Trip meter 24 miles
Thursday March 20, 2014- First Day of Spring!
Whenever we get a touch of cabin fever, there is always a hike to take, someone to visit in the park, a museum to see, or shopping to do.
Joan and I became acquainted with Bob and Beverly Burns our next door neighbors in the Quail Ridge RV park here. We knew we'd have a lot in common as we were both traveling in Itasca Horizon motorhomes. Bob and Bev's Horizon is 4 years newer than ours but they still share the genetic look of the Horizon series.
We had great fun sharing stories of our various road trips and adventures we'd had on the way. Bob confessed that he had never gotten into using the satellite navigation system that is built into his coach, and I am a techno junkie- so the two of us sat down and with a little help from the Internet figured out it's intricacies. By now we had become fast friends, and Joan and I both loved playing with their poodle named Charlie. Joan and I were bowled over when Beverly sent over a portion of their pork roast and potatoes for our dinner. She had cooked up a huge dinner in her crock pot and was kind enough to share with us! It was delicious.
Several friends, Bob and Beverly included, have urged us to take the hike out to the site of an early Spanish Presidio in the desert near here- so today we are going.
In the mid 1700s the Spanish established a string of forts, or presidios through the southwest from Louisiana to California. These were symbols of Spanish occupation and a way of laying claim to the territory. According to royal regulations, presidios were to be established every 40 leagues ( 2.6 miles) and linked by regular patrols.
In 1776 an Irish mercenary Hugh O'Connor was sent by King Carlos of Spain to establish this particular presidio. Two Captains and 80 men perished under withering attacks by the native Apaches. The Presidio was never finished, as the mule trains sent to re-supply the fort rarely made the transit in tact. The Apaches stole many horses and thwarted all efforts at growing crops. By 1780 the fort was abandoned.
It is a short 12 mile drive down AZ hwy 82 to the turn off at In Balance Ranch Road. A three mile drive down a washboard road that tested every nut and bolt in the Honda led to this nice graveled parking area at the trail head.
The "you are here" on the map above, is the start of the the trail we took to the presidio. Our GPS indicated that we had walked 2 miles by the time we arrived at the fort from the parking area.
This is what the trail looks like in mid March. Not much greenery as none of the trees had any leaves. The hiking was not strenuous as there is a slight down-hill to the river (the fort is at the river). After a mile or so, the trail starts to follow an old railroad grade for another 1/4 mile to the site. Of course, the RR came in over a century later, and nearly ran through the early fort!
Signs tell us that this is one of the best preserved presidios- in the string of presidios from Los Adaes, Louisiana to Alta California, and there is not much here- but what could one expect from an adobe structure that has sat in the desert for 238 years with no maintenance? I'm very impressed that Any sign of it still exists, and the excitement is making me go wild with my camera, taking pictures of everything. I'm convinced that something has been done to protect these remaining walls, but I am unable to find any information on how.
The presidio sits on a high bluff above the San Pedro river, an important source of water for drinking, animals, and crops.
The walls were constructed out of adobe clay, mixed liberally with stones and vegetative matter. The forts were all to be built around a standard plan and include area for housing, and of course a chapel. It was the custom of the times to enslave the local native population and use them as forced labor.
There are very nice interpretive signs, giving us a glimpse of what each particular area of the fort may have looked like, based on what can still be found of the foundations and walls. Regulations dictate that the fort should be 121 varas, by 103 varas, or 328 feet by 280 feet.
Of course, now days that takes a lot of imagination to see how it once looked...
It is incredible to think that this stone foundation was being laid at almost the exact same time as George Washington was taking command of the Continental Army.
Once the clay mortar has been leached out of the stone walls by rain fall, all that is left is a pile of rocks.
Twice this area has been studied by archaeologists. Of great interest is the fact that the fort was located on the same site as an earlier, long abandoned, native village.
The picture above was taken from a position within the fort. The bright green trees show the river bed. Why build here? The availability of water, and the need for protection along the northern frontier of New Spain.
Our good friend Barb Cowger, who we first met in Ajo, has moved to the Sierra Vista area now, and we got together on Sunday the 16th to go down to Bisbee again for some sight seeing and lunch.
I have already published a whole lot of Bisbee pictures, as it remains one of my favorite small towns, so I'll try to restrain myself from getting carried away here. I liked the walled court yard above- we saw this in Brewery Gulch.
Check out the iron doors with pick-axe door handles.
We really like the Savory Spot and have eaten here before with it's quiet courtyard ambiance in the upper canyon. We got here close to 1 PM but it was still quite busy. Jeff kept looking at the crumbly stone and dirt cut-bank just above our table- there's a house foundation just above there. Hmmm... well it's been there for over 100 years now, guess it will last til after lunch.
Last time Joan and I visited we missed this fabulous motel in Warren, a small town that is now contiguous with Bisbee on it's southeast. The owners use vintage RVs for the motel rooms!
The setting is just awesome. Vintage travel trailers, set up in a turn of the century RV park setting.
Above is an Airfloat Flagship travel trailer that is kept in excellent condition. This model was built from 1952-5 and used corrugated and anodized aluminum siding. The porthole windows were a trademark of this line.
A beautiful 1947 Flexible Clipper bus conversion, complete with wood deck and tiki bar- FUN!
A ChrisCraft sits at "dry dock" waiting for the crew to serve dinner on the after deck.
Okay- just one more- can you say tiny travel trailers. Maybe this one rents for half price?
Home again just in time for another pretty sunset over the Whetstone Mountains west of us.
We leave the Sierra Vista area next Wednesday and start our leisurely trip north- back to our summer home in Port Orford. Some destinations we are considering are Sedona,, AZ, also Niland, CA (on the Salton Sea) and visiting relatives in Cathedral City, CA- then who knows...
Your Traveling Friends
Jeff and Joan