Ft. Bowie National Historic Site - Southern Arizona
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Duration: 9 AM to 6 PM
Start/Finish: Tucson, AZ
Just back from our extended Fall trip and back out exploring. We had planned to finish our trip with the hike at Ft. Bowie National Historic Site, but it was pouring rain as we came back into Arizona. So we waited for the sun to come out.
We left home at 9 AM, back on I-10 heading east and a sunny sky. First stop was Texas Canyon Rest Area, mp 320. Besides the obvious reason for stopping, our letterboxing hobby gave us another reason to stop. I think this rest area is one of the most scenic ones we have ever seen. It awed me when I first drove into Arizona almost 40 years ago.
Texas Canyon Rest Area - East bound
After leaving I-10 at Willcox we headed south on AZ 186 to a very favorite NPS place, Fort Bowie NHS. It was an Army fort during the mid-1800s. That is not what attracts me, it is the location and limited access. When you leave the paved road it is an 8 mile dirt road from this approach. Any standard sedan can make the trip, it is regularly graded. We have seen all makes and models of cars at the trailhead.
Ft. Bowie sign
The parking area includes a restroom and shaded picnic area. What isn't there is water or any refreshments. When you come, bring your own food and water. The hike in begins from here. It is 1-1/2 mile hike to the fort and Visitor Center.
This is a beautiful hike with lots of interesting historical interpretative signs. It also a great birding opportunity to see birds unique to this area.
Butterfield Stage Stop
It has ups and downs, taking it leisurely you don't have to be a hiker to make this trip. Wear good shoes (not sandals) and bring water. It can be hot during the summer, plan accordingly. The. Visitor Center at the fort opens at 8 AM. The hike in gains in elevation, ending at 5000 ft at the fort. This makes the hike out much easier.
Ft. Bowie -view facing North to Visitor Center
Of course I took the opportunity to complete the Junior Ranger program. This is definitely Senior Friendly, as no age limit is given. Between viewing the displays in the Visitor Center and walking through the fort ruins the activities can be completed in an hour. Once back to the car, the route back to I-10 towards Bowie is shorter and less dirt road.
No trip along the Eastern portion of I-10 is complete without a stop at The Thing. The billboards are prevalent for many miles. Years ago we paid for our son to go through to reveal the secret. It has another selling point - a DQ, a great post-hike treat. And a penny smashing machine.
Entrance to The Thing
Penny Smashing Machine at The Thing
Another stop at Texas Canyon - West bound for another Letterbox that was planted while we were traveling this Fall.
And to end the day heading back into Tucson - Arizona Sunset
Ft. Bowie National Historic Site - Bowie, AZ
2 Rest Area finds
The Thing - Dragoon, AZ
Gray Jay (aka Mexican)
No longhorn cattle?
I had a up close and personal encounter with a longhorn steer a few years ago just as the sun was setting on my way back to the parking lot. The darn critter kept cutting off my route back to the cars and so I did quite a bit of jogging back and forth. I think he was just bored -- but it was still a bit unnerving.
No cattle seen during this trip, or on several previous. However, I did see evidence on the ground of cattle having been along the trail. The site is surrounded by ranches, so I imagine there are a few escapees who know the grass is greener around the fort.