Unlike most of the volunteer.gov applications I've done, which seem to vanish into an electronic void never to be heard of again, CHIR did a fast response. I got a nice note from the volunteer coordinator at the park that was in essence a FOAD but phrased quite politely: the VIP slot had been filled, but thanks for applying. I did an equally nice note back saying that if they had a cancellation, keep us in mind. That was back in the fall of 2014, I promptly shoved CHIR to the back of my mind until we got down here. That's when it turned into a "must visit it and get that NPS Passport stamp."
Okay, so I'm not quite that bad. I do usually do one lap around the gift shop area to pick up a magnet or a book, do a quick perusal of the park information (e.g., walk through whatever museum-like area they have), and then exit. And at CHIR we did do the scenic drive up to two lookouts and amble over a fairly short trail that had signage at various points explaining just what we were looking at.
|Nifty overlook that had a wall that to me felt much, much too low.|
|CCC-constructed fire lookout perched on a mountain top.|
As for CHIR itself, it's not bad.The terrain is interesting. As one might surmise from the name, it's a chunk of the Chiricahua Mountains. Over millennia wind and water carved the rock into interesting formations referred to as "hoodoos." Some sections of the park have more than others, but the scenery definitely isn't boring. There are good hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties, and, for people who have horses, there is at least one equestrian trail..The Kid and I talked about going back one of these weekends and having the S.O. drop us off at the trailhead on one end and then meeting us at the other. Thanks to arthritic knees and a bad ankle, the S.O. isn't up to doing long hikes anymore, but theoretically I still am. (Side Note: Over 40 years ago doctors started warning me that if I didn't lose weight I'd end up with bad knees. At this point, when I've definitely slid into geezerhood and have a bunch of other things wrong with me, my knees are the one thing that seem to be functioning just fine. I may be fat, but I can walk just fine. It's a mystery.)
We also talked about going back and timing it so we could hike the trail to a fire outlook constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The trail curls around a mountain top and includes a tunnel. I would have liked to hike it, but we all agreed we lacked adequate water and it was getting to be a little late in the afternoon. No one wants to be walking down from a mountain in the dark even if it is on a well-marked and decently maintained trail.
The park also includes heritage resources in the form of a former dude ranch. Faraway Ranch began life as a farm established by a Swedish immigrant family in the 1880s and evolved into a guest ranch in the early 20th century. The park has an interesting display in the Visitor Center illustrating how the orginal crude cabin evolved over the decades into a much bigger and more elaborate ranch house. The ranch house is open for tours on the weekends, but unfortunately our timing was off. We were there on a Saturday when tours had been cancelled for that particular day. Maybe some other time -- it would be interesting to see the interior and to hear more about the history.
|High dollar NPS earth-moving equipment|
There's a tiny family cemetery right at the entrance to the park where members of the Swedish immigrant family are interred. I had the usual morbid thought that hits whenever I see historic cemeteries "preserved" by putting up a fence around the most prominently marked graves and then paving around the perimeter -- just how many people are under this asphalt? -- but no doubt the decision for the fencing and paving was made right after CHIR was established 80 years ago and people weren't quite as cognizant of the possibility of unmarked graves in pioneer cemeteries.