Wednesday, September 27

Note: Just for those of you wondering, it is pronounced "cheer-ih-cah-wah." I had no clue how to pronounce it until I got the interview.

Today is my first day off! I decided to spend the day relaxing. I don't have two days off, so I didn't want to go explore other parks (on the list of things to do later!). I am just having a pretty relaxed day here. I may decide to go to the pool a little later. I cleaned up my room and took pictures of it to send to people. I cooked myself an omelette for the first time as well. I also got this blog up and running!

I'm gonna use this time to talk a little more about the park itself and other features.

First of all, the weather. The weather here is magnificent. The VC and housing are located at 5,400' above sea level - the ultimate comfort zone. The air here is nice, dry, and crisp. The weather is mild and ideal. The day temperatures have been in the high 70s and early 80s, and the night temperatures are in the high 50s to early 60s. In the mornings while walking to the VC, I notice it is kind of chilly, and I bring my jacket along. While walking home from the VC at the end of the day, I've been noticing it's the most perfect warm temperature that makes me want to just lounge outside. I had been told that this area of Arizona, considering its elevation, is more mild than the rest of the state, known for the hot temperatures. It IS late in the season, but the weather here is so mild and perfect. 

A cool feature about this park is that it is called a "sky island." The Chiricahua Mountains rise up high in a clump in the middle of the Sonoran Desert "sea." The environment of this "mountain island" is dramatically different from the surrounding areas, and the kinds of wildlife and plants that thrive differ greatly. Up here on the island, for example, there are various pine trees, and the landscape resembles a pine-fir forest. At lower elevations, the desert plants grow. The range in elevation contributes to a diverse park. A lot of the wildlife stay on this "island" and never leave, being unable to cross the desert sea to get to other areas. 

Speaking of wildlife, I found out that Chiricahua is a huge place for watching birds. There are 200 different bird species in the park, many of them threatened or endangered. It's a "heaven" for bird watchers. I have been frequently seeing the Mexican Jay, which is a beautiful blue bird. I have also been seeing a TON of Arizona white-tailed deer. During my hike yesterday, I saw many different lizards, of all different colors. Other wildlife that are in the park include: javelinas, coatis, black bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and more. In fact, 71 mammals, 46 reptiles, and 8 amphibians regularly inhabit the park. This diversity, again, is attributed to the diverse climate and region of the sky island. This area displays characteristics of the desert, grassland, deciduous forest, and coniferous forest biomes.

Finally, I'll very briefly describe how those rock formations are created. Nearly 27 million years ago, a volcano (Turkey Creek) erupted nearby, covering the area in lava and ash. All of the ash compacted and formed rhyolite rock. Over the years, erosion and earth shifts have caused the rock to fracture and fissure to ultimately create the amazing pinnacles we see today.

I don't want to keep rambling, so I'll cut it off from here. There is rich history of Native Americans in the area, which I will learn more about when I visit Fort Bowie National Historic Site tomorrow.

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