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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Slavin Gulch Trail in the Dragoons

Today’s hike was up Slavin Gulch in the Dragoon mountains via a side trail to Council Rocks. Bill Clark was the hike leader. We met at the Fry’s parking lot in Sierra Vista and carpooled from there. Big Steve and Bill rode with me.

We got to the trailhead at 9am. Little Steve, Susan, Rod and Caci and Paul were the rest of the gang. Weather was in the mid 80s with a gentle breeze and blue skies. I wore my torn blue jeans, a baggy t-shirt and my Keen water sandals under white socks. (Because last week my feet burned up in my hikers)

I had always wanted to explore these rocks. They are "something else" and exude a mysticism I don't feel around any other rocks. There was a reason the Apaches defended these rocks with a determined passion.

Sadie was with me and she performed beautifully. I was proud of her. She didn’t bark, she didn’t run all over the place and she didn’t annoy others. She did better without the older dogs egging her on.

We meandered over gently rolling grasslands, with riveting rock formations, cracks and balancing rocks on either side of us. Mesquite, soaptree yuccas, sotols, agaves, Emory and scrub oaks and manzanitas grew around us. We had minimal elevation today, something that Kevin may have enjoyed. Other recreationists were in the area rock climbing and camping.

I meandered within the group, talking briefly with Susan, then Paul (who was in New Orleans last week for a Jazz Festival). I mostly listened, getting tidbits from Paul's week in New Orleans and Susan's bit with her time in Big Bend. (I certainly wouldn't mind another week there, but this time I want to see Big Bend Ranch State Park and marvel at the waterfalls) Between Susan and Paul there is always something interesting to talk about.

The guys up front encountered a rattle snake off the trail. Sadie immediately ran back toward me as we meandered around the trouble spot. On our way back we encountered a second snake under the dead brush of a mesquite tree.

We snacked under the Council Rocks (4972’) as Bill told us the story of Cochise and Howard

COCHISE – HOWARD MEETINGS: An analysis of General Howard’s report on his mission to the Apaches indicates that he may have stopped for the night in Slavin Gulch on his way to his second meeting with Cochise at Council Rocks. General Howard’s first meeting with Cochise had been held on 1 October 1872 at Council Rocks and Howard had made a quick trip back to Fort Bowie to order the Army to stop active operations against the Apaches while the treaty negotiations were in progress and to obtain additional supplies. He was returning to the meeting place by crossing the Dragoon Mountains via the Middle March Pass and then traveling up the west side of the mountains when the party was stopped short of the Council Rocks area by Captain Sladen and Tom Jeffords who had stayed behind with the Apaches. The Apaches had relocated their camp in a canyon to the south out of fear of a possible military attack. From General Howard’s description, this was probably Slavin Gulch. The following morning, 4 October, the party traveled on to the Council Rocks area for the second meeting with Cochise. (From “Cochise” by Edwin R. Sweeney.)

Sadie rested in the shade with me as I fed her turkey snacks and water. I had carried two gallons of liquids: a gallon for Sadie and a gallon of lemonade for myself. The others in the group thought I looked silly carrying so much water. But to me it was better safe than sorry. (In the end we only drank half of our provisions)

We walked on further to the White House Ruins, now barely standing along the edge of private property. A C-130 buzzed us from above before it disappeared behind the Dragoons.

We took a different trail back, a trail that led us toward the real Slavin Gulch, a scenic single-track going into a mountain cleft. This will have to be explored another time as I was happy with the 7.4 miles we did today. At a second rest stop we had our lunch as a few Mexican jays overhead gawked at us for food.

I want to take Kevin back here soon to explore the canyon more. I think he’d really get into seeing more of Cochise’s hide out. That canyon would be gorgeous after a heavy rain. (The creekbeds today were bone dry)

Sadie slept on the way home and was relaxed the rest of the day. The older dogs seemed to have enjoyed their time away from her. Kevin took them up Hunter Canyon and according to him, “They were the old dogs again: walking side-by-side along the trail, taking stops simultaneously to sniff the brush and pee.

Thirty minutes after arriving home an old army buddy of mine called from Virginia. We have been friends since 1994...perhaps the longest friendship I've had outside of Jill and Sharon and Chris. His fiance got her visa and can now come to the US, but they must get married before her 90-day visa expires. He doesn't know WHEN she is flying to Virginia since she is still waiting for her visa to arrive. When will they get married then? Again, Dave does not know as he is letting her make all the plans. Will they fly to Vegas or will they have a JP wedding in Virginia. He doesn't know. ARGH! I want to be at his wedding but with this little knowledge it's hard to make plans, and I need to have some head start. I had planned on going to Montana in late June, not Virginia. But if I change my summer plans and head out to VA instead, I'll spend a week in that area and see other friends as well. I will always love a few days on the beautiful Jersey Shore, hike with my old buddies there in the Pine Barrens and eat at an old Jersey Diner. It won't be Montana, but it won't be hell, either.

It will just be one long-ass drive back to Arizona!

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