Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pavement Ends - Cochise Stronghold

The best part about traveling with a jeep behind you?  All the places you can go.

We explored both the east and the west sides of Cochise Stronghold AKA The Dragoon Mountains.  The east side has easier access and includes a small primitive campground with a nature trail.  Access is off of Hwy 191, exit 331 from I-10.  Turn west on Ironwood Drive and follow the signs.

Text of sign:

"This rugged area served as a natural fortress and hideout for Apache Indians of the Chiricahua Clan led by Cochise.  He was born in these Dragoon Mountains about 1815.  From 1860 to 1872 the Cochise Band battled the U.S. Cavalry because of the handling of an incident at Apache Pass about 30 miles east of here. 

"It is believed that Cochise was buried somewhere in the stronghold."

The east side of the stronghold is more wooded and sheltered.  I can see where a band could hold out here for a long period of time.

By contrast the west side of the range is rugged with steep cliffs.  It is now a favored rock-climbing area, reminiscent of Joshua Tree National Park.  But with a whole lot less people than at Joshua Tree.

To access, take Hwy 80 south from Benson.   Middlemarch Road (unpaved) turns off to the east just before the town of Tombstone.   Take Middlemarch road for about 10 miles, then turn left on forest road 687.   This road runs along the base of the mountains, with several spur roads (4000 number series) into different areas.

Dispersed camping is available in the area, but it would be hard to get RV's in.  You have to ford several creeks and the road is quite rough in places.

Watch for range cattle.

The pictures speak louder than words.