The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Monday, September 18

The next morning was beautiful. What a great campground! We stopped at the visitor's center on the way out, and talked to the docent about which way to go; the road we came in on came from the west, but we wanted to go east on the 10. There was another road on the map, marked as an unpaved road, that went straight north to the 10. The docent said it should be fine for a high clearance vehicle, so we decided to give it a try. It also goes by Fort Bowie, which we knew is not there any more, so we said, sure, we'll stop and take a look...but we wanted to drive four hours to camp in Guadalupe Mountiains National Park, so we didn't want to take a lot of time in the morning doing other stuff...

But first, a wildlife break. These guys were visiting while we packed up the campsite. The HUGE FRICKIN' WOLF SPIDER was on the back of Kelly's tent, and Mr. Blue Jay was very interested in our food box, and Very Put Out when we chased him to a nearby tree without sharing. Notice the stink-eye.
We went back to the Organ Pipe formation to see it with the sun on it, and it was beautiful.

On the way out of the park, just outside the boundary, was a driveway with these snowmen made of wheels painted white...

So we came to the 'parking lot' for Fort Bowie National Historic Site, which was a big dirt pullout. We, of course, were the only ones there. It turns out that it's not something you drive up to; you park, then walk a mile and a half into the hills to see stuff.

What do you think? I said to Kelly. Might be good, but it's time. Shall we just go a bit and see if it's interesting?

Sure! she said, and we actually spent about three hours there, because it was.

Fort Bowie was established in 1862 and the permanent buildings (which are now ruins) were built in 1868; it's where the cavalry and the Chiricahua Apaches (led by Geronimo) duked it out. But it's also part of the Butterfield Stage route, and there are lots of animals and plants as well.

On the left you can see what the trail was like, mostly. Easy, in and out of trees and greenery (at least on the way there), very nice. And two intrepid hikers!
And then...WOW. This bad boy is SIX INCHES LONG and is an Arizona Giant Centipede. A SMALL one. Just...wow.
Cane cholla, a red-winged grasshopper (spoiler alert: they are black but have red wings), one of the many signs on this well-marked trail about (mostly) skirmishes between the cavalry and the Apaches, and our friend the Soaptree Yucca.
The Butterfield Overland Mail (stagecoach mail and passenger service) went through here, and the ruins used to be a station.
And what did we find next? A cemetery, which is something I love...and this one was nice, given that it is a complete recreation, albeit a good one.

When the cavalry abandoned Fort Bowie and moved out in 1894, they took the bodies of all military personnel with them; there are between 23 and 33 civilians left. When the NPS took it over in the 1960s, there were only two wooden grave markers left, and the fence was gone. But they did a ton of research, and recreated it as it probably looked at the time, so props to them. And it was a cool cemetery.

These guys are preserving the adobe ruins of the Indian Agency building. We went over and said howdy, and they told us how they're filling and covering the adobe so it doesn't deteriorate any more than it has.
Big red ants
We went up these steps, then down into trees and bushes. There is a year-round spring, Apache Spring, which is where the fort got its water. They also have a nice setup of an Apache home and yard, which was cool.
I was showing these pictures to Doug, and of course as soon as he saw this he said, it's a twelve-pounder mountain howitzer. Because Doug.
We wandered around the outside of the visitor's center (it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), grateful for cold water fountains and real bathrooms. There was a notice here about the recreation of the battle of Apache Pass over Labor Day Weekend...this is pretty far off the beaten track for recreators to bring all their stuff! although it looks like there is a dirt road that comes in from the opposite direction from where we hiked in.
Behind the visitor's center, I discovered another trail, that loops over the ridges and joins back up with the trail we came in on. There is a steep uphill part to the tops of the ridges, but there was a ton of ocotillo there as well as the ubiquitous Soaptree Yucca, so I was happy. The signs all the way back talked about geology and landforms, so that was cool too.

Hawk in the sun

Remember our friend the red-winged grasshopper, that was all black? I was ahead of Kelly, so was waiting for her, and I tried chasing them with my camera ready so that they would fly and I tried to take a picture of their wings...it took about ten tries, but here it is, the best I could get.

Cane cholla

I think these are buckthorn berries.

Some kind of juniper berries.

And we had a tailgate lunch and left Fort Bowie for New Mexico. It was about 1 pm when we left, and we consulted maps and talked, and decided that it was too late to try to get all the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park today, so we would drive to Las Cruces and spend the night there, probably in a KOA. The pic on the right shows what the road to New Mexico looked like...

The first town we hit was Lordsburg, and I had somehow read about a Shakespeare Ghost Town that was there, so we got gas and cold drinks and went to find it.

And after being misled by the sign on the right of one of two roads, pointing to the other (...!) we found it, and it was as sad and sorry as the rest of Lordsburg. It was also closed, so we couldn't even see what was there to be seen.

On the way back, I saw a big cemetery with lots of interesting-looking monuments...I wanted to stop, and Kelly said she'd be okay with it, but we didn't know how long it was going to take to get to Las Cruces so I passed on it. I wish I hadn't; I emailed Doug that night and mentioned it...he said, you know who's buried there, don't you? Billy the Kid.

Dang.

This insect was about an inch long, and was on the windshield of my truck as we left the Shakespeare Ghost Town. I think it's a black vine weevil.

We got to Las Cruces KOA, signed in, and drove into the KOA proper...and it was gravel hell. And we couldn't find the camping area...but when we did, it was a tiny shady oasis. It was LOVELY.

There was also this rundown looking gazebo that the VERY garrulous KOA manager told me about; you can see Kelly relaxing there. Around the top on the inside someone had painted and named all the mountains around there; the manager said it was there when she bought the property. Kinda cool.
One of the joyous things about KOAs is that some of the campsites have electricity. Here we are charging EVERYTHING.

And it's my night to cook dinner, meatballs and pasta sauce and pasta.

Kelly got a great shot of the sunset over Las Cruces. That night, there were lots of these red bugs outside the bathroom; the light was very bad, this was the best pic I could get. They're May beetles, related to June bugs. And this little cutie was about an inch and a half long, it's a Turkish house gecko.