The Chiricahua Apaches

In nearly every place I’ve been, I’ve found something interesting to learn about. Sometimes it’s geology, sometimes wildlife, or perhaps history. The last few days in the Chiricahua National Monument are no exception.

This area of what is now Arizona and New Mexico was the homeland of the Chiricahua Apaches, led by familiar names like Cochise and Geronimo. I’m using past tense, because this isn’t so much their homeland anymore. There was a time when the Apache were not welcome in what we now call America.


Unwelcomeness ment being forced to leave your home and walk to places like Florida or Oklahoma, where you were not welcome either. Apparently being free, brave, and in your homeland isn’t sufficient qualification for maintaining your freedom in America – land of the free, home of the brave.

The mountains were a safe haven for the Apache – at least until the late 19th century when they were subdued, conquered, and properly beaten into submission. Once cleared of the brave and free, Bonita Canyon became a place for a few hardy homesteaders in log cabins, who have since been replaced by not-so-hardy tourists in high-tech tents, satellite TV equipt travel trailers, and luxury campervans.

We ended up here in the Chiricahua National Monument because we saw a green blob with a camping symbol on our road atlas in a spot where we’ve never visited. An accidentally excellent choice. The mountains are beautiful, the canyon provides water and shade, and the Park Service has provided excellent facilities for hiking and camping. The park is far from town and off the normal tourist routes. It’s busy this time of year though – had we not made reservations we’d have had to backtrack a half a hundred miles and start looking for a new place to stay.

Hiking amongst pinnacles, spires and balanced rocks of the Echo Canyon Grotto in fog and drizzle was a peaceful, near surreal experience. Even though the campground was full there were only a few other hikers out in the rain.

As the moss-covered rocks were wet, the colors were deep and vibrant. The term ‘sky island’ describes this spot well. The cameras on our cheap android phones were not a good choice for recording the experience.

Still heading west…not sure for how long. The campgrounds in southern Arizona and New Mexico are very popular this time of year, so we are having to plan ahead.

That’s no fun.