27 Jul Arizona: Land of Wonderous Diversity
I had the opportunity thanks to my supervisor, Ranger Christopher Bentley, to travel to the other two parks within the Southeast Arizona Group(SEAZ group) which includes Chiricahua National Monument(NM), and Fort Bowie National Historic Site(NHS). Though all parks are part of the same group, each has something very different to offer and see. We’ll start with Chiricahua National Monument. WOW! I cannot say enough about this hidden gem of the National Park Service! Hidden within the Chiricahua Mountain range, the park served as a backyard attraction by the Erickson family at the rightly named, Faraway Ranch in the late 1880’s. Migrants from Sweden set to rebuild in the United States in the prime time of Manifest Destiny, settled a cattle ranch and eventually a guest-home to visitors looking to see the “Wonderland of Rocks” Previous to the displacement of the indigenous, it served at the home of the Chenoke, part of the Chiricahua Apaches beginning around the 1400’s. Eventually due to the high Anglo-settler activity, the Army was brought in to suppress the indigenous community( We will discuss more, on the history of Fort Bowie). In terms of geologic history, the Chiricahua NM rock pinnacles began their formation after the eruption of the Turkey Creek Volcano(now Caldera) which expelled and laid tons of ash. After immense heat, the ash particles fused together producing a rock called rholyte. Once cooled, this rock cracked horizontally and through millions of years of weathering, the stronger and more resistant rock now stands hundreds of feet above the ground. What is most marvelous is seeing cacti hundreds of feet above the pines something one could almost only imagine. Finally, after the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the “Wonderland of Rocks” became Chiricahua National Memorial now serving to protect the rock pinnacles and all wildlife and geologic features of the area. Now, moving onto Fort Bowie NHS, a site of high remoteness, accessible by a mile and a half hike after a few miles of driving, the old United States military fort was commissioned as a guard for the Butterfield Overland mail. Prior to 1861, Cochise, an Apache leader, and the Apaches were welcoming of the white settlers until wrongly accused for kidnapping a boy by John Ward, an “Indian” Scout for the U.S. Army. Soon, Lt. George Bascom brought over 50 soldiers to settle the area. After interrogating Cochise, he was insulted by the false accusation sparking the last of the “Indian” wars. Finally, after the death of Cochise in 1874, the famous Apache leader, Geronimo lead campaigns to expel the white invaders. This eventually lead to the settlement of a 3,000 square-mile reservation in Southeastern Arizona, much of which did not meet the needs of the now limited Apaches. Like many indigenous cultures of the “Americas”, the Apaches did not have a sense of land ownership that Europeans imposed upon the rest of the world. The Army tried to keep Geronimo and his warriors within the reservation, but not understanding land divisions, the US newspapers would constantly read “Geronimo escaped once again.” Finally after the surrender of Geronimo in 1886, and the end of the “Apache Wars”, the fort lost its usefulness and was closed in October of 1894. Now in ruins, the Fort serves as a reminder to the rangers and visitors of the tragedies brought on by Manifest Destiny including the displacement and massacres committed against the indigenous folks, and the destruction of entire cultures in the name of expansion. Though within the same mountain range and/or the same habitat, Coronado NM, Chiricahua NM, and Fort Bowie NHS each have their own geology, wonders, and magnificent hiking trails. Do not forget that if you do 3 miles at Fort Bowie and Coronado, or 5 miles at Chiricahua, you can claim a respective I Hike for Health pin! After all, we Gotta Catch’em All!