Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chiricahua National Monument

    Willcox, Arizona is also an ideal staging stop for planning a visit to the beautiful Chiricahua National Monument.  This is just another of those very special places in Arizona and if you have never been to the Chiricahuas, it certainly is time to make that journey.  Southeastern Arizona is a great place to discover during the region's mild fall weather and the Chiricahuas are just a great place to hike, bike and take endless pictures of the magnificent rock formations.
    The picture we used for our IN&OUT story and this blog were provided to us by Suzanne Moody who works for the National Park Service.  We are happy to include Suzanne's photos here.  Here is our story...

    “A spiritual place of geological wonder” is how the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona were once described.  Located some 40 miles south of Willcox, Arizona, the Chiricahua National Monument is just another of the spectacular places to visit in the many unique landscapes of Arizona.
    The Chiricahua Mountains are one of the many unique sky-islands of southeastern Arizona.  Rising out of the desert floor to a height of 9,759 feet, this mountain range of ancient volcanic rock has been called Arizona’s “Wonderland of Rocks.”  For the Chiricahua Apache, these mountains are their ancestral home and they call them the “Land of Standing-Up Rock”.
    Yet words do not do justice to this landscape of rock monoliths and deep canyons.  Here the forces of nature have created an amazing collection of boulders balances atop other boulders, looking as if they could fall at any moment even though they have stood together for centuries. 
    Some 27 million years ago a catastrophic eruption occurred in what is called today the Turkey Creek Volcano.  Over 100 cubic miles of volcanic debris were blown from the earth during the enormous eruption. By comparison, the eruption of Mount St. Helen in 1980 only expelled 1/10 of a cubic mile of molten lava.  The great Krakatoa eruption of 1883 was only 1/10 the size of the eruption that once occurred here in the Chiricahuas. 
    When the Turkey Creek Caldera cooled and then eventually died, the elements of erosion began to slowly destroy its volcanic walls.  The result of those many millennia of erosion is the magnificent Chiricahua Mountains we see and enjoy today.
    This sky island of the Chiricahua Mountains is also unique because it is here that four great biomes converge.  The Rocky Mountain and the Sierra Madre ranges come together with the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts to create a natural environment rich and varied in flora and fauna from all four of these natural zones.   For those who like to watch and photograph wildlife, the Chiricahuas are paradise. 
    The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924.  In 1984 this unique Arizona environment was further protected when 87% of the monument was declared a Wilderness Area.
     The 11,985 acres of the national monument are crisscrossed by 18 miles of day-use hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy to challenging.  An eight-mile, paved scenic drive leaves from the charming Visitors Center and provides breathtaking vistas for those visitors who wish to view the sights from their car.  Twenty-two individual campsites are also available.October brings a beautiful fall to the Chiricahua Mountains so now is a great time to get out and visit this unique and beautiful place found in the southeast corner of our Arizona. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rex Allen Museum, Willcox, Arizona

   When you are done visiting Fort Bowie, let us suggest that you visit the Rex Allen Museum in downtown Willcox.  This is a fun and educational small town museum that does of great job in honoring one of Hollywood's great cowboy stars.  This wonderful museum memorializes a different time in America and well worth the visit.

      For those of the Boomer Generation, shows and names like Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Frontier Doctor, Koko and Slim Pickens bring back memories of youth when the American cowboy was the common hero of Hollywood’s big screens and 10-cent comic books.  One Arizona cowboy by the name of Rex Allen became Hollywood “Cowboy Royalty” during those years and a museum dedicated to his life story is a wonderful reason to get out and visit Willcox, Arizona.
    Rex Allen, “The Arizona Cowboy”, grew up in Willcox playing his Sear & Roebuck mail-order guitar with his fiddle-playing father at local dances.  He first sang professionally in 1948 for Mercury Records and made his first of nineteen western movies, Arizona Cowboy, in 1950.
    In his movies Rex Allen was always cast as himself.  He always wore his white Stetson hat, epitomizing the clean-cut, God-fearing hero of the Wild West who loved his horse named Koko, “The Miracle Horse of the Movies.”
    The Hollywood producers had originally selected Koko for Dale Evans, wife of Roy Rogers, but the beautiful chocolate chestnut stallion with flowing white tail and mane was just too big for Ms. Evans.  Allen said that he fell in love with Koko the moment he laid eyes on him.  Koko was said to have been the most beautiful horse ever to appear in movies.  Together, the horse and the cowboy made cowboy entertainment history until Koko’s death in 1967.
    Rex Allen made the last of Hollywood’s singing western cowboy movies in 1954, The Phantom Stallion.  Yet his deep, soothing voice not only made beautiful music but helped teach generations of American children about their world when he signed on to work for Walt Disney.   For over 20 years it was Rex Allen’s voice narrating Disney’s Wonderful World of Color nature shows.  He also was a voice behind over 150 of Disney’s different cartoon characters, with the barnyard antics of Charlotte’s Web being one of his personal favorites. 
    Rex Allen, The Arizona Cowboy, sang his last western melody in 1999.   His ashes were scattered in Railroad Park, just across the street from the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum.  Here too, in a beautiful memorial park, is found a life-size statue of Rex Allen.  At the feet of the statue lies the mortal remains of Koko - the two Western friends together forever. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fort Bowie - Legend of the Old West

     If you are looking for a great adventure to southern Arizona this fall, let us suggest a visit to Fort Bowie.  We would probably stay in Willcox and then drive to Fort Bowie National Historic Park for as a day trip.  There is so much history here of the time when the Apache people were in direct conflict with the United States government and the thousands of American settlers making their way through and into the Apache land.  It is a special historic site and a great roadtrip.  We hope you make plans to go - here is our story.

      Each of the historic military posts of Arizona are a remaining treasure of a time long past.  The men who once bravely and honorably served their nation at these remote, frontier outposts are the best selling stories of modern novelists and historians.  Eighteen United States Army forts once dotted the wilderness of Arizona from 1850 – 1900.  Fortunately, for Arizonans of today, one of the most remote and important of these frontier outposts is still available to visit and enjoy - historic Fort Bowie.
   Fort Bowie National Historic Site is located some 240 miles from Anthem in southeastern Arizona. Visitors today walk on the same ground and beside the ruins of the same buildings that men named Cochise, Tom Jeffords, Geronimo, and George Crook once walked.  For those who love the Wild West, Fort Bowie is a must see.
      Two battles, known as the Bascom Affair and the Battle of Apache Pass, between the Chiricahua Apaches and the United States Army led to the construction of the first Fort Bowie in 1862 at the site of a former station of the Butterfield Overland Mail route.
     In 1868 a more permanent Fort Bowie was built on the high plateau of Apache Pass giving the fort a commanding strategic view of the surrounding high desert valleys.   For the next 30 years Fort Bowie was the focal point for the conflict known in Arizona history as the Apache Wars.  It became the center of everyday life for enlisted men, officers, their wives, children and civilian employees of the United States Army.   
     None of the Arizona forts of this era ever were surrounded or enclosed by large log stockades including Fort Apache and Fort Bowie.   Those scenes are the invention of Hollywood.  But what is found at Fort Bowie today are the ruins of 38 stone and adobe buildings that once served as barracks, a hospital, an ice machine house, a bakery and even a school.  To walk among the ruins of Fort Bowie is truly a stroll through history.
     With the surrender of Geronimo on September 4, 1886 the need for Fort Bowie began to wane.  The American flag was lowered for the last time over the historic parade grounds in a closing ceremony in November 1894. 
Fort Bowie lay in ruins for the next 56 years.  Locals often visited the abandoned site to take wooden door frames and other building materials.  Finally on December 19, 1960 Fort Bowie was declared a National Historic Landmark.  The remaining ruins were carefully preserved and are now available for modern visitors.
     Because Fort Bowie was built on a high plateau, visiting the historic site requires some hiking.  From the parking lot, follow the signs on a moderately strenuous 1.5 mile hiking trail (3-miles round trip) as it leads past the old Butterfield Mail station, a historic cemetery where a son of Geronimo lies buried and finally on to the site of historic Fort Bowie itself.  A hat, water and good hiking /tennis shoes are recommended. Handicapped access is available by calling 520-847-2500.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Real Fort Apache

    Within 3 miles of the Kinishba ruins is historic Fort Apache and the new White Mountain Apache Cultural Museum.  Three great historical sites can be visited during a single day.  Autumn in the White Mountains is beautiful and these three sites are well worth the trip and visit.  Here is our story about Fort Apache!

    No place in Arizona conjures up more visions of the Wild West than Fort Apache!  Now is a great time to make a visit to Fort Apache in Whiteriver, Arizona and walk over the very grounds where Generals Crook and Miles and Apache leaders  Geronimo and Nache all lived and toiled.
    When most Americans think of Fort Apache, the picture of a lonely, western outpost enclosed by a large, wooden stockade of ponderosa pine trees usually comes to mind.  This was the Fort Apache that came to life in John Ford’s 1948 Hollywood movie, Fort Apache, staring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple.  This movie won many awards but the view it gave movie goers of Fort Apache was nothing like the real Fort Apache of 1870 – 1922. 
    There was never a wooden stockade where soldiers stood watch overlooking the countryside as big gates swung open and closed to allow cavalry to enter and exit at the real Fort Apache.  In fact, no territorial Arizona military fort was ever enclosed by a wooden stockade.  Those scenes are just Hollywood taking liberty with our history.  But what was real about Fort Apache and its role in bringing lasting peace to the Arizona Territory during the Apache Wars is surely worth remembering and visiting.
    In 1870 the United States government established a reservation for the White Mountain Apache people. Colonel John Green had suggested an army post be established in this White Mountain area where “the climate is delicious, and said by the Indians to be perfectly healthy, free from all malaria, excellently well wooded and watered.  It seems as thought this one corner of Arizona was almost a garden spot, the beauty of its scenery, the fertility of its soil and facilities for irrigation are not surpassed by any place that ever came under my observation.”
    On May 16, 1870 soldiers began construction of what they called Camp Ord.  By the end of 1870 it was known as Camp Mogollon, then Camp Thomas.  It was not until 1879 that it was named Fort Apache.
    Fort Apache would now play the key role in both the cooperation and conflict between the U.S. government and the various bands of Western Apache.  White Mountain Apache scouts worked closely with U.S. soldiers to bring peace to the Tonto Basin by 1873 and to establish a treaty with Chief Victoria in 1879.  The respected Apache scout, Alchesay, would help General Nelson Miles to negotiate the surrender of Geronimo on September 4, 1886, ending forever the Apache Wars.
    Historic Arizonans such as Martha Summerhayes, Sharlot Hall, Chief Diablo and companies of Buffalo Soldiers all spent time living at the real Fort Apache.  All played key roles in the story that is Arizona.
    Fort Apache would see its last combat role in 1916-17 during the Mexican border campaign that involved legendary Generals John Pershing and Pancho Villa.  When this historic fort closed in 1922, it became the site of an Indian boarding school. 
    Today a visit to Fort Apache also takes one to the Nohwike’ Bagowa (House of Our Footprints) Apache Cultural Center & Museum.  Twenty-seven historic buildings on a 288 acre site are still found there for the visitor to explore.  Listed on the National Register Historic Places, this cultural center has interpretive signs that explain the history and use of the many buildings and allows the visitor to walk and learn at a leisurely pace.
    A 1.4 mile loop trail will take the visitor past the historic Apache Scout camp and through the East Fork Canyon.  Fort Apache Cemetery is also located within 1/2 miles of the cultural center museum.  The modern museum shares the story of the White Mountain Apache people and their long history of living in this beautiful part of Arizona.

Signs at the entrance of Fort Apache

Looking toward the girls' dormitory across parade field

Commander's house at Fort Apache

Officers Row at Fort Apache

General Crook's cabin

Modern post office at Fort Apache

Old Glory still flies above Fort Apache

Theodore Roosevelt School

Crook's cabin

From parade ground looking at girls' dormitory

Longer view across parade ground


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kinishba - "the Brown House" of Arizona

      Here is our second story of this series about a great Native American ruin, called Kinishba.  An especially beautiful place to visit with the leaves of autumn or in late spring with all the beautiful wildflowers.  And, just like Honanki, you can literally walk in and among these ruins.  Hope you get to visit this wonderful Arizona treasure!   

     A short five miles from Fort Apache on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation near Whiteriver, Arizona stands the ruins of the ancient pueblo known as Kinishba.  Kinishba receives its name from the Apache words “ki datbaa” which translate to mean “Brown House”.  It is the ruins of a pre-Columbian Pueblo village that was occupied by the Mogollon People around 1250 to 1400 A.D.
     The pueblo is located along a small arroyo at the far end of grass covered valley.  It was a large pueblo, with 400 – 500 ground level rooms rising to two and three stories in height. At its apex, archeologist believe as many as 1000 Mogollon People occupied this beautiful White Mountain site.
Kinishba is the most publicly accessible of the 20+ large Mogollon Pueblo village ruins found in this part of Arizona.  It was built as a part of the large Mogollon Rim colonization that occurred during this period of time. 
     Kinishba is located at an elevation of about 5000 feet, south of the Mogollon Rim, north of the Salt River and at the far eastern end of the Sawtooth Mountains.  Here the people found land ideal for dry maize farming, a year-round source of water, and abundant sources of sandstone, limestone and ponderosa pine for pueblo construction.
     The Mogollon People, like all things named Mogollon, are named after Juan Ignacio Mogollon, Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712 – 1715, were the third of the three major cultures that occupied the land that would become Arizona from 300 B.C. – 1450 A.D.  In their heavily forested mountain highlands they created a culture based on dry, terrace farming, hunting and gathering. 
     It was the Mogollon People who first built the holy, underground chamber known as the kiva.  They would share their concept of the kiva with the ancient Anasazi and thus it was passed on to the modern Hopi, Zuni and other Pueblo People of the Little Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers.  It was from the sipapu of the Great Kiva that modern Pueblo People believe they emerged into this, the Fourth World.
     A visitor to Kinishba today can peer into the ancient rooms that once held the community store of ancient corn and the living space of generations of Mogollon families.  The village is made up of eight major mounds, rectangular in shape with large courtyards or plazas mixed among them.
The first major restoration of Kinishba occurred in the 1930s yet much work still needs to be done.  It is one of too many historic places in Arizona waiting for appropriate funds to restore and preserve their story. 
     Archeological evidence from the Kinishba site indicate that both the Hopi and Zuni people occupied the ruins possibly as late as the early 19th Century.  Archeologist in 1989 even went so far as to suggest that Kinishba just might be the fabled Chiciticale, made famous by the historic visit of Francisco Vasques de Coronado in May of 1540.  
     Permission to visit Kinishba ruins must be obtained from the Visitor Center located at Fort Apache.  The entry fee for Fort Apache also allows one to visit the Brown House of the White Mountains – Kinishba!