Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Exploring Tonto National Monument and the Apache Trail

After parting with my friend David at the near-ghost town of Bowie, Arizona and driving through the San Carlos Indian Reservation, I arrived at the small but impressive Tonto National Monument above Lake Roosevelt. A beautiful walk uphill from the visitor center took me to the 700-year-old cliff dwelling of the Salado People who grew corn, beans, and squash in the valley below. They moved into defensible cliff dwellings as the climate changed and foodstuffs had to be protected from marauders. A single retractable ladder led up to the dwellings.
I had the ruins to myself except for Cassandra, a Park Service archeologist who watches over this treasure.

Theodore Roosevelt dedicating the largest masonry dam in the world in 1911 
Back at my car, I drove to the 1911-built dam that was dedicated by Theodore Roosevelt and named after him in 1959. Then I drove the twenty-mile-long unpaved section of the scenic Apache Trail, which I had mostly to myself as the sun set. The last stretch was a bit intimidating as it climbed up a cliffside with guard rails that looked like they were from 1911! I made it safely to my motel in Mesa, Arizona in time for a late dinner.

Near-ghost town of Bowie, AZ

On the Rez at Geronimo

Smokey and Old Ranger on the Rez

Climbing up to Tonto Cliff Dwelling

Visiting with the ghosts of Peoples Past who were born and died here

Reservoir side of the dam

The Salt River side of the dam

Hopeful beginning of the Apache Trail

1911-era bridge?

I reached the highpoint of the Apache Trail at sunset

Seeking Cochise in his Stronghold and the Elegant Trogon in The Chiricahuas

After leaving Saguaro National Park I arrived at the wonderful oak-shaded Cochise Stronghold Forest Service Campground for the night. I walked in the warm evening light to Cochise Springs thinking about this great Chiricahua Apache chief who was wrongly accused of abducting a white boy, which started the Apache Wars. As a kid, I watched "Broken Arrow" on TV, which was all about Cochise and his friendship with a white man named Jeffords. Thomas Jeffords was a rare Indian agent who synpathized with the Indians' plight and "broke the arrow of war" with Cochise and he and his people settled peacefully on a reservation until Geronimo and his band rebelled and left the reservation to raid ranches from their stronghold in the Chiricahua Mountains. Cochise was secretly buried in his Stronghold.

After leaving the Stronghold, I met my friends, David Witt, from Taos and Ron and Dave from Missouri at Cave Creek Canyon near Portal, Arizona. We spent a few fine days looking for rare Mexican and more common American birds and I added many a species to my lifelist. I did not, however, see or hear the much sought-after Elegant Trogon!

The only Trogon I spotted was in the Research Station's Dining Hall (where we had a fine meal!)

We left Portal for Paradise, AZ and drove a very rough dirt road to our next campsite at Chirachua National Monument.

The Dragoon Mountains of Cochise's Stronghold

At the memorial Plaque to Chief Cochise

Our comfortable Cave Creek Canyon "Sunny Flats" Camp

A javelina, or collared peccary, eating bird seed below a feeder

David looking out from the Cave of Knowledge

David entering the Cave.

David and I met this Yaqui shaman in this cave near the Mexican border. He told us: "A man of knowledge chooses a path with a heart and follows it and then he looks and rejoices and laughs and then he sees and knows."

Ron and Dave meeting us in the Cave 

American Museum of Natural History's Research Station

Energy drink for a captured and tagged Hummer

We win ... 
... and we lose ...

... and we leave no forwarding address. But if we chose a path with a heart and followed it, we rejoice and laugh.