But that glorious sunshine didn’t greet us till the second day. What did? THIS.
There’s a reason I have no pictures of Tucson’s sweet downtown, as we were too busy avoiding frozen puddles and hunkering down in coffee shops to sightsee.
Also on the west side is the Desert Museum, one of the best put-together set of exhibits we’ve ever come across to interpret the desert environment.
It happens to include a zoo, made up of animals rescued from injury or abandonment.
The greater Tucson area also includes a good network of bike paths, but the section we rode was more about exercise and visiting with an old friend, so no photos there either. Ditto on the tacos.
After three days of civil, though, we were eager to revisit one our favorite and least-known parks: Chiricahua National Monument.
We’re pretty sure the only people who know about this park in Arizona’s extreme southeast corner are friends of ours we’ve raved to, or birders. Birders know the Chiricahuas, because they rear up to 10,000 feet, create their own riparian system in the desert, and act like an oasis for bird species you’d otherwise have to go to Mexico to spot.
The Mate and I aren’t birders, or we wouldn’t have been there in February. We’re hikers. And once again, having arrived just after a snowstorm, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of big rocks in snow.
Or just big rocks.
Camping was cold: 28 degrees.
We’ve slept through colder, though, and it was so worth it to be there at sunset…
…and under starlight, and sunrise (even though my fingers were too chilled for photos by then).
Next stop: Las Cruces, NM, a town we’ve driven past multiple times. This time we met a friend there and, unusually for us, stayed in an artsy inn.
We also hiked, twice, in a section of another park we’ve never bothered to notice: Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.
I kept thinking, “This is just as cool as the Pinnacles! Where has this park been all my life?” No condors, true, but…
There was also a cave, which came with intriguing stories from the 1700s about a murdered priest/hermit.
Before heading out across the dismally flat and featureless West Texas plain, we hit one more park. Guadalupe Mountains National Park was first introduced to us via the mystery writer Nevada Barr, whose park ranger protagonist, Anna Pigeon, worked there in Barr’s first book. While hiking solo, I kept that book cover in mind: it featured a puma print. (Puma attacks have been in the news lately…)
But pretty soon the scenery seized hold of my attention.
The Guadalupes are part of the same range as the hollowed-out mountain which we know as Carlsbad Caverns. They are an ancient reef of limestone, uplifted 6-8,000 feet and eroded from within by water.
I saw plenty of evidence of that geology on my speed-hike (racing sunset).
The real “prize” of that hike was this formation, Devil’s Hall:
But the whole hike was cool. We’ll definitely be back to the Guadalupes, hopefully to camp!
After spending the night in the town of Carlsbad, we put on our big-kid panties and headed out across West Texas.
Now THIS scenery we can all be forgiven for not knowing about.
While we’re on the topic, though, I’ll ask my annual Road Trip Question: does anyone have any special, little-known beauty spots of their own to tell about?