Near the Arizona-New Mexico border there is a mountainous region populated by the ghosts of past vulcanism, the Chiricahua Mountains Wilderness Area. The volcanic ash in this region cooled into a mineral known as tuff, or rhyolite, and the most populous part of the area is set aside as a national monument.
When I say populous I’m not referring to people. The mountain and canyon slopes are crowded with erect pillars, the products of millions of years of erosion. This has to be one of the weirdest landscapes I’ve ever seen. The “hoodoos”, a very appropriate local name for the formations, remind me of the sentient walking trees, the Ents in Tolkien’s novels. It is easy to imagine that the standing stones move around when you aren’t looking, perhaps even milling about and visiting each other at night. After all, there are so many of them that no-one could keep track of them all! Some views of this surreal landscape:
The last photo in the above series shows a quite striking view. The mountains in the distance are peaks in the Rincon range just east of Tucson, about sixty miles away.
Towards the right-hand side of the following photo notice the ranks of hoodoos managing to keep still until I walked away:
Parts of the Chiracahua Wilderness burned last year and several scorched mountainsides are readily visible. I squatted down in one burned area and shot this photo of one of the few plants blooming at this time of year in these mountains, Wright’s Vervain (Verbena wrightii). I had never seen the species before and, once back at the house, I had trouble identifying the plant using my photos. Bev gave it a try and quickly found a match I’d overlooked in the Peterson Guide to Southwest and Texas Wildflowers. I was a bit nonplussed and embarrassed, as I’ve been identifying plants for many years, but the woman evidently has good pattern-matching abilities, perhaps surpassing my own — but maybe I was just having an off day…
The hoodoos gathered to observe the brightly-clad tourists, marveling at the insectile walking sticks and cameras with brightly-flashing lenses:
This rock silhouette on the horizon is known as Geronimo’s Head; I liked the way the silvery dead branches framed the view:
More hoodoos with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background:
The forests in the national monument were dominated by Arizona Cypress, a species with a very delightful odor, all resinous and spicy. It was enjoyable seeing tall trees again after several weeks of short scrubby oaks and manzanitas!
Finally, here are a couple of roadside scenes. The trees bordering the road are mostly cypress:
I would really like to visit this freakishly-beautiful area at dawn someday, when the hoodoos are foraging for dewdrops, small mammals and lizards!