Cochise was a chief of the Chiricahua Apache known for their resistance to European and later American encroachment into Apache territory. After years of battles and raids, Cochise and his band were gradually driven back into the Dragoon Mountains, which became a natural base and fortress for the Apache. It’s said that Cochise himself is buried somewhere in the canyon, though the exact location remains secret.
The road in was quite rough, with deep washes cut into the dirt track in several places. But once in and settled, it was a beautiful spot, with more trees and vegetation than we’ve seen in a while, alive with birds and other wildlife. We were far enough from any civilization that there was absolutely no light pollution at night, making star gazing quite the sight to behold.
Heading Them Off At the Pass
After spending a few days at the Cochise Stronghold, we were running low on supplies, so we decided to move on. Near day’s end, we found ourselves in Tonto National Forest, high on a mountain pass, overlooking what has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen: Salt River Canyon.
Having never heard of it before, the canyon came as a surprise to both of us, but we couldn’t have timed it better. The warm light from the near-setting sun lit the canyon walls like they were on fire, and the view had to be seen to be believed. The photos don’t come close, trust me.
Water Will Have It’s Way
Our next adventure found us a couple of days later at the Petrified Forest National Park, which is one of the more unusual spots we’ve come across. At first glance, it looks like a logger’s yard, with pieces of tree trunks laying this way and that. But as you approach the trees, you start to see colors emerging and reflecting, and you realize it’s not wood at all, but stone.
The formations were living trees about 225 million years ago, when Arizona’s climate was actually humid and sub-tropical. Most organic material biodegrades naturally, but these trees were buried quickly enough that they remained intact, allowing groundwater rich in dissolved solids to surround and soak into the wood, eventually replacing the plant cells with minerals and other inorganic material. As a result, the ‘wood’ we were looking at was actually a combination of silica, calcite, pyrite, opal, iron oxide and more that formed quartz crystals which give the wood its stunning color and it’s nickname, The Rainbow Forest.
Toward the center of the park is Newspaper Rock, a site that features more than 650 petroglyphs created by ancestral Puebloan people inhabiting the area somewhere around 2000 years ago.
At the northern end of the park we found the Painted Desert, a stunning landscape in the badlands known for its beautiful colors and formations. Iron and manganese present in the soft layers are highly visible between the layers of volcanic ash. Natural erosion have exposed these layers, making for an incredibly vibrant scene.
A Bit of Down Time
For the past couple of weeks we’ve been more or less sitting still, enjoying a bit of a break from the road and making plans for next year. Currently we’re at a pretty little BLM campground not far from Phoenix. It’s lovely and quiet, nestled right up against Saddleback Mountain, with lots of hiking and places to explore.
It was here we were lucky enough to meet Doug and his dog Yuma from Miss Adventure Travels. Doug was kind enough to give us a few pointers about hiking in the area, including a tip on where to find petroglyphs. Thanks so much for the info Doug. You rock!
On A More Serious Note
With winter winding down, we’re thinking more and more about our return to Canada in April and where we’re going from there. We have our daughter’s wedding in June to look forward to, and we’ve decided we’ll be looking for seasonal work to replenish some of our travel expenses, although we haven’t quite made up our minds if we’re returning to our hometown or if we’ll find somewhere else to settle for summer. We’ll return to our southern exploring once the northern weather turns cold again.
The one major decision we’ve both agreed on, is that once we’re home, we’ll be putting Lonestar up for sale. He’s a terrific little trailer, tough as nails, and has served us well, but we’ve come to realize that what we need for storage is just more than he can provide. We’re sure he’ll provide years of service for whoever is lucky enough to own him next. Anyone interested can reach out through our Contact Page on the blog. In the meantime, we’ve started shopping for an RV that will better suit our needs. That should prove interesting.
`Til next time. 🙂
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