Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fort Huachuca and the Buffalo Soldiers 12/21/2011

Soldiers at Fort Huachuca

The second day in Sierra Vista, Arizona, I visited the historical museums on Fort Huachuca with Tara and her mother. Fort Huchuca is located about an hour south of Tucson, Arizona, in Cochise County. Tara's dad recently obtained a job on the base with regards to military intelligence.

Histroy: In Fubruary of 1877,Colonel August Kautz ordered a camp to be established to protect settlers and travel routes in southern Arizona. It was also established to block Apache Indian escape routes into Arizona. The Apaches were a violent Indian tribe who killed soldiers and settlers throuhout the southwest. In 1886 General Miles used the fort as its headquarters and supply base in support for the campaign against the renegade Apacher leader Geronimo and his followers. Later in the year Geronimo surrendered in southern Arizona with the Mexican army blocking his escape route to the south and the U.S. Army to the north. The U.S. Army duped Geronimo into surrendering by claiming he and his followers would have freedom if they gave themselves up. However, the US incarcerated them for decades as prisoners of war. Fort Huachuca stayed open after the Apache wars because of persistent banditry and American outlaws.

The 10th Calvary "Buffalo Soldiers" arrived at Fort Huachuca in 1913 and stayed for 20 years. The 10th Calvary was composed of all African troops. Up until the 1950s African Americans could not serve with whites. As a result, they had their own regiments. These black soldiers became known as "Buffalo Soldiers," a name given to them by indians. The 10th Calvary joined Pershing in a 1916 expedition into Mexico to find and capture Pancho Villa- a mexican outlaw wanted for burning a New Mexico town. During World War II the 25th Infantry Division who were stationed in Arizona fought alongside the French in the European Theatre. Many of these soldiers fought with valor but were not recognized for decades.

After the Korean War Fort Huachuca became a part of the Army Strategic Communications Command. Under this command the Fort became instrumental in the testing of electronic and communications equipment. This would include the testing of drone technology. During the Cold war the base became the home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School. As a result, many of the activities on base are classified. (Information from

"Buffalo Soldier"

Plaque on base honoring the 10th and 25th Regiments

Statue honoring the "Buffalo Soldiers"

A tribute to the Indian scout

Coronado Memorial Park 12/22/2011

View south into Mexico

Wanting to give my wife some space with her family, I drove south of Sierra Vista to Coronado Memorial Park close to the border. The park is administered by the National Park Service to preserve the ecology of the southern Arizona desert. The park memorializes the Vasquez de Coronado Expedition up the San Pedro river and into Arizona. He was searching for the seven cities of gold and also exploring new land for the Spanish to colonize. (Information from

Information: The park has no fee to enter and offers visitors many recreational options including hiking, birding, picknicking and sightseeing. It is important to remember that this is desert country so it is hot during the summer and cold during the winter. Carry plenty of water. Also the area is a smuggling route for drugs and illegals into the US so stay vigilant. While in the park I saw a large number of Border Patrol personnel and vehicles; however, at no point did I not feel safe. Inquire about trail conditions before venturing out.

Hiking: The park offers an abundance of hiking which is exactly what I came to do. I left the Visitors Center and drove to the top where the trail for Coronado Peak and the Crest Trail started. I hiked to the Coronado Peak (0.4 one way) and out Joe Canyon another 1.5. Hikers can see evidence of the July fire with burned signs and burned vegetation. It is always amazing to me how fast vegetation comes back after a wildfire. I hiked back to the trailhead and up the Crest Trail appr. 2.5 miles one way. This trail gained considerable elevation and was more difficult. Near the crest of the Huachucas I saw a number of abandoned mines with iron gates blocking them off. This park is one of my favorite in Arizona and offers widespread views of the Huachucas, Dragoons and into Mexico.

Desert vegetation in park; near crest of Huachucas

Pic of park from Crest Trail

Looking east from Coronado peak

Looking across the valley near Coronado Peak

Looking SW along the Huachuca Mountains

Ridgeline into Mexico

Kartchner Caverns State Park December 20, 2011

Soda Straws inside the cave

Over the Holiday break my wife and I traveled from Nevada to Arizona to visit family in Sierra Vista. While in Arizona we visited a number of interesting historical and ecological sites. This first post will chronicle Tara and my trip to Kartchner Caverns Statepark.

Information: Kartchner Caverns is located south of Benson, Arizona, about 20 miles. The cave was discovered in 1973 on land belonging to Mr. Kartchner. The initial discovery remained a secret for 14 years before Kartchner sold the land to Arizona State Parks. In 1993 work began on creating a suitable entrance to take visitors into the cave. Contractors did a great job in not destroying any features of the cave during construction. This is a live cave so formations are constantly forming.

Today, Arizona State Parks offers two tours- The Big Room and The Throne Room. Each tour is 1.5 hours long and costs $22.79. (The Throne Room tour is not offered from March to October because of roosting bats). During the Big Room Tour we saw many beautiful features including stalagtites, stalagmites, soda straws, turnups, bacon and eggs. Our guide was very informative giving us ample information on the cave's development and features inside the cave. It is important to remember that volunteers lead many of the tours. and are instrumental in maintaining many of our state parks and historic sites. (Information and pictures inside the cave from Arizona State parks)

Hiking: Above ground a 2.5 mile loop trail gives visitors great views of desert life and the surrounding mountains. An access trail also leads into the National Forest.

Camping is offered in the State Park at $14 per night.

Inside the Big Room

Ocotillo in the foreground, looking across valley

Kartchner Cavens State Park; notice the many different species of plants including agaves, ocotillo, yucca.

Kartchner Caverns State Park