Pacheta Falls, Arizona – During the turn of the century, two cowboys living near the remote Pacheta Lake had been caught cheating at cards. As their reputation grew, they became known as a ‘Pair of Cheaters‘, hence the name Pacheta Falls was born. It was also during this time that fur trappers from Colorado were looking for beaver along the Black River. However, it was the Apache Tribe that occupied this area first and had done so for hundreds of years. The wisdom they shared with me is legendary.
The Apache’s (Ndee, “The People“) believe that we come from the earth and belong to the earth. Animals are respected and have equal rights to humans. The magnificent Pacheta Falls in beautiful Arizona was given to us by our creator. When the ‘white man‘ entered the area, they represented everything that was polar opposite of the White Mountain Apache Tribe:: felling forests, clearing land, destroying tribes and killing game for sport. Of course, not everything the tribe did was earth-wise and within conservation, but we are all human and those were the times.
The White Mountain Apache believed that their ancestors lived alongside supernatural beings. They believe that their spirits live within certain mountains, waterfalls and underground realms. For me, Pacheta Falls represents what an Apache might refer to as a portal to the spirit world. Refer to the Apache creation story , its wisdom teaches us that we are blood relatives to the mountains, trees, rocks and this dream-like Arizona waterfall.
“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” – Chief Seattle, 1854
As we stood overlooking Pacheta Falls, there was a female sheep standing about 40 yards away. She would eat, lay down and stand to take a glance in our direction without ever being frightened. She stood with us for almost two hours before we decided to hike out. It was that kind of moment. The wisdom of the Apache Tribe is still alive and it created a new depth for me. As the falls tumbled over edge, I recalled the statement that Chief Seattle delivered in 1851. It really was one of the most beautiful and profound statements as it relates to environment. It was given when his tribe was offered to sell two million acres of land for $150,000 by the ‘white man‘. You can read the whole speech here, but a few parts struck me as I stood within the belly of these falls:
1) “How can you buy or sell the sky or the warmth of the land? If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?”
2) “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.”
3) “Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.”
4) “We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.”
I can’t help but to be thankful that this beautiful Arizona country is protected by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. In part, because a part of me shares a similar belief system in that we, this world are all connected – All things are bound. From the largest mountain to the smallest plant, everything is sacred. And now, more than ever, I am begining to understand The Proper Function.
Pacheta Falls is spectacular and worth the several hour drive over washboard roads as you explore the high country of Arizona. You will be on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, so please be respectful and follow tribal rules:
The falls are simply picturesque! The 131 foot waterfall is surrounded by tall Douglas Fir and shearing cliffs that lead towards the Black River.
Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.