Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Land of Standing Up Rocks

Willcox/Cochise KOA

Willcox, AZ

March 8, 2023 

Our adventure for the day had us heading south on Hwy 186 thru some beautiful ranch country.

One of the reasons we decided to visit Willcox was the proximity to Chiricahua (pronounced cheer-i-cow-ah) National Monument.  It has been on the list for a long time. Now that Arizona is home, we are making time to see places/things we missed when full time rollin'.

The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles "standing up rocks".  Their origins began some 27 million years ago when a volcano erupted and spewed ash over some 1,200 square miles.  The heated ash melted together and formed layers of gray rock called rhyolite...blah, blah, blah.  Lets just say it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. 

Chiricahua NM was established in 1924 to preserve and protect the pinnacals.

Bonita Canyon Drive is an eight mile scenic drive the winds its way to Massai Point.  The overlook offers a 360 degree view of Rhyolite Canyon, 

adjacent valleys,

In the far distance you can see the desert grasslands of Sulphur Springs Valley.  Whitewater Draw (where the cranes migrate and we visited on Monday) is in that valley.  This was one of 15 points of interest on the Massai Nature Trail. 

and surrounding mountain peaks.  

Can you see it?

Cochise Head kiosk was close to the exhibit building located at Massai Point.  A handicap friendly sidewalk circles the building. 

We hiked/walked the Massai Nature Trail which had 15 points of interest.  We stopped and read all the signage, but mostly just enjoyed the rocks, the views and the trees.   We had wanted to hike to The Grotto, but the trail still had snow and ice form last weeks storm...didn't want to take any chances on slipping/falling ! 


Most of the pull-outs are easy to access on the way down from the point. 

We stopped at a few to see named rock formations and Bonita Creek. 

Looking down...

Looking up...

No visit to a park is complete without a stop at the Visitor Center.  The VC at Chiricahua NM is full of information, tee-shirts, exhibits, and some beautiful pottery and baskets.  It was hard to walk out empty handed !

Our last stop was for lunch and a walk to Faraway Ranch as we were leaving. Faraway Ranch began in 1886 as the homestead of Neil and Emma Erickson...Swedish Immigrants. The ranch spans the decades from traditional one-room log cabin to the 20th century home that now serves as a museum.  By the 1920s the ranch had become a guest ranch for visitors who came to explore the scenic canyons of the Chiricahua Mountains.   The name for the ranch came from a complaint that the Erickson's children had about their home that is was "so god-awful far away form everything". 

This large two-story house was just a two-room cabin in the beginning.  Over the years the little cabin grew to hold six bedrooms and that was just upstairs.  Neil Erickson became the first ranger at the park and they opened their home to tourists...charging a hefty sum of $2.50 a day (equivalent to about $200 today)  
The corral

Just beyond Faraway Ranch is the Stafford thats a story.  Ja Hu Stafford was 46 when he arrived to Bonita Canyon with his 12 year-old-wife.  They were the first white settlers in Bonita Canyon.  The original cabin was made of unpeeled logs with a dirt floor.  They had five children who lived to adulthood.  Their homestead improved thru the years to include an addition on the log cabin, a chicken house, a smoke house , corral, and a four acre fenced-in garden.  Ja Hu cultivated pears, apples, apricots, persimmons, and peaches.  He grew radishes, beans, lettuce, cabbage, onions, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, corn, squash, and watermelons.  The garden and orchard were The Stafford's biggest source of income.   

It is worth mentioning that Faraway Ranch became part of the National Park Service in 1979.  The trail to the ranch and cabin follows the Bonita Creek.  

Just inside the entrance to the park is a cemetery for Neil (1859-1937) and Emma (1854-1950). 

We did have a few wildlife sightings...

Mule deer

Flock of turkeys

Mexican Jays

And a first sighting for us...a White-Nosed Coati.  The Coati is a member of the raccoon family.  They are considered to be very good tree climbers and swimmers even though they spend a lot of time on the ground.  They are also known as coatimundis.  They use their long tails for balance and to communicate with each other.  Males are solitary, but females stay in a group.  We saw four.

We sure had a nice day...topped off with a Voodoo Bar from Bakester's Pastries in Wilcox. It is a vaca !

Until next time...



  1. So glad you got to see a Coati!!! Mike tells me we have walked out to Faraway Ranch but I'm thinking that must have been with another woman in his life!! :) :) The rock formations in this neck of the woods are amazing aren't they!

    1. That’s so funny Janna…Joe and I have the same conversations! I was thrilled to see the Coati and only got photos from inside the jeep. I can hardly see over the hood! Totally agree about the rocks…they formations and how they were formed in the first place is amazing. I was also loving the trees…especially the gigantic pines.

  2. I was really hoping to get back up to the Chiricahua's to hike again this trip. We did the Big Loop the first time we visited. I was planning to go back up to hike Echo Trail but like you saw, the park said the trail is ice, snow, and fallen trees. Darn! So glad you got to see the area. The rocks are so cool. How awesome you saw four coati! One we've never seen. Sounds like a perfect day.

    1. Hi Pam…it was a great first visit to the park and now we definitely want to return. Joe spotted the Coati on the drive up to the point. I was so happy there was no traffic and we could watch them for a while without feeling pressure to move on.

  3. That was one of our favorite stops on our adventure this year. Very cool that you were able to see all that wildlife, but it is the scenery that really makes that area special.

    1. I totally agree with you Jim! The rocks are amazing! It was way cool to see the Coati! I’m already looking forward to a return visit!

  4. Hi Gay - Jeff here. The phone doesn’t know me
    The rocks look a bit like monochrome version of Utah
    Such a great area to explore

    1. Hi Jeff! We were very surprised to find such a beautiful place and right here in Arizona. If you haven’t visited, it’s worth a trip. I’m thinking a fall visit would be beautiful and colorful!

  5. This is a drive I'd hoped to take while we were "in the area" but we're not really in the area....75 is miles from here, but, hope springs eternal!
    Another place we've seen Coati twice is along Reddington Rd. (a nice ride between Tanque Verde and San Mauel if you haven't done it yet).

    1. Hi Sue! Thanks for the info. Reddington Road is on our list of things to do…now I’m moving it towards the top of the list and will have the camera ready! 😃

  6. Loved our gathering so much - and great to see you two after too long! Looks like your visit at Whitewater was wonderful, you got some great pics. Love those geese in flight :-) How fun to see them with Janna and Michael. Cochise Mountain is one of my very favorite views. Looks like you had great weather to explore that pretty park. I know you'll go back! I've yet to see the ranch so I have to remedy that.

    1. Hi Jodee! It was great to see you and Bill as well. We live too close to not get together sometime in between. We are hoping to return to Willcox this fall and finally visit Bisbee as well. The ranch is an easy and nice walk along the creek…you would enjoy it!