It could be that there is a spirit world, a world that exists on a different frequency than we are use to acknowledging in our day to day lives. In this place if you lie, steel, or are untrue and you don’t stick up for what you believe in or if you don’t stick to your word, than your spirit person becomes less and suffers. This is what the Apache believe, they believe that if you are always true and unflinching and if you make the hard but right choices, than you die free and you will be soaked into the universe allowing your spirit to live forever, giving power to all. We are told that this happened to the great Apache Chief Cochise. During a time in American history known as the Apache Wars, Cochise was a hero for keeping his faith to his people, a champion and devotee to the truth and to his word, and in so doing honored his spirit body. Cochise defended his lands from the bloody Mexicans to the South and the lying Americans to the North. His physical body was and is still buried deep within his spiritual home in the Dragoon Mountains of southeast Arizona. Cochise’s spirit was never captured and is alive and well at Cochise Stronghold.
As our loaded down minivan raced the sun’s setting light to the Stronghold, we bounced down the road quiet and calm with the jagged spine of rock mountains before us. Would we have enough time to use the last sun rays to find the perfect camp for the next 8 days? Yes. We pulled into camp at the base of a protective rock barrier with a big expansive view of the setting sun. Stepping out of the van we could feel that this place was not preserved by strict laws, or museum like encasement. Any stories or thoughts that were previously racing through our minds of things that may or may not be happening somewhere else dissipated. We were quietly and peacefully engulfed into the present as we set up camp that first night. We felt safe, welcome and invited to stay there.
It is said that the great Apache war shaman Geronimo passed freely between the physical and the spirit world. That is how Geronimo could run 100 miles carrying only a spoonful of water in his mouth for nourishment. That’s how he was able to help the passing of the Apache people from the physical world to the Spirit world. Squeezed between pain and suffering Geronimo was known to be captured on purpose in order to achieve other means. It was common knowledge that if in battle you were charging Geronimo or had him surrounded, it was so because that was what he wanted, all of your actions were a consequence of his larger plan, which was to free the spirit of the Apache. The Dragoon Mountain Range, our home for the week, is considered a direct portal between the two worlds. It is where Geronimo brought 150 Apaches from the San Carlos starvation camp. He led them into this maze of jagged granite towers and canyons, possibly passing though our camp, where they eluded the United States Army and made a pact with the spirit world.
When we awoke that following morning we turned our attention to the 100 foot tall cliff that was part of our camp. Jacob and Elias put up a target on a nearby mesquite tree and began working on bow and arrow shooting. I stacked a rope at the base of one of the routes and Michelle belayed me up as Ila played in the dirt. We climbed 1, 2 3 climbs and moved on to breakfast. Michelle began homeschooling with Elias. Jacob and I climbed more. The climbing was physical, thoughtful and low on stress. This was just one rock in an immense rocky landscape but we had no desire or need to move on. This spot was so intriguing and engaging that we made this our rhythm for several days. Views to the west brought the Serengeti to mind and the rest of the landscape, a fortress of rocks. Our imaginations and actions remained in the present yet life felt timeless.
At the time of the Apache Wars the policies of the US government towards the Apache were set forth by such sentiments as this by the bureau of Indian Affairs:
“This race is destined to a speedy and final extinction, all that can be expected from an enlightened and Christian government, such as ours, is to graduate and smooth the passway of their final exit from the state of human existence.”
During the late 19th century this region saw the highest concentration of forts and military presence in Western US history in order to fight the Apache. It was also at this time that the small mining towns of the region boomed. The precious metals being excavated from the hill sides were in high demand as were whiskey and whores. The most infamous of these towns was Tombstone, Arizona. During its peak Tombstone not only saw a military and mining presence but there was the smuggling of cattle across the US/ Mexico boarder. This brought to the region the “cowboy”, originally not to be confused with a cattleman or rancher but a slang term to describe “the worst kind of outlaw that there is”. Gunfights were common in Tombstone, Arizona with the most famous of all to take place at The OK Corral, between “law men” Doc Holiday, Wyatt Erp and his brothers versus “The Cowboys”, the McLaury brothers and Bill Clanton. Tombstone and it’s legacy was so rowdy and so intense this is where the term Wild West was coined. That Wild West is now gone.
On the forth day at our camp we needed two things, water and clean laundry. Excited to see some of these infamous local sights we drove the 10 miles of dirt road to Tombstone and found Tombstone in what is considered by the US Park Service to be in a preserved state. It is true that you can legally carry a gun down the street in the state of Arizona but in Tombstone you won’t need one. It most certainly is dwelling on the past with reenactments of the shootout at the OK Corral and plenty of Old West tourist activities. But the streets are clean, calm and preserved. The Wild West is definitely gone.
We continued on to Bisbee, Arizona and found a strange big hole in the ground of a town that once boomed during the industrial revolution and many booms and busts thereafter. Copper is no longer being mined there but the town is still going strong on it’s own right. Artists, musicians and bohemian types have taken over the very quaint little town with tight hilly streets, restaurants, galleries, hotels and pedestrian life.
For the remainder of the week we settled back into our own little stronghold allowing our souls and spirits to flourish. We took hikes deeper in the mountains, we pushed ourselves rock climbing and everyday we felt increasingly better. The good work is to push yourself without distractions. We spent time with our neighbors Jodi and Mike. Both of them perhaps 25 years older than us and kick ass climbers. They showed us first hand that taking care of your spirit year after year keeps you strong….and happy. Thank you Mike and Jodi for your hospitality, for letting me try the belay glasses, for the blue lollipops, the wine, the yummy truffles and the camp fire.
It was a bit sad packing up our tents at the end of our time. We discussed coming back sans kids in a bunch of years to climb some more, enjoy the magnificent sunsets and sit under the huge starry sky together. For now, we are bound to move on.
Thank you Cochise Stronghold!