FORT RUCKER IN THE CHIRICAHUA MOUNTAINS
(This is Monday’s blog despite Tuesday’s date)
There is something about the crowing of a Rooster in the early morning hours that just kind of puts a nice spin on the beginning of any day.
HEADING FOR LESLIE CANYON
Late getting to the computer tonight so I am going to try and make this short or I will fall asleep before I finish it for sure.
From reading my blog over the years Aunt Jean had a few places in the area she wanted to see this week and one of the them was Mary Kidder Rak’s home in the Chiricahua Mountain’s Rucker Canyon. Decided to take the Jeep in case we got into a little ‘off roading.’ Of course that meant Kelly having to ride in the back again but she was able to catch up on a bunch of her reading.
BEAUTIFUL LESLIE CANYON
The Ranch is on the west side of the Swiss Helm Mountains so we decided to take the Leslie Canyon route to Rucker which swings around the southern end of the Swiss Helms through the beautiful sweeping grasslands of Leslie Canyon. With big white puffy clouds in the deep blue Arizona sky we had a perfect morning’s drive. Air was on the cool side but warm in the Jeep.
SCENIC RUCKER CANYON
Jean was anxious the see the tall green mountain forests I have often described in my posts and you can bet I was anxious to show them to her.
LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THOSE ARIZONA MOOSE BUFFALOS
With long lazy cloud shadows playing across the distant mountain sides around us we finally made the swing out of Leslie Canyon eastwards into the higher altitudes of Rucker Canyon. As soon as we began our ascent from the Valley floor the landscape began to give way to taller trees and early signs of green forests to come. Tall Sycamore and Cottonwood trees began appearing. Agave and Prickly Pear Cactus were abundant as were taller Mesquite trees, Juniper, and scrub Pines and Junipers. Crossed a trickling mountain stream, dodged a few cows on the road and just kept climbing our way further up the Canyon.
LOVE THESE MOUNTAIN FORESTS
It was apparent Jean was really enjoying herself as we skipped along the winding dirt road leaving a huge trail of dust in our wake. She had many questions and I had many answers. It is a part of Arizona I love and have spent time in these past 5 winters. I have done a fair bit of reading about the areas history.
SPLASHING THROUGH SOME MOUNTAIN STREAMS
We arrived at the parking area where old Fort Rucker and Mary Kidder Rak’s house remain hidden from view in a line of green Mesquite trees a short distance from the road. Anyone typing Fort Rucker or Mary Kidder Rak into my search bar will find my posts from half a dozen previous visits to this historic spot. Mary Kidder Rak wrote several books over the years and it was A COWMAN'S WIFE that so impressed me a few years ago.
ON THE GROUNDS OF OLD FORT RUCKER
The silence at old Fort Rucker is overpowering if you take the time to listen. The beauty here is also overpowering if you take the time to see and appreciate it. How nice to be here with my Aunt Jean. And how nice to be able to show her such a special tranquil and peaceful place.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICER’S QUARTERS
We walked the short lane to the dry creek bed and gingerly made our way across the scattered rocks and sandy bottom. The old barn and original wooden corrals were before us as we headed left onto the grounds of what once was a bustling military camp back in the 1800’s. Hard to imagine all the soldiers bustling about on these very grounds we were walking. A few reader boards had been installed years ago so we stopped to read each one as we made our way along old and long forgotten grown over pathways. The camp’s Bakery building is still standing as well as a section of wall from the army commissary. An old water tank and a small adobe officers quarters bear silent reminders of the way things were a hundred and thirty years or so ago. Indian Chief Geronimo had been through here and captured east of the Chiricahua mountains in Skeleton Canyon. The troops who captured him had left from here.
THESE READER BOARDS TELL THE FORT’S HISTORY
Despite the cool winds blowing we made our way to the old wooden poll barn near the Mary Kidder Rak house. Having read Mary’s book about her life and hard times at this very spot it was easy for me to imagine all the things I had read about. I could see the many Indians, cowboys and drifters who had come to her door. I could imagine their old car sitting by the barn. The many cattle they had, their horses, and so much more. It was all once right here.
Made our way along a warn path from the barn and entered the silent and slowly crumbling house through an open front door. I am always struck by the tiny rooms with their different levels. I could see the warm kitchen with Mary’s cooling pies sitting on the window ledge. The fireplace where she once set the walls afire. The root cellar outside where she kept supplies not only for her and husband Charlie, but other passing strangers as well. And then there is the impressive big blue room with a fireplace at one end.
MARY KIDDER RAK’S HOUSE
IN MARY’S KITCHEN LOOKING AT THE WINDOWS WHERE APPLE PIES WERE COOLED
How nice it was for me to be back to a place I have read so much about. How nice to see the adventuress spirit of my Aunt Jean taking everything in and enjoying it all. Like myself, Jean is a history buff as well with a spirit of the old West in her. A determined lady with a will and persistence much akin to Mary Kidder Rak herself.
From the house we were soon making our way back around the old barn through tall dried grass. Jean remarked it has been years since she has enjoyed walking through tall grass like that. That made me feel good:))
CHECKING OUT SOME GOURD LIKE THINGS FOUND GROWING ON THE GROUND
After walking the short distance back to the Jeep I always take a last glance back with the same thought in my mind each time I leave this area of many memories . I wonder if I will ever be back here again.
WALKING BACK TO THE JEEP
Before leaving Rucker Canyon we slipped up one other road where I knew the tall Ponderosa Pine trees lived right next to a bubbling mountain stream. This was the area of mountain forest Jean had been wanting to see and we all marveled at the beauty as we turned off the Jeep’s engine and listened to the melting snow waters of a small stream. Gurgling and bubbling along it tumbled it’s way over rocks and boulders from tall snow capped mountains to the North.
STOPPED IN A MOUNTAIN STREAM CHECKING OUT SOME CATTLE
The afternoon was getting on so we pointed the Jeeps nose down the mountain and headed for the Valley floor below. Crossed a few more mountain streams, waved at some cows along the roadside, slowed for a few curves, kicked up a lot of dust and eventually we made it out to the center of Sulphur Springs Valley where we finally reached highway 191 about 5 miles north of Elfrida. And, then our day’s fun activities abruptly changed.
SAY, HAVE I MENTIONED HOW MUCH I LOVE ARIZONA:))
As soon as I pulled away from the dirt road’s stop sign making a left hand turn onto the pavement I knew something was wrong from not only the sound coming from the Jeep but by the way the Jeep was suddenly handling. I knew instantly……flat tire!!!!
Managed to quickly get the Jeep pulled over on the flat shoulder of the opposite side of the road. Yep, the rear passenger side tire was flatter than a pancake. Oh well, no problem I thought because I had changed this very same tire a year ago when we had a flat. Kelly located the bottle jack and tire iron while a swore a bit under my breath. Couldn’t swear too darned loud you know because my Aunt was there.
Slipped the bottle jack under the axle and loosened all the tires normal studs….except one. All our wheels have one locking nut on each wheel to prevent theft supposedly. It requires a special tool to unlock that one nut and remove it. No problem, I had that special tool but when I went to use it the locking nut was totally immovable. It had obviously been put on way too tight by an inexperienced tire person. I wrenched and wrenched at that stubborn nut with the tire iron until eventually I stripped the the cheaply made mechanism. That was it….we were dead in the water with no way to get the tire off.
A helpful Forest Service worker stopped and tried his luck but the nut was toast. Had a compressor in his work truck so he tried pumping up the tire that but it would not hold air. In the meantime Kelly and Jean were outside the Jeep with Kelly working her cell phone contacting our roadside service provider, COACHNET. Took awhile to get the girl on the other end to understand exactly where we were but eventually things got figured out and a tow truck was dispatched from Bisbee. Kelly also called a Jeep dealership in Sierra Vista for advice.
NICE OF THIS FELLOW TO STOP AND TRY TO HELP…WE HAD SEEN HIM WORKING ABOUT AN HOUR EARLIER IN RUCKER CANYON
The winds were picking up and it was cold there beside the road so Kelly also phoned a neighbor of Jeanie & Ray’s wondering if he could come out and pick them up. Doug was immediately in his truck heading the 14 miles to our location arriving about 20 minutes after Kelly called. Aunt Jean and Kelly went with Doug back to the Ranch and I stayed with the Jeep to await the big flat bed truck which arrived about 20 minutes after the girls had left.
THIS FLAT BED DRIVER AND I WERE BORN THE SAME MONTH OF THE SAME YEAR BUT I GOT 23 DAYS ON HIM:))
Didn’t take the fellow long to lower his flat bed, hook onto the Jeep and pull it up onto the truck, level it out and snug it down. We had some paper work to do in the cab of the truck and then it was off to the Ranch where the driver dropped me off. Because of the stripped lockable lug nut on the wheel the Jeep had to stay on the truck and be taken to the Jeep dealer in Sierra Vista some 63 miles away. The garage said that lock and tire would have to be taken off by a technician. Kelly had made all the arrangements with the garage via phone so needless to say we are going to have them replace all 5 of those ridiculously stupid locking nuts with ordinary tire bolts. We will head to Sierra Vista with Jeanie & Ray’s truck in the morning to pick up the Jeep as soon as things are repaired.
THE FLAT BED DRIVER DROPS ME OFF AT THE RANCH
While in Sierra Vista Tuesday we hope to continue our sight seeing to Ramsey Canyon and CORONADO PEAK. Been some talk about popping into the Texas Road House for some good old mashed potatoes and gravy for AL too:))
Well, for starting out to do a short post I sure have run off at the fingertips again:(( Wish us luck at the Jeep dealer Tuesday.
OUR LITTLE JEEP HEADS TO SIERRA VISTA WITHOUT US:((
The Last Paragraph: Some posts roll off my keyboard with ease while others turn out be a real grind. If I write my blog as a simple diary or journal of the day’s events I consider that an easy and reasonably safe uncontroversial post. If I throw some creativity and humor into it I consider the post a fun challenge. If I include personal thoughts, feelings and opinions, I consider it a post of substance. Those ‘substance’ posts can be difficult to write for obvious reasons. It is always an everyday challenge as a daily blogger to come up with something new, something different, something interesting and sometimes, something exciting. For me, repetition is an arch enemy and always a concern every time I sit down at the computer. Some folks consider Jigsaw or Crossword puzzles a challenge, others a game of Solitaire. For me, it’s the daily challenge of putting an interesting post together in a manner readers will enjoy reading. And, for me, that is what blogging is all about and why each and every day I sit myself down at my keyboard……….10-4:))
GROANER’S CORNER:(( Middle age is when you are warned to slow down by a doctor instead of a policeman.
-Tourists see the world, travelers experience it.
- Home is where your pet is:))
BAYFIELD BUNCH PHOTO ALBUMS https://picasaweb.google.com/117858411710794543295
The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of