Understanding location lighting is a matter of experience and luck.
Cochise Stronghold campsites are on the eastern slope of the Dragoons, sheltering them from the late afternoon sun.
One this day in April I explored the trails until sunset and was lucky enough to be setup for the 14 minutes of that day when the light was absolutely perfect.
“Dragoon Spires in Afternoon Light”
These photographs are from two days spent at Cochise Stronghold, a part of the U.S. Forest Service Coronado Forest managed by Arizona State Parks located off the Interstate 10 East of Tucson between Benson and Wilcox.
This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors, located here.
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Born in present-day Arizona, Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. In 1850, the United States took control over the territory that today comprises Arizona and New Mexico. Not hostile to the whites at first, he kept peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861, when he became their implacable foe because of the blunder of a young U.S. Army officer, Lt. George Bascom. In that year, Cochise and several of his relatives had gone to an encampment of soldiers in order to deny the accusation that they had abducted a child from a ranch. The boy was later proved to have been kidnapped by another band of Apaches.
During the parley, Cochise and his followers were ordered held as hostages by Bascom, but Cochise managed to escape almost immediately by cutting a hole in a tent. Bascom later ordered the other Apache hostages hanged, and the embittered Cochise joined forces with Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a guerrilla struggle against the American army and settlers. The capture and murder of Mangas Coloradas in 1863 left Cochise as the Apache war chief. The U.S. Army captured him in 1871 and prepared to transfer the Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles away, but he escaped again and renewed the resistance campaign. The following year after negotiating a new treaty with the help of Thomas Jeffords, the band was allowed to stay in their homeland.
Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle. He died peacefully on the newly formed Chiricahua reservation in 1874. His son, Taza succeeded him as chief. Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress. The exact location has never been revealed or determined.
The town of Cochise, Cochise County, the renowned geological feature known as Cochise’s Head in the Chiricahua Mountains, and the Stronghold are all named in tribute to him.
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