Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day - May 9, 2011 - CK and Horsethief

Horsethief Lake in Horsethief Basin

Today was an absolutely beautiful day.  Randy and I woke up early and headed up to Crown King with the intent to ride down to Oro Belle and take some new photos with the new camera.  Yes, going to Crown King and to Oro Belle is getting a tad bit old...we seem to go there alot.  But we know it well, and, well, I have a new camera.  So we had to go back.  Besides - the road changes every year...right?  Right!

It was an uneventful drive up to Crown King, except that I couldn't find the town of Bumble Bee.  You know, the one right on the main Bumble Bee road?  It's an old stage stop, but over the last 20 or so years when I've been through, there hasn't been much left except the false front town designed in the 1930's to attract tourists.

Road to Crown King as seen from Oro Belle

Well, guess what.  That's apparently gone too.  The old store/bar - couldn't find that either.  Either I'm not remembering things well (slight possibility), or someone razed Bumble Bee, the fake-ghosttown.  I'll have to follow up on that.

We tootled through Cleator, then headed up the old switchbacks to Crown King.  I'll save the history lesson for a later time, because I really want to get this published tonight (I have 4 others I've started over the past year and didn't get finished), and because we're going back up to Crown King in a month for Mining Days.  By the way - for those of you that don't know - the road to Crown King is fairly steep, dirt (albeit graded), and about 30 miles long.  One way. 

Oro Belle General Store ruins
Anyway - we got up to Crown King, parked the truck, unloaded the quad, and headed out towards Oro Belle.  I was freezing.  It was roughly 61 degrees or so out, and I didn't have a jacket.  Go figure - it was 80 when we left Phoenix...  Anyway - as I whined about being cold, and Randy kept telling me it would warm up, we made it down to Oro Belle.  Someone has graded the rock crawls, and the road was exceptionally smooth for a "primitive road".  The creek was beautiful and running pretty decently - it was quiet and nobody was zooming around the trail yet (it was still roughly 9:30 or so in the morning - way to early for the runners up the trail to be up there far).  We walked around, took some pictures - the buildings are, sadly, deteriorating.  They are already so different then the first few times I went to Oro Belle in the early '90s.  One would completely miss the old store if they didn't realize it was there.

On our way back up, we stopped at the Tunnel Mine - a place we discovered on our last run.  Unfortunately, the Nickel Mining Company has since placed No Trespassing signs on the property.  What a shame - it's a beautiful little hideaway.  I can understand the danger, however.  The mine runs directly underneath the property as best as I can tell (hence the name "Tunnel Mine"). 
Tunnel Mine

Back up to the Senator Highway and we are off to Horsethief Basin Recreational Area.  Did I mention I'm still cold and whining at this point?  I'm also tired, which isn't helping things.  Poor Randy...

The road into Horsethief Basin isn't difficult.  We could have made it in the truck (which, by the way, would have been MUCH warmer!), but it sure was beautiful.  Unfortunately, the area has been recently ravaged by a forest fire.  There are ghost trees everywhere - it was eerily beautiful.

We rode and rode, and we gained in elevation.  And the wind started blowing.  I'm really cold now, and am past whining about it, and on to completely irritation.  And then we finally pull into Horsethief Basin Recreational Area, and go up to the lake.  What a breathtaking sight - it was quiet, we were the only ones there, except two mallard ducks.  I've never seen such a lovely lake in Arizona.  Ever.  The dam which created the lake (made, I believe, in the 1920's or 1930's in order to create a recreational spot for Phoenix residents) was lovely, and the lake was clear as a bell - you could see the trout swimming around. 
Road to Horsethief Basin

We ate some lunch, and decided to head back - It was so sad to see the burned areas - over 1/3 of the trail from Crown King to Horsethief has been burned - I don't know which fire it was, but it was clearly large - and clearly within the last few years.  All I could think of was Smokey the Bear - Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.  The picture to the right is a bit haunting, I think.  Such a lovely day, sunny and bright.  And burnt. 

Anyway - we headed back to Crown King, stopped in for our usual burger and iced tea, then decided to head back to Phoenix.  It was still early, but Mother's Day gatherings still awaited, and it was time to go.  On the way down, I explained to Randy alot about the mining history in the Bradshaws near Crown King.  I showed him where the old train tunnel used to be (it has been collapsed - I assume on purpose), we looked for the pilings for the old tramway that went up the mountain (which we didn't find), and we just, in general, enjoyed ourselves.  Until next time...

Happy Mother's Day to all.

View from the train switchbacks on the way to Crown King

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