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Journals of an Insane Genius -- March 1999

"You have to imagine that he's wearing a hat", I suggest to Kimberly. She is concentrating on a large rock formation with all of the intensity of someone trying to correctly view one of those "magic eye" pictures. Despite her best efforts the rocks fail to resolve themselves into anything even remotely resembling a young Asian male. Kim is a tiny bit annoyed with me now. It was a ninety minute drive to the Chiricahua National Monument and I spent a great deal of it expounding upon the virtues of the scenery we would soon be admiring. In particular I talked about the three rock formations that I could remember the names of,
The China Boy (imagine he's wearing a hat)the China Boy,
The Sea Captainthe Sea Captain, and the
The Big Balancing RockBig Balancing Rock. "I want my China Boy", she says, "you promised there would be a rock that looked like a China Boy". I secretly think that she just enjoys saying 'China Boy' (it is kind of catchy). I point out that what I actually promised was that there would be a rock formation called the China Boy and that we are looking at it. I also mention that it was named by a young lady that used to live in this corner of Arizona when things were less politically correct. "If it were up to me, it wouldn't even have that name", I say, "Anyways, the Sea Captain is accurate. See, there's his eye, and there's his hat..."

She cuts me off, "Why are they all wearing hats?" I give it a shot. "Well, umm... sea captains... as well as, umm... china boys... like to wear hats.", I suggest lamely. "Mmm Hmm.", she hums doubtfully while fixing me with a look that is more skeptical than the one I would have gotten if I had pretended to run out of gas on the drive here. "Maybe we should hike out to where the really good ones are", I suggest.

"That way looks the steepest so it must be the trail", I say to Kim. Unfortunately I am correct. We've been at it for two and a quarter hours now and we're working our way through the Heart of Rocks loop trail. This is where the majority of the rock formations that resemble things are. We've already passed the Big Balancing Rock and the
The Pinnacle Balancing RockPinnacle Balancing Rock. Both of these weigh more than a thousand tons and yet they appear to be balanced on a small point. When we first entered the loop trail I was annoyed to find that they had painted footprints on the trail to help you find the way. It wasn't until we were into the loop that I saw how many false trails there were and how difficult it would be to navigate without them. Now we can't seem to find the next footprint. I take three steps up the just a little further...steepest direction and find it. In those three steps I also climbed more than five feet vertically.

We round the corner and spot the
The Camel's HeadCamel's Head. Further on we pass the
The Old MaidOld Maid and Thor's Hammer. I pause at each one to admire it and convince myself that I'm not seeing visions brought about from oxygen deprivation. Kim approves of the names given these formations, but she is still grumbling about the China Boy.

Punch and Judy "The Punch and Judy formation is next", I say when I have recovered enough to speak again.

"What's Punch and Judy?", Kim asks.

That's a dangerous question to ask a former professional puppeteer. Kimberly finds this out as I expound upon the virtues of puppeteering as an art form and how unfortunate it is that in less than fifty years television has managed to drive two characters that have been around since medieval times into obscurity. I describe them as early slapstick from an age when domestic violence was considered entertainment.

We reach the formation and it's one of the best. You view them through a large hole in a rock that resembles a puppet stage. Punch and Judy actually appear to be arguing (probably about the China Boy). For a moment I think that I can hear them pounding on each other until I realize the sound is just my heart beating.

We pass Duck on a RockDuck on a Rock, the final formation in the loop, and debate whether the duck is wearing a hat. This is cut short as we are now in the downhill section of the loop. Much easier on the heart and lungs but devastating to the thigh muscles. Once out of the loop it's another two hours back to the parking area. "Just a little further", I say encouragingly. Kimberly loves that joke.

The hike back is pleasant and mostly uneventful except for an incredible number of lizards. These are mostly harmless, except that they seem to exhibit an annoying form of intelligence. Sensing that your heart is already approaching meltdown, they wait until you are nearly on top of them before loudly scurrying away in the undergrowth. If you spot them quickly enough you can catch them looking over their shoulders to see if they've startled you enough to fall off the edge of the trail in a panic thinking you've just blundered upon a snake. Pesky little smart alecks.

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