Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Walking in the shadow of the legendary Chiricahua Chief Cochise

Monument to Cochise
If you’ve ever watched the Western movie, Broken Arrow, you’ll see the rugged country that the Chiricahua Apaches lived in.  Trails that started in the desert, led through forests and finally through magnificent rock formations of the Dragoon Mountains in southeastern Arizona. At the end of the trail was the stronghold of the Chiricahuas’ great leader, Cochise.

The movie stars Jeff Chandler as Cochise and James Stewart as Tom Jeffords, the only white man Cochise trusted. It is based on the real-life friendship the two men shared.

It’s possible to visit Cochise’s stronghold, if you have the stamina t o hike the five miles into it  (I didn’t). The trail to his stronghold starts at the Cochise Stronghold Campground, a small out-of-the-way campground operated by the U.S. Forest Service. The trail to the stronghold takes off from a shorter, 0.4-mile nature trail at the campground.

Beginning of Cochise and nature trails
Legend has it that Cochise is buried in the mountains around his stronghold, but no one alive now  knows where. Only his immediate family and Tom Jeffords knew where he was buried, and they are all dead.

The campground is open only from September 1 through May 31. While there’s plenty of room between camping spaces, the spaces aren’t very long, and are best suited to tent or pick-up truck campers. Trailers longer than 22 feet are not allowed.  Rigs need to be self-contained as hook-ups are not available. The campground has clean toilets, but potable water is not available.

The campground is located eight miles off of Highway 191, 12 miles off Interstate 10. Turn on Ironwood Road.  The road starts off paved, then turns into gravel for the last few miles. Three streams must be forded; bridges are not available.

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