Picture of sanxavier A whole series of missions were founded in the desert southwest including Mexico by those crazed Spaniards who seemed to think that the hotter and less inhabitable a location might be, the better place it was for a mission. So came about San Xavier de Bac also known as the 'white dove of the desert'. It sits on a small ridge with a commanding view of the valley and can be seen from quite some distance.
Picture of sanxavier2 On Sundays, such as this one, a small impromptu marketplace springs up in the parking lot. The missions were designed to convert the local Indian populations to Catholicism in Spanish. Later they changed over to English and the result is that nobody knows what language to speak anymore. Signs tend to be trilingual, conversations just involve a lot of pointing.
Picture of tucson A small hill rises next to the mission which is a fine place to overlook the city of Tucson. It's also a fine place to dehydrate in the middle of July. We overlooked briefly and returned to the car and left civilization for some time to come.
Picture of melanie_cave When you leave the interstate in Willcox, Arizona, you can already see the Chiracahua Mountains in the distance. It takes another half an hour to get there, where a winding road leads up to the rock formations. The rocks just suddenly appear. Driving around one turn in the road there's an enormous set of rock towers known as the pipe organ. After that it's just weird, bizarre rocks everywhere. Some of them are known to feature Melanie on them from time to time, such as this one.
Picture of c_stones1 A lot of the rocks have names, if you can figure out which is which. It's a strange place, but a great place to hike and a lot cooler than the surrounding desert. The next picture is a composite panorama of one of the canyons in Chiricahua. This area is a National Monument which is often associated with Geronimo who spent some time hiding here. These rocks form when water trickles down a perfectly normal looking canyon wall. The grooves in the wall become deeper and deeper over time until the wall effectively recedes, leaving a few stone pillars. Repeat the process and you end up with this.
Picture of chira_pano
Picture of weirdrocks We left Chiricahua on some roads that were really just the suggestion of roads, deciding to take the back way to Douglas. Along the way we came across a lot of jackrabbits, a couple coyotes and we even stopped the car once to let a tarantula cross the road. There's something exciting about being able to recognize a spider crossing the road several hundred feet in front of you. We emerged back into the desert just north of Douglas which is not exactly a thriving border town. Douglas has four hotels and ten thousand residents who don't seem to know the first thing about entering Mexico. More on that later. In the meantime, they were intent on amassing the world's largest collection of dead and dying beetles. Or maybe it's just a seasonal thing. Either way it wasn't entirely pleasant. Dinner was cheap, however, and the salsa was extra hot.

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