Katherine Norman's book on sound art, which I wrote about a month or so ago, prominently featured maps as a tool for personal discovery. I have always loved maps, even as a kid, poring over atlases and letting my imagination wander. I still collect maps, using visits to the local outfitter as an excuse to find some other representation of the surrounding regions. Surprisingly, they disagree on road surfaces, sometimes even on locations, and the names for the obscure back roads seldom match what's printed on paper. And when it comes to trails, printed information can be little more than recollections. We visited one trailhead that stated specifically: no commercial map had been redone since a devastating fire in 1994, suggesting that a genteel trail hike could migrate into a bushwhack around any corner.
Our move to Arizona opened a whole new field of possibilities. Locations on maps evoke murky historical events whose cultural accumulation is overlaid with hundreds of western movies, moving whatever tenuous historical fact into the realm of image and myth. One of the first landmarks that captured my attention here was Cochise Stronghold, a pass through the Dragoon Mountains where the Apache leader held out for many years, able to escape to the east or west as circumstances dictated, and commanding a long range view of the surrounding plain. Like the Chiricahua Mountains, the next range to the east (and named after Cochise's tribe), visible in the photo above some fifty miles away, the Dragoons are loaded with breathtaking rock formations. I've been a bit intimidated to visit the stronghold because some sources indicate that four-wheel drive is required, but since we've traded our completely impractical convertible for an SUV, earlier this week we finally decided to check it out.
We can report that the roads to the stronghold, at least from the east side, are paved almost all the way, with just a few miles of improved dirt road to a campground at the trailhead. Although even a week ago we still had temperatures over 100 degrees, autumn has finally arrived to southern Arizona, so we had a most excellent hike to the top of the pass.