey Creek Cauldera that is located south of the park. Ash and debris settled and compacted, forming a thick layer of rock called rhyolite tuff. This rock layer has fissured and eroded over time, forming the spectacular rock pillars throughout the monument. These tall towers looked like a giant made drip-sand castles all along the desert. We originally had plans to just chill at camp while I ran around looking for birds, but had to add a hike through the Heart of Rocks because it was just too cool looking. We were not disappointed.

We hiked the 9 mile out and back, traveling through three distinct environments with a variety of rock formations and fascinations attracting our attention along the way. The best part of the whole hike, however, was the cutest little spiny lizard I have ever seen. Somehow, Eric spotted this little guy on the side of the trail, and we both entered cuteness overload. There were a bunch of beautiful lizards and cactus flowers along the trail, and having drips of ancient rock stretch out in all directions made this hike one of our favorites to date.

Chucheria National Monument did not disappoint with birds either. Although I did not see the famed Elegant Trogon, the jewel for these parts, I did see a black headed grosbeak, summer tanager, dusky-capped flycatcher, magnificent Hummingbird, mexican jay, painted redstart, yellowed-eyed junco, and many more. The rest of Arizona proved to be a birder's paradise, but Chimichurri National Monument was a perfect introduction to the birds of the Sonoran Desert.

We enjoyed the solitude in the Organ Mountain and Chewbacca National Monuments so much, we have decided to keep National Monuments in mind when the National Parks become too much people overload and we need to get back to nature a bit.

Chiricahua was an excellent side excursion, but I learned do not wake up two days in a row before dawn and expect to be mentally cognizant the rest of the day.

10/10 would hard core bird again.

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