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3 Southwestern Hikes through History

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From the spot where a mighty Apache warrior surrendered to the bayou that birthed the Texas Revolution, these Southwestern hikes turn back time

By Laurie Davies

The Dragoon Mountains, as seen from West Cochise Stronghold in Coronado National Forest, north of Tombstone in Cochise County, Arizona.
The Dragoon Mountains, as seen from West Cochise Stronghold in Coronado National Forest in Southeastern Arizona.

It really is a different world out here. While the rest of country frets over freezing temperatures, the Southwest’s lower-elevation denizens venture outdoors, buoyed by survival of another oppressive summer. Now is the perfect time to grab your sunscreen, a light jacket, and a hiking partner who loves history as much as you do. Preening social media posts about your warm-weather adventures are optional.

Arizona: Council Rocks

Once the inhospitable hideout of Apaches and their mighty warrior Cochise, the rugged cliffs and surging boulders of the Dragoon Mountains rise starkly from the creosote, yucca and cat claw acacia on Southeastern Arizona’s scrubby desert floor. The Dragoons serve notice that some open spaces will never be tamed even though they were once surrendered. Take the short hike to Council Rocks, the spot (or near the spot) where Cochise surrendered in 1872. It’s isolated out here, which naturally summons the senses to a time when swirling dust clouds cast off by pounding horse hooves signaled Apache retreat from the cavalry into the canyons. (To get to the Council Rocks trail, follow U.S. Forest Service directions to Slavin Gulch Trail, except continue on FR 687 past 687A to 687K, marked by a small brown Forest Service sign.)

Texas: Remember the … Anahuac?

Everyone knows about the Alamo, the famed yet failed fortress in Texas’ fight for independence. However, the earliest written rumblings of revolution began 245 miles east of San Antonio in Anahuac, a town at the tip of Trinity Bay. Called the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, these first, formal protests against Mexican rule became ideas central to the Texas Revolution. Visit the history marker at White Memorial Park, then head to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge for a day of hiking along nature trails dotted with overlooks for viewing alligators, mottled ducks, waterfowl and warblers. During the winter months, geese arrive in the thousands to rest and feed at the refuge.

piece of blue Turquoise gemstone from Mexico
New Mexico: Mine History at Cerrillos

Well before the arrival of Spanish explorers, Gold Rushers, and westward-pushing pioneers, the early Pueblo people mined a stone now synonymous with the Southwest — turquoise. Used in traditional Rio Grande pottery, the stone was mined in this region as early as 900 AD and now has an entire 15,000 square miles of scenic trail and historic area named after it in central New Mexico. Cerrillos Hills State Park, a year-round day-use park, pays homage to the area’s mining history and mystery with 5 miles of hiking trails and safe access to dozens of pre-1900s mines. Billy the Kid, the railroad and Gold Rushers all passed through here. (Cue the ominous music.) So did a gold and silver mining president named Major D.C. Hyde, who mysteriously disappeared in 1880 after he began promoting turquoise tourism in underground “wonder caves.” There are still several turquoise mining claims in the area and rough or finished jewelry can be found in area shops.

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