Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fort Bowie and Apache Pass

Today we decided to make the trip to Bowie and then got to Fort Bowie.  Now we have been told that it was a hike to Ft. Bowie but it was only about one mile and was a easy hike.  We loaded up our backpack with water and a picnic lunch and took for the town of Bowie and then to hike to Ft. Bowie. 

The town of Bowie, AZ was established in 1880 by the Southern Pacific Railroad and a frontiersman, Javes Tevis.  Bowie got its name because Ft. Bowie, with was a major military stronghold against the Chiricahua Apaches during the 1800.

Today the town is really a ghost town, everything for the most part has been abandoned and/or is up for sale.  We had expected more so was surprise by how empty and abandoned the town was.

The one thing of importance in the town is the Fort. Bowie Vineyard and Orchard.  There is 1500 acres that grow pecan, walnuts, peaches, cherries, apricots and grapes.  There is a wine tasting room in town and where you can taste the local wines and purchase their nuts and also pistachio that are grown locally also.  To us they have some of the best wines in the area of all the wineries we have visited.  Of course I have to get me some nuts as I love pecan, walnuts and pistachios. 

So onward to Ft. Bowie and our hike.  The trailhead is 10 miles from the town and the drive is really neat.  You get to dive through the orchard and vineyard in the area.  At the base of the mountain the road goes from paved to dirty and you start up a dirty road for about 2 miles to the trailhead.Looking back at trailhead 1/4 mile in the hike

The hike is the original route into Ft. Bowie and was a wagon road built by soldiers.  Along the hike you pass the ruins of the Butterflied Stage Station, post cemetery, Apache Spring and the site of the first Ft. Bowie.  The hike takes you through Apache Pass where many of incidents with soldiers, Apaches and stagecoaches took place.  The Chiricahus Apaches knew the importance of this area and fought to keep control of the area as the only major water source for the area ran through here, Apache Springs. 

The first site along the hike is an old miner cabin that was built up again the buff near a ravine where I am sure water flowed years ago.  Now water only flows during the rainy season.

The next ruins are of the old Butterfield Stage Station.  The Butterfield Overland Mail Route was one of the first out to the old west.  The company was paid $600,000 per year to carry the mail through the Apache Indian country was was a 2800 mile route.  In its three year history the Overland Mail was only attacked once by the Apaches and was only late reaching the end of the line only three times.  The stage station here was build in 1858 and had a kitchen-dinning room, sleeping rooms, feed and weapon storage.  The Butterfield Stage Route southern section closed on the eve of the Civil War in 1861.

The area just to the east of the stage station was were the Bascom Affair took place.  This was the incident that started the Apache Indian on the warpath; until this incident  the Apaches did not bother with the stages, soldiers and even provided wood to the stage station in trade.  This affair is where Lt. George Bascom took 54 of his men into Apache Pass, set up camp and invited Cochise and his family into his tent under false terms.  Bascom accused Cochise of raiding the ranch of John Ward, stole cattle and kidnapped the son of a Mexican woman who lived with Ward.  Bascom threatened to hold Cochise and his family until all was returned; Cochise told him that he had not done this and would find out who did and see all was returned.  Bascom refused to believe him and this insulted Cochise so he slashed the tent and escaped.  Bascom continued to hold Cochise family and later put his entire family to death.  This was beginning of the war between the whites and Apaches that raged off and on for the next ten years.

The next ruins is the old cemetery of the old Ft. Bowie.  This was where many of those that dies in battle with the Indians were buried as well as those that died of sickness and other causes.  One of Geronimo sons was buried here.  There is a booklet telling you of those that are still here and something about their history.  Enjoy as the stories are interesting.

The one Indian Agent that was able to achieve peace, even thought is was temporary, with Cochise was Tom Jeffords.  His home/Indian agent’s office is the next set of ruins.  Jeffords was the only while that ever knew of the burial place of Cochise and he went to his death bed with the secret.  After Cochise death many young Apaches grew discontented with reservation terms as there was a conflict as to where are not the terms that was established with Cochise were still in place.  Jeffords was unable to maintain peace with this young group and the raids and war started all over again.  The government moved the Chiricahua Apaches from their land to the San Carlos Reservation which was disease ridden in the Gila River Valley.  It was here that many bands led by Geronimo and other fled to northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre and began terrorizing the border region.

The next area is where the Battle of Apache Pass took place.  This was the major reason Ft. Bowie was established.  This area in which the Apaches lead by Cochise attacked a group of California Volunteers who were trying to establish a depot for supplies.  This area was where the only major source of water existed at Apache Springs.  After this battle Col. George Washington Bowie established the first Ft. Bowie in under three weeks in temporary housing.  As winter came upon them more permanent structures were built and this is were the first Ft. Bowie existed until 1894 when a more modern post of 38 structures were build. 

The Apaches lived a very simple life and survived off the land around Apache Springs.  This land was there home for years before the while man came.  Their homes were simple and they knew how to build them, store food for the different seasons and survive in the desert land.  They really at first tried to live in peace with while man as they came into the west but the misunderstanding of their way of life and language difference lead to so many conflicts and mistrust between the Indians and white man.  There were difference even between the different bands of Apaches and they fought among themselves but very few government officials/military men even tried to understand their way of life.  Apache Springs was their major source of water in this land and the establishment of Ft. Bowie at the springs was an insult to the Apaches.

As you past Apache Springs you come into an open area in which the modern and second Ft. Bowie was established.  Today it is ruins but you can see as you want around the way of life that was here. 

On the way back we decided to take the overlook trail which took us up and over the mountain looking down upon the pass and Ft. Bowie.  The trial was rocky and steep but was well worth the hike.  The sites were different from this view and the landscape was amazing. 

The one thing about the hike, they tell you is is a mile and one half each way so the hike was a three mile hike and would take about two hours.  Well I think it was more like two miles to the fort and it took us a lot longer than two hours.  Maybe if you hike straight there and straight back at a fast pace you could do it in two hours, but who wants to miss the history and sights.  If you get the chance the hike is worth it and was lots of fun.  Make sure you wear good shoes for hiking and take lots of water with you as the visitor center at the fort does not sell anything but books and some small souvenirs.