Monday, December 3, 2012

Arizona - Fort Bowie

When Dan was driving back to us from his days at work (sometimes he drives, sometimes he flies--just depends), he passed some signs east of Benson that mentioned Fort Bowie National Historic Site.  We were intrigued and decided to go check it out one afternoon.

The drive over was an hour and a half.  A little long, but it was interesting.  We passed through some pretty desert terrain and also some orchards.  Pecan and something else, apple maybe. (It amazes me at the vast array of food that they grow down there!  Cotton and alfalfa, too.)

We finally reached the Historic Site, only it was just a dirt road with a gravel parking area.  Off to the side was a sign pointing to a trail through the wilderness that would take you to the Fort.  For real?  Oh boy...  This trail was just over 3 miles and it being in the desert, I wasn't so sure about it (giant spider phobia, remember?).  I didn't have much time to contemplate things...Dan started off with the kids all following, so I fell in with them. 

The trail starts off going steeply down hill into a sandy wash with trees around and overhead closing off the path behind you.  It was pretty down there and the path was wide enough that you would see any creepy crawlies sneaking up on you ;).  I relaxed about the bugs and focused on being with the family and enjoying the hike.

One of the first things we came to was on old miner's cabin.  At one time gold was discovered in the area, so of course there were those that spent their lives looking for it.

Not much left of it...

We came up out of the wash and trees into a more open area amidst the mountains (or hills, they were only about 5000').  Here we came upon signs that told of the Butterfield Stage that went through this pass (Apache Pass) in 1858.  This stage carried mail from St. Louis to San Francisco and went through Apache Pass because of the spring that's there (Apache Spring).  The ruins of the old stage station were there to outline what used to be.  The doorways and fireplaces were easy to distinquish.  So interesting...

The tracks of the old stage route were clearly visible.  Now that was super cool to see...

After passing an old cemetery, the trail once again enters into trees and begins to climb.  It is in these trees that we came to Apache Spring.  It is an oasis of sorts, a clear flowing stream that emerges from moss covered rock...all canopied by thick trees.  So different from the surrounding desert!  It is easy to see why it was important to so many.

As you can guess by the names of the pass and spring, this was Indian territory.  Big time.  With the water from the spring a necessity for anyone in the area, fights were imminent.  This led to the establishment of Fort Bowie in 1862.  There were some tough men in the area, Cochise and Geronimo were just two of them that the soldiers were up against.

The trail exited the trees and continued to climb toward the ruins of the Fort.  There were many side trails with things to see and explore.  We saw a Wikiup (replica) and various ruins that related to the Fort.  There were signs at each place that gave details.

looking back at how far we had come

looking ahead at how far we still had to go

Finally, at the crest of the hill, we came to the site of Fort Bowie.  It was quite the trek to get there, lots of uphill...but not overly strenuous.  There is a wonderful Ranger Station up there that houses essentially a small museum.  There were various artifacts from the fort, pictures from that time, and detailed recounts of the happenings.

For more than 30 years this was an active Fort.  It was eventually abandoned in 1894.  What is left today is just a mere shadow of what was built 150 years ago.

We were just in time for the kids to do their Jr. Ranger books there and receive badges.  The Rangers were locking the doors minutes after we finished :).  We hung around until the sun set and started off back down the trail hoping to make it to our car before dark.

This is funny...we had just been in the Ranger Station reading about all of the wildlife in the area.  They had pictures that were taken at Apache Spring of many different animals.  Bears, mountain lions, and something called a coatimundi (which eat tarantula, by the way--I knew they were there!).  Everyone knows that dusk is the best time to see wildlife out and about and here we were heading past Apache Spring at dusk.  Nobody said anything about being scared, but apparently it was on their minds.  We all heard a noise in the bushes and after a quick "what was that?!", we had some speed walking kiddos :).  Hehehe 

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