Chiricahua National Monument
Another National Monument I visited with some friends while staying in Tucson was the Chiricahua National Park of Geronimo fame. During the 1860s and 1870s, the Chiricahua Mountains provided a refuge for the Apache tribe who, led by the famous chiefs Cochise and Geronimo, carried out the last major series of attacks on white settlers before finally being defeated in 1886, though their descendants still inhabit the surrounding lands. Nowadays the Chiricahua National Monument is much more peaceful especially as it does not receive many visitors since it is relatively remote and difficult to access. The drive from Tucson along the Interstate 10 and the AZ 186 took about 2 hours and a bit.
Arriving at the visitors centre we were told to look out for rattlesnakes and in particular we should watch were we put our hands when we were scrambling as a bite from one of the snakes would seriously ruin our day. When we asked what to do if somebody got bit we were told that the bitten individual should sit down and try to relax while one of the other should run down and get some help. Not sure about the relaxing bit though!! There are lots of trails to choose from ranging from very easy to strenuous. Since we had plenty of time we decided to do the Big Loop which covers most if not all the main areas of the park itself. However, we did not see a single rattlesnake during the whole day which was a bit of a disappointment.
However, the rock formations in the park, similar to the rock spires in Bryce canyon (although without the same colours) are sublime. The park and its rock formations are due to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, roughly 27 million years ago, which spewed ash and molten debris at super-sonic speeds and formed a 12 mile wide caldera. This cladera, called the Turkey Creek Caldera is located just to the south of the park. The 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 of Chiricahua National Monument.