LAURA WATCHES AS PAULA CHECKS OUT THE WATER TEMPERATURE IN THE MOUNTAIN STREAM
Some of you may remember a couple weeks ago when Kelly & I met one of our blog reader’s in Bisbee. Her name is Paula & she is a member of the Muleteam Hiking Club. Paula expressed an interest in seeing old Fort Rucker & possibly leading a hike there sometime with her hiking club. Fort Rucker is not easy to find so rather than email her directions I suggested she round up a few friends & Kelly & I would be happy to show them where Fort Rucker is. Paula is currently reading ‘The Cowman’s Wife’ so was also interested in seeing the old ranch house where the author, Mary Kidder Rak lived.
We met Paula & fellow hikers Gretchen & Gary, Laura, plus John & his dog Jazz, out front of the Elfrida Post Office Wednesday morning at nine. A few quick introductions & we were headed north on 191. Minutes later our 2 car convoy was kicking up big swirls of dust after turning east on Rucker Road. The Chiricahua Mountains were dead ahead.
What a great feeling to be out on a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky & perfect exploring & hiking temperatures. The road meanders it’s way across a flat grassland plain before entering into the long rolling yellow grass hills of Rucker Canyon. Soon we are into the green tree line as our altitude slowly increased. Forests of Mesquite, Sycamore, Juniper & Pines soon lined the gravel road. We are now in the land of deer, bear, cougars & many mountain birds. We are also in the ranch land of cattle on & alongside the road in places. Every time I am in this type of setting I just want to stay there forever. This is my favorite kind of country:))
About 45 minutes after leaving Elfrida we pulled off the winding gravel road & rolled up to an unassuming gate. There was nothing here that would indicate any past civilization except a laneway heading across a short field into a tree line. The surrounding mountains stood magically against the deep blue Arizona sky. At the time Kelly & were here just a short 3 weeks ago I never figured I would be back at this very spot again. Not this year anyway.
HEADING DOWN THE LANEWAY THAT LEADS TO FORT RUCKER & MARY KIDDER RAK’S HOUSE IN THAT TREE LINE AHEAD
We were soon out of our cars & heading down the laneway towards the trees. Still no indication that a sizeable military force once had constructed a Fort here complete with a bakery, a commissary, hospital, blacksmith shop, officers barracks, a water tank, parade ground & large horse barn complete with corrals. No indication of the history that took place on this ground. We walked through the rock strewn dry creek where the drowning of Lieutenant John A. Rucker & a fellow officer took place. The surrounding mountains were witness to the abandonment of the Fort a short couple years after it was established. The Fort fell into disrepair & was taken over by a family & made into a ranch in the later 1800’s. Many travelers stopped at the house of John Plesent Gray including Geronimo & many Apache war parties. The Indians respected the Grays & never harmed them. And, as we crossed the creek there still was no indication of the small ranch house ahead where Mary Kidder Rak lived & ranched with her husband Charlie.
APPROACHING THE RANCH HOUSE
First thing visible is the old barn & it’s red steel roof. And there is the old original wooden corral fencing. To the left of the barn in the tree lined field of long yellow grass lay the remains of old Fort Rucker. To the right of & just beyond the barn in a copse of trees is the little adobe ranch house where Mary Kidder Rak wrote, ‘A Cowman’s Wife’ along with her other books. This was our destination today & for me it felt good once again to be back in the place I have read so much about in the past few months.
IN MARY KIDDER RAK’S RANCH HOUSE
I won’t give you a blow by blow account of our walk through the house & around the grounds of the Fort because the blog would end up being even longer than what it will be now. Let me just say that from the comments & conversations I overheard from the Muleteam hiking folks I could tell they really enjoyed being there & what they were seeing was more than they had expected to see. Paula is currently reading ‘A Cowman’s Wife’ & if any of the other folks happen to read that book plus the old Fort Rucker section in the book, ‘When All Roads Led To Tombstone’ I’m sure they will all return to this spot just as I have, with a special feeling for all the history that has happened here so many years ago.
PAULA, GARY, LAURA, JOHN, GRETCHEN
GARY & GRETCHEN ARE FROM MICHIGAN BUT COME TO BISBEE FOR THE WINTER….PAULA’S FROM NEW ENGLAND & SPENDS A FEW WINTER MONTHS IN BISBEE…. LAURA & HER HUSBAND (NOT HERE) LIVE 6 MONTHS IN BISBEE & 6 MONTHS IN CANADA’S QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS…. JOHN & HIS DOG JAZZ ARE FROM SIERRA VISTA.
Our leaving old Fort Rucker today allowed these historic grounds to once again return to the serenity of their very nature. It is now the surrounding mountain guardians who alone hold the secrets of old Fort Rucker & those many inhabitants who once journeyed here. If there are spirits, I am sure they walk these grounds. I like to think Mary & Charlie are still here watching over their little adobe ranch house.
PAUL & GRETCHEN IN THE RUINS OF THE FORT’S COMMISSARY & MARY KIDDER RAK’S & HUSBAND CHARLIE’S FIRST HOME AT RUCKER. THE HOUSE BURNED & MARY & CHARLIE MOVED A SHORT DISTANCE AWAY TO THE LITTLE ADOBE HOUSE
Paula & the Muleteam hiking folks were interested in scouting out some new trails in the area so we all drove up a winding forested road a little higher into the mountains. Kelly & I had been up this scenic dead end road a couple years ago & knew it had an old camp ground at the end with some possible trail heads. And it did. This is such a beautiful land with it’s quiet forest trails & running brooks. Most people think of Arizona as rocks & desert & few know of it’s many forests, lakes & streams.
PAULA, JAZZ & JOHN CHECK OUT THE FORESTED ROAD AHEAD
A MOUNTAIN STREAM RUNS BESIDE A SMALL CAMPGROUND
We parked our cars at the roads end & headed out on one of the hiking trails with Gary & John blazing the way ahead through the forest alongside a running stream. These folks are all true hikers & I knew they were itching to crack on some speed. It wasn’t long before the guys were out of sight so Kelly & I only went about half a mile before saying our good-byes to Paula, Gretchen & Laura before heading back to the Jeep. We both came away with a warm feeling that we had made some new friends today. And we felt a personal satisfaction in knowing we had been instrumental in making the hiking group’s day:))
CHATTING ALONG A QUIET FOREST TRAIL
SAYING GOODBYE TO PAULA, GRETCHEN & LAURA
We Jeeped our way back down the road stopping to scout out a campground & maintenance area called Rucker Station. Saw an interesting bumpity looking road with a sign pointing to Red Rock Canyon & were soon into 1rst gear 4 wheel drive fording dry creek beds & clambering over rocks along a narrow forested road. These kinds of roads can go on for endless miles so we didn’t go too far before turning back to the main road & home. Forty minutes later we were back at the rig & greeted with happy barking dogs & wagging tails. All & all, just another great Arizona day for The Bayfield Bunch:)))))))))))))))))))
GROANER’S CORNER:(( Did you know that tears are the hydraulic force by which masculine will-power is defeated by feminine water power & that a yawn may be the only time some married men ever get to open their mouths……hey, I don’t make these up, somebody else does:))
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