Bob and Mary (back seat stunt riders) declare that we must visit Chiricahua National Monument while in Benson. After finally figuring out how to spell it, I do a cursory search for directions. I don’t research enough to get a good idea of what to expect in the park. After a 40 minute interstate drive, we leave Willcox for the last 34 miles down Hwy 186. I start to believe that the one thing we won’t see in this park is other people. The only cars we pass along this desolate route are a few immobile derelicts defending patches of untended yards from the invading desert scrub.
Hiking in Chiricahua
A Park Service Intern from Bahama, NC greets us at the visitor center when we finally arrive. She offers assistance so we ask if there are any hiking trails suitable for old people like us. Three miles round trip is our limit. We also like ascending only at the outset while we still have the stamina to climb. Finally, we prefer the more popular trails where we are likely to meet other hikers. That way if we do not survive our trek, the chances are greater of someone discovering our lifeless bodies before the coyotes do. Our young intern suggests the 1.8 mile round trip Sugarloaf Trail. We hope we can manage the short .2 mile steep, rocky section near the crest at the end. She promises that once at the top we will enjoy a panoramic view of the entire park.
Storm and I study the CCC historic displays in the visitor center then join the 8 mile scenic highway out to the Sugarloaf hike. I can see from the trailhead parking lot that there is a small building at the summit where our trail ends. I immediately imagine myself at the top, inside, sheltered from the sun, taking a short nap on a bench to recover from my hike. Alas, the reward for my efforts does include an expansive view, but not a place to nap. The historic Fire Tower is locked up tight destroying my dreams of a peaceful summit top snooze.