Tag Archives: High Desert

We Don’t Need No Stinking Guardrails

Coronado National Forest is one of the wonders of the world. It is not contiguous and comprises many mountain ranges in various parts of southern Arizona. I live near the Huachuca Mountains district. The forest is named after Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, born to a noble family in Spain in 1510.  In 1535 he sailed to Mexico and explored much of what is now the American southwest. During his expeditions, many native tribes of Indians were massacred or enslaved, and Coronado became known for crushing slave rebellions. He was not the first conquistador to commit atrocities, Pizarro was a ruthless explorer who brought down the Inca Empire, and Cortés conquered the Aztecs. Though the Aztecs had a complex civilization, they made enemies because of their customs of slavery and human sacrifice, and some tribes sided with the Spaniards.

The standard Spanish requirimiento to native peoples was to “acknowledge the Church as the ruler and superior of the whole world, and the high priest called Pope, and in his name the King and Queen” (of Spain). In 1540 Coronado commanded an expedition of 1400 soldiers and slaves and found Cibola, a Zuni settlement in what is now New Mexico. Disappointed that there was no gold, he ordered the Zuni to submit. When they failed to obey, “with the help of God we shall forcefully… make war against you… take you and your wives and children and shall make slaves of them.” The Zuni resisted, but were no match for the Spanish military.

A few years later Coronado retired to Mexico and held a governor’s position. Because of his many atrocities, he was demoted to a lower government position in 1544, and died several months later. There are differing views of the conquistadors, from hatred to admiration.

I have ambivalent feelings toward Arizona, but what I love most is it is not a nanny state. As you drive up through the mountains on winding, narrow, pitted dirt roads, the sheer unrailed drop is both scary and exhilarating. Coming from Connecticut, I never fail to note how this simply would not be allowed there. Instead of a warning sign, they’d have a “closed to public” sign.

I lay down in the tall grass along the main road leading into the park.

Beautiful old oak on the road in.

Sign warning of border dangers.

Border patrol on guard, but way too few of them.

Warning sign

View of US land from hilltop

View from hill, looking toward Bisbee.

What Coronado saw: view from hilltop, US land. The ribbon-like line behind this range is the San Pedro River.

View of Mexico from hilltop

Dead tree twisted into exotic shapes.

Fires are a major problem here. This tree has been burned.

A tree root that looks like a bird head.

Tough old yucca—it’s so windy here that everything is weather-beaten.

Den of small animal, unknown what kind though, maybe even rattlesnake.