27 million years ago the Turkey Creek Volcano spewed over 1,200 square miles of ash (11 times bigger than Mount St. Helen) in this area of what is now Arizona. These super heated ash particles melted together and formed layers of grey rocks called rhyolite. Over time erosion has broken away weaker material and these standing columns remain. It is an impressive sight. Actually, it’s thousands of impressive sights and Larry and I highly recommend that you add Chiricahua (cheer-ih-cow’-wa) to your bucket list. The park is located in southeastern Arizona.
We spent about four days here. It was cold and below freezing at night but perfect weather for hiking. The landscape was vibrant and invigorating. I am reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass She talks about the animacy of language. Animacy is defined as the quality or condition of being alive. In her ancestors’ Potawatomi language, many places are referred to using a verb rather than a noun! She writes, “Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods…” Chiricahua sure felt like a verb to me: an action, a process, an unfolding. And, I felt a part of it as well. The beautiful landscape was made possible only by great upheaval followed by endless cycles of re-creation and configuration. It was a very inspiring place to be.
The remains of Stafford ranch were another reminder of the living process of the land. There was a hot spring there that stopped flowing on May 3, 1887 after an earthquake. After that, only cold water flowed. Imagine that!
As I was researching about Stafford Ranch, I discovered that it was built by Ja Hu Stafford and his wife Pauline. Pauline was Ja Hu’s second wife. He was 46 and she was 12. Here’s a link to an account of their lives. They sure had hard lives. https://www.nps.gov/chir/learn/historyculture/stafford-family.htm
The park has lot of hiking trails and we were feeling pretty proud that we were able to hike the Natural Bridge Trail and were rewarded with splendid views.
Another day took us to Faraway Ranch. On the way, we spotted the coatimundis. That was a real treat.
The ranch was a reminder of how tough the early settlers had it and how hard they had to work to eek out an existence. It’s hard to imaging the isolation of living alone out in this wilderness. Over the years, they finally established a comfortable living.
Every time in history has had its own challenges and rewards. We count ourselves blessed to have been able to ‘be with’ Chiricahua.