Today we visited the ruins of old Camp Rucker in the Chiricahua Mountains. The weather was cool and blustery, but the rain held off until this evening – so we were very lucky! The journey to get there was through picturesque Arizona basin and range topography, along AZ Rte 191, and at one point ran alongside Wilcox Playa (that is a bombing range). We watched two “warthogs” doing maneuvers and saw their “targets” in the desert (2 mobile artillery emplacements). From there we went east on Rucker Canyon Road until we arrived at Fort Rucker.
Old Camp Rucker is located on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains in Rucker Canyon. It is unmarked from the road and a bit difficult to find, but our friends, Shorty and Hazie had found it before, and shared today’s adventure with the two of us plus another couple (Steve and Tina from Ontario). All four of us have been enjoying Shorty and Hazie’s hospitality at their awesome home and unofficial mini RV park at Sunsites, AZ. Also along for the adventure was “Muffy”, Shorty and Hazie’s “heeler” dog.
Camp Rucker was originally known as “Camp Supply” when it was established at this location in April, 1878. In July of that same year, a flash flood occurred and claimed the life of one Lt.Henely and also of one Lt.Rucker, who died trying to rescue him. In December of that year the camp assumed its lasting name of “Camp Rucker” in his honor.
The buildings themselves were fascinating. Primitive building techniques such as cob and adobe are part of our history and always seem like they would be satisfying to build… creating a dwelling from the dirt beneath your feet is an attractive and intriguing concept. Some of the buildings (mostly the ones with sound rooftops) stood the test of time, while others had crumbled to ruins. Some of the buildings (such as the one pictured above) have been stabilized with new adobe and mortar. Also – the buildings have seen many uses by a succession of owners over the years, so some of the construction includes more “modern” materials…such as asphalt tile. You can walk into the buildings and explore at your leisure without restrictions. Sadly, in a few buildings, people have left the mark of their ignorance with graffiti… but for the most part things remain as they were, with some incursions and modifications by mother nature.
One of the better preserved buildings is the Bakery Building. The roof is made of cedar shakes and provided good protection for the adobe.
Some of the soldiers who were stationed there also seemed to have been “well preserved” as this quote from one of the interpretive signs attests:
“Owing to the many cases of drunkedness at this camp, it is hereby ordered that in the future not more than three (3) drinks of intoxication liquor be sold or given to any enlisted man in any one day by the Post Trader or his employees, at least two (2) hours interval occurring between each drink. A violation of this order will immediately be followed by the expulsion of the offending party beyond the limits of this camp.”
This order apparently applied only to the enlisted men – so one is given to wonder about the officers!
But back to the buildings themselves – and speaking of the officers – here are a few pictures of the Officer’s Quarters…
The Officer’s Quarters had glass windows, a hearth with decorative tile veneer, and a decorative painted ceiling… although the officers who were stationed there when it was still a supply camp did not enjoy the “fancy” trimmings. Those artistic details would be added by later owners of the camp – particularly by artists Theodore and Mathilde Hampe. Still the Officers Quarters building was a cut above the stockaded tent structures enjoyed by the enlisted men.
Beginning in the 1880s, after Camp Rucker was abandoned, the camp was reincarnated as a ranch and had a succession of owners through the early 1970s, when Camp Rucker was finally transferred to the Forest Service.
After having lunch at the picnic area nearby, we headed back the way we came but didn’t get very far before running into a large road block… with Shorty’s guidance, Muffy sprang into action to do what she does best, and we were soon on our way again.
This is a beautiful area, but this part of the state is a well-known corridor for smugglers and illegals from Mexico… so be careful if you venture here – you have to be on the lookout at all times for sketchy looking characters such as this one!