Patience isn’t one of my virtues. I’m always doing two, if not five, things at once. It was with this same frenetic pace that I departed for a hike with my uncle and cousin in the Chiricahua National Monument.
Like the other sky islands in southeastern Arizona, the Chiricahua Mountains poke up from the surrounding grassland “sea.” They lie at the crossroads of four ecological zones: the hot, dry Sonoran Desert, the milder Chihuahuan Desert, the southern Rockies and the northern Sierra Madres. This ecological melting pot supports a wide diversity of plants and animals.
Long-needled Chihuahuan and Apache pines shaded the Ed Riggs Trail as we dipped into a canyon. We rushed along, eager for a glimpse of the spires that distinguish the Land of Standing-Up Rocks, as the Apache called this region.
As we dodged among the scrub oaks, we spotted a Mexican jay and a white-breasted nuthatch—two of the area’s 200 or so resident bird species. Both ignored us. The plump blue jay fretted over the perfect hiding place for its treasured nut. The nuthatch pecked at the bark of a tree at a brain-jarring pace, sending a rattle through the quiet forest. (Continued on page 2.)