Monday, August 18, 2014

Weekend in Chiricahua, Part 1: A Scenic Drive

Friday, August 15, 2014

Just like that, school is right around the corner again, and we are trying to fill our last bit free time with more adventures! Not that we're going to stop when school starts, we just like having excuses to go have fun. :) For last weekend, we weren't sure what we'd be doing right up until the day before we left. We had a couple options for a weekend getaway, and normally the weather might be the deciding factor, but the weather in both areas looked identical: 80-90 degree temperatures with a 40% chance of storms. Wherever we went, we would leave Friday, camp overnight, and come back on Saturday. We finally made up our mind on Thursday night: We were going to Chiricahua National Monument!

We had been there once before last November, but unfortunately we weren't able to see very much because there was freezing rain that day and most of the park's roads were closed. It was predicted to rain on Friday night and a smaller chance on Saturday, which worried me a bit that we might not get to enjoy it as much as we wanted to. But we decided the adventure was worth the risk - and as you can see in these pictures, the sky alone was a magnificent sight to behold!

We left around 11 on Friday morning. Curtis had an eye appointment earlier that morning, then we killed time to let his eyes adjust before beginning our trip. Enjoying a 6 pack and a pound at Taco Johns was the best way to kill time! After that, he just had to wear these super attractive glasses with the unibrow. ;)

Instead of taking the easiest route to Chiricahua off the I-10, we drove further East into New Mexico before exiting almost right away on Highway 80. We drove South right along the Arizona border, until we finally reentered Arizona around Portal. 

As you can tell, as we were nearing the Chiricahuas, the clouds started to get darker, and we started to see lightning flashes in the distance. It wasn't going to scare us now!

What we learned from Portal, Arizona: while we were under the impression that it would be maybe more of a farming town, we learned that there are actually more retired folks living here, and a park ranger told us that there are more people there with PHD's than those without!

Above, a quick drive by picture in Portal

We stopped at the ranger's station on the East side of the National Monument to ask about the conditions of the roads we were about to drive in through the rain. The ranger told us about all that we could see on this side, which only made us wish we had more time to enjoy everything out there! 

We attempted a letterbox, but unfortunately didn't have the entire clue…also, there was a thunderstorm going on! We gave up, deciding that this meant we just had to come back here someday!

After that, we began our 24 mile scenic drive on Pinery Canyon Road to the national monument. It was a little concerning to be driving on the dirt road during the storm, but the ranger assured us we'd be alright and there were just a couple potential areas where the road might be "washed out" but they would take care of it quickly.

Just like most storms in AZ, this one passed by quickly, and soon we were enjoying a cooler drive with amazing views - of both the mountains and the sky!

The Horseshoe 2 fire happened here in 2011, which is why parts like the picture above aren't as colorful. You can also see the road through there that we had just driven on.

After about an hour driving up, down, and around the mountains, the road ended right at the entrance to the national monument.

…And we have paved roads again! During the summer, the park is waiving all entrance and camping fees, in case you're interested. ;)

We picked out a camping spot and set up our cute little tent. Just big enough for 2 married people. :)

It started to thunderstorm again, and we decided there weren't enough hours of sunlight left to go on a hike, so instead we did a drive to the end of the road that goes through the whole monument - something we weren't able to do last November!

It proved to be so worth the drive, because we found this rainbow at the end of the road! You can't tell in the picture as well, but this rainbow actually is a double rainbow - its twin is to the right. ;)

As soon as we got back to our campsite, the rain had stopped so we were able to cook a little dinner of kielbasa and veggies. We were so proud of our little meal. :) Thank the Lord that it didn't rain any more that night and we were able to get a good enough rest for what was coming the next day!

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