Sunday, November 22, 2020

RVing in the time of COVID 7: The Gadsden Route

We spent the last two weeks birding, hiking, and camping in SE Arizona and SW New Mexico.  Birding a part of America that was the last part of America in the lower 48.  All of this was a part of Mexico and only because America needed a transcontinental railroad and Mexico needed money did we get it--The Gadsden Purchase, named after James Gadsden.

History does not look kindly on James Gadsden.  There is nothing politically correct about him in any sense.  Almost everything bad that was happening from 1830 to 1860, he was in the middle of.  In the US Army, he actively worked on the rounding up and the deporting Seminoles from Florida in the "Trail of Tears." He promoted succession by South Carolina after California was admitted as a free state in 1848-49.  He then connived the state of California with a project to split the state in two where he would settle a colony in the southern half with 1200 colonists and 2000 slaves.  When that didn't work, he ended up in Government of all things, as the appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in the Pierce Administration, specifically, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico, what a title. 

As bad a man as he would be looked on later, but he did negotiate the last significant land acquisition to form the contiguous 48 states, the Gadsden Purchase added some 20 million acres at a purchase price of just over 33 cents/ an acre. Santa Ana, the ruler in Mexico at the time hated Gadsden, and as far as can be found, almost everyone hated him.

He tried to get more and he did get more, but the US Congress voted the original agreement down, but then agreed to by 2/3 of it at 2/3 of the price.  $7.1 Million dollars was sent to Mexico City but oddly, only $6.1 million reportedly arrived.  The final agreement was signed in June 1854, and the purchase basically added all the land in New Mexico south of I-10 and then a line north near the present New Mexico/ AZ border to Gila River, and all of Southern AZ south of the river.  

For us birders, this Purchase added nearly 50 birds to the US Birding list, as all of the Sky Islands are in this territory, and what was almost bought, would not have given the US a port on the Gulf of Baja, but would have dropped the border south of where it was now nearly 100 miles.  Many might not know that the Gila River in Arizona was the Southern boundary until Gadsden came around.

Then there was George Bascam, a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Calvary stationed at Ft Buchanan south of Tucson.  He graduated next to last of his class at West Point.  Bascam through idiocy and bad luck (the bad luck was that his major and captain were on leave, and indisposed), caused the decades long Apache War by trying to get the release of a local rancher boy from Cochise, but would not believe him when Cochise said he didn't do it (turned out he was correct, a northern tribe had), During the sit down, Bascam took many of Cochise's family prisoner, then Cochise escaped.  Then he took a Calvary patrol prisoner, and offered to exchange them with Bascam, but Bascam only wanted the boy which Cochise never had. and hung Cochise's brother and killed others.  Cochise killed the soldiers and then the war was on, with the Apaches changing their hatred of Mexicans to Americans, and taking no side in the Civil War attacking Confederate outposts as well as Union and then continuing to even 1933, when the last band was defeated in Mexico.  The death and misery caused by an inexperienced young officer in charge of "getting the boy back at all costs," was incalculable.  Would someone else caused the massacres later?  Bascam died in the mud in the Battle of Valverde Ford New Mexico the next year, being run over by Confederate Calvary, in an inglorious end to a man that deserved such a fate. 

Ruins of Fort Bowie built to protect the northern Chiricahua Mountains at Apache Pass, near location of the Bascam Incident of 1861.  Before this fort closed in 1894 it was surprisingly large, with many many buildings.

The Geronimo Surrender Memorial near Apache, Arizona, he surrendered in Skeleton Canyon in New Mexico east of here.  It was a sad end to a people who lived by marauding in a world that changed

South Fork of Cave Creek

view above the forks of Cave Creek

Chiricahua National Monument

View above Cave Creek

Some of the birds of the Gadsden purchase, we saw the eared quetzal on three days, but I was not able to get a decent photo, I had a photo in June so it wasn't a priority

Blue-throated Mountain Gem at Cave Creek Ranch

Female ladderbacked woodpecker

Red-naped sapsucker

A female Ruddy Ground Dove from Rodeo NM, a Mexican rarity seen most years north of the border, this year there seems to be lots of them

Gambel's Quail

Great Horned owl

Then there was this Bullsh%#t, literally.  we were at Willow Tank and this bull was snorting sand then I realized the fence was incomplete.  We got into the car quickly.

The camper next to us in Rodeo.  A different camper where one has a semi pulling a 5th wheel.  The smart car drives up between, apparently there are a whole convention of these types of campers  that meet.  The ramp folds up and is stowed below the car.

The view from our Campsite at Rusty's RV Ranch north of Rodeo, NM

Our last night in the Gadsden Purchase, before we zoomed across to El Paso and left eastward to continue our journey.

As COVID goes, Hidalgo County NM has few cases, we bought a rug from an old lady that last Monday, New Mexico told her she had to close and this was her source of income.  Her shop was the only touristy place open in New Mexico.  The restaurant next to the Museum on the Portal road was supposed to close access for inside, it was a quarter mile from AZ border, yet....the Portal Lodge could be open in Portal just up the road.  

In El Paso despite reports on TV of the dire overflowing morgue.  Of the two ERs we drove by yesterday one was dead, the other looked like they had a couple of patients, but no lines.  The restaurants were crowded.  Juarez had people all over the streets you could see from I-10 and the traffic in El Paso was nuts, and on a Saturday.  The shopping also looked busy, so maybe things were bad, but people were ignoring it, or they just said screw it and were doing what they wanted, or the TV was into sensationalism.  El Paso is the largest US city no one ever hears about and the most Democratic in, it isn't a red/blue don't hear news from El Paso unless it is very bad.  We are heading to Jeff Davis County in Texas which has had just a few cases.  




  1. Interesting history lesson on the area I live, which, of course, I knew nothing about. Thanks.
    I drove to that area south of Rodeo, ( actually mm 397 on Highway 80 ), I think the day you left to see if I could refind a very cooperative White tailed Kite that was roosting on an Agave literally right beside the road. Steve Wolfe, on Facebook, and who lives in Portal, got killer shots. Unfortunately, the bird seems to be missing in action despite using that site since June. There is also apparently a fairly cooperative male Northern Goshawak that hangs out in a dead Cypress snag on the way up the Quetzal site. So, another trip may be in order. Safe travels and hope the Montezuma Quail cooperates for you in the Davis Mountains

  2. I had heard the goshawk had flown up canyon when we walked the south fork of Cave creek, but never looked for a kite, oh well...


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