Sunday, March 29, 2020

Agua Caliente, Date Ranch Rock House and the Stout Hotel in Gila Bend - More Social Distancing

AZBackroadsGirl's FJ Cruiser - looking particularly awesome
Today's outing was to places I've been to before - so not much history - just a few pictures.  We started out headed to Agua Caliente (see the posts in 2010 for history).  We stopped at the cemetery - which is still kept up, but I was dismayed to see that at least one of the fenced grave sites has been toppled.  Here are the 2010 and the 2020 photos...

Much of the rest of the cemetery looked to be in decent shape.  They have placed HUGE flags on the veteran grave sites, which was a nice touch, but they are looking a bit weathered.  But it was still a nice walk around a cemetery I've been to many times.  

Agua Caliente Resort - Front Porch

Then we were off to the Agua Caliente resort - nobody was around today, so Paul and I walked all around the grounds, and checked out some cool stuff I had never seen before.  For instance, I discovered that the main portion of the building is adobe.  Please note that this IS private property - if you choose to walk around, please do not touch anything, do not take anything, and do not damage anything.  There is a caretaker building in the back.  

Hyder, AZ

After we finished exploring around Agua Caliente (and turning all the knobs and flipping all the switches), we were off to Hyder - a quick hop, skip and a jump away.  I still don't know much more about Hyder other than it was one of the training spots of General Patton in WWII, and according to some additional sources, during the 60's it housed a foreman and his family, along with other "track gang" folks for the Southern Pacific Railway.  

Dateland Rock House
After discovering that we would not have enough time to make the entire loop, we chose instead to head back towards the I-8, and check out the Dateland Rock House.  This house was supposedly built in 1902, and was possibly visited by Bill Cody (yes, THE Buffalo Bill Cody).  His name and the date are scratched into the wall of the home, but the entire building was covered in bees, and, well, we all know I don't do so well with bees.  So we practiced social distancing with the bees as well.  I stayed 6 feet away.

Stout's Hotel - Gila Bend, AZ

As we headed back, we decided to take a quick stop at the Stout Hotel in Gila Bend.  This hotel has always looked run down and derelict.  It appears that it used to be the absolute place to see and be seen when one was traveling from California to Old Tucson Studios for filming - and you can see bits of the glamour even now.  Lucky for all of us, as of 2018, it was placed on the National Historic Register, and the town of Gila Bend is trying to figure out how best to utilize the space while saving the hotel.  Paul and I both kind of fell for this old building - I look forward to a day when maybe they will open it again and we can go see more of the inside!  

And the time came for us to end our trip - as we were headed up the 85, I wanted to take Paul to see Hobo Joe.  Everyone knows I love Hobo Joe - he's kind of "my" Roadside America thing - so I took Paul to see him.  But he wasn't there.  Mild panic set in, but I did a quick search and found that he had been refurbished and VERY recently put back on display in the main part of Buckeye.  But we didn't have time to go see him - SO - I dropped Paul off, and I went back.  I had to look for my Hobo Joe.  And I found him.  Whoever did the restoration did an absolutely beautiful job, and while he feels a bit out of place where he's at, hopefully he will remain well kept and he can be watched over.  Even Bailey was a bit bummed when I initially told her Hobo Joe was gone - but then I showed her his new home, and how lovely he looked.  She was pleased as well. 

Hobo Joe from the Hobo Joe Coffee Shops

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Tonopah-Belmont Mine - Social Distancing - March 22, 2020

Belmont Mountain

So we decided it was time to get the kids out of the house.  They've been practicing social distancing and online school for a week, and they are going stir crazy!  So we decided to head out towards Tonopah and see what we could find.  It was a beautifully overcast day and nice and cool!

Our first stop was an attempt at the Aguila crystal fields.  Too much mud - we've had so much rain that everything is very green, and very muddy.  We were in my FJ, so we decided not to chance it and wait until things dry out before we go up there again.

We then decided to go to one of Bailey and my favorite haunts - the Tonopah-Belmont Mine.  Bales and I have been here several times - we love coming at dusk to watch the bats leave the cave - but today we got there earlier, and we just explored.  

Mill workings below one of the horizontal shafts
The Tonopah-Belmont mine is a former silver and lead mine where workings began around 1860.  No claims were official filed, however, until after World War I.  The Belmont Mine has a 600 foot shaft with workings at 100', 250' and 400'.  Each level had a 400 foot horizontal shaft.  The mine ceased working after the Great Depression, and remained open for explorers until 1990.  At that time, a man who entered the mine fell 350 feet to his death.  The Arizona Department of Mines & Mineral Resources then placed steel grates across all the entrances.  Unfortunately, in 2002, another man pried open the steel grates and fell to his death as well.  In all the years the Belmont Mine worked as a mine, they never had a single death.  Many mines around Belmont have been filled by the Dept of Mines & Mineral Resources due to careless and unwary explorers.    

Belmont Dynamite Shed
As we bounced down the road from Vulture Mine, we passed lots of other families just trying to get out - everyone keeping their distance, but enjoying being outside.  We passed the old Dynamite Shed (shown here from above), and rounded around to the parking area beneath the old building foundations.  

We parked the truck and jumped out for some lunch.  The adults and the kids all downed some Gatorade, ate some veggies, and decide to hike up to the horizontal shaft (you cannot drive up there - it's blocked off).  As we hiked up there, the kids took off ahead and Paul and I sauntered up enjoying the view and talking about the trail and all the other mines in the area.  I've been here many times, and have spent a great deal of time exploring the area on quads.  I've seen many open mines around the area - I know there are plenty still out there.  We didn't, however, run in to any today!

The kids found the horizontal shaft and waited for us to arrive so we could all go in and take a look.  About 20 feet inside the shaft is a huge steel grate - and just beyond that you can see holes in the floor of the shaft.

Bailey at an upper vertical shaft
Bailey and Paul coming
back down
We came out and I pointed out the upper vertical shaft that has been fenced off.  This shaft is a serious scramble up the side of Belmont Mountain, and Bailey and Paul decided they were going to do it!  So like a couple of mountain goats, up they went.  

And then they had to scramble back down again.  They decided to take a different path down.  Watching them go up, then back down again, I was so glad I didn't go up (I've been up there before).  

We left the mine area, and went back down to let the kids go up to the old building foundations.  Bailey always remembers this area fondly because we found an old railroad spike here once.  And some square nails.  But nothing was found today - although they searched.  

Mill ruins from the road below
Then it was back in the truck and start the drive home - we headed out to the South - towards I-10.  It's an easy ride - easier than the road in from Vulture Mine.  We saw lots of things we were interested in exploring, but we will save those for a later time.

Stay safe my exploring friends - wash your hands - and stay socially distant.  These are stressful and strange times.  But we don't have to be stressed or strange - for some of us - this makes for glorious outings!

Leaving the Big Horn Mountain Range

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A Bit of Solo Urban Exploration

Arlington Cattle Company - Arlington, AZ
So I decided to do a quick Urban Exploration loop the other night - the moon was full, and I needed to drive for a bit...I drove to places I had been before, and in fact, have blogged about - so there won't be much in the way of history here - just pictures that showcase the heartbeat of Arizona - farmland at its finest.

Along the Gila River southwest of Phoenix lies a valley with some of the best farm land in Arizona - Arlington, Palo Verde and Liberty.  Small pioneer communities with big dreams - beautifully decaying right before our eyes. These communities flourished in the early 1900's when building canals and harnessing the power of the Gila River was a thing.  The Old Highway 80 is a wonderful drive back in history - it is frequented by motorcyclists for the long, slow rolling roads, and by photographers for the amazing buildings and ruins along the way...

The Arlington Cattle Company works is one of my favorite places to photograph.  The pictures NEVER turn out bad.  It's a beautiful plant, stuck in time, and easy to see and photograph without trespassing.  

Gillespie Dam from the Historic Gillespie Bridge
On down the road is the collapsed Gillespie Dam.  For history on this Dam, see one of my earlier blog posts where I talk in detail about the structure of the dam and the history of the dam and its collapse.  

I've been to the broken Gillespie Dam probably 15 times.  It's a place I go when I need to "get away."  I go there to see the power of the Gila River - to see that man can be powerless over nature.  To see the beautiful tragedy that is the broken dam.  

This time was no different - I wanted to sit and just be.  But this time, the Dam had been closed off.  You can no longer walk down to the old concrete apron.  You can no longer get close enough to see the mud swallow nests.  I've often wondered in the past why it was open when there were still dam operations going on on the East side of the dam.  I've wondered what would happen if a flash flood came through and all those people who camp and fish down there had no idea.  I guess someone else wondered too.  

So I took the best pictures I could, and decided to head down to Gila Bend.  The sun was starting to go down, and I'm glad I went - I got wonderful pictures of this old barn - I fell in love with this barn and was there taking photos for close to 30 minutes.  

There is something beautiful about this dilapidated old mess of twisted metal and wood.  I drove past it, slammed on the brakes, turned around, and parked and got out.  I don't know what it was that called to me - maybe it was the way the sun went down around it - maybe it reminded me of something - I don't know.  But I loved this barn.  It might have been my favorite part of this evening drive I took.  

I continued on to Gila Bend after the sun set, stopped at the Chevron and got some licorice and went back - I wanted a night photo at the Arlington Cattle Company with the full moon...again - I'm so glad I did.  This trip was worth every photo...

Arlington Cattle Company - Arlington, AZ

Annual Humbug Trip - With a Side Excursion!

China Dam - Sunrise on Humbug Creek
Saturday started off early - earlier than AZBackroads Girl is accustomed to waking up.  Met up with her off-road buddy Paul at 6 a.m.  At Lake Pleasant.  So I'd already been up and driving for 45 minutes - not to mention the 45 minutes before that to wake up, shower, pack up, and go.  BUT - we only had until 2 pm to explore, so early it is!  Shall we discuss the fact that I didn't get to sleep until 1 a.m.?  A mixture of being busy and excitement over going out caused me to not sleep.  

We didn't want to wake up Dave and Theresa at Humbug too early, so we decided to explore another homestead that Paul had discovered some time ago while armchair exploring on Google Earth.  Paul has already been - but I haven't - and I needed to go.  NEEDED.  Wasn't willing to take my truck, however.  His truck is "all grown up" and modified - mine is still a baby truck (we're fixing that, by the way - just bought skid plates!!)

Lake Pleasant from the trail
First stop after turning off on the Ft. Tule Creek road was the old China Dam.  I've been up here a hundred times and never seen the Dam.  So we made a little trek over to see it.  I was squealing and hyperventilating as we went down into a wash and up the other side - something I'm not sure I would have even taken the quads on back in the day (I thought it was really a tight V dip).  The FJ handled it like a champ, however.  Not sure why I was surprised.

The China Dam is on Humbug Creek and was built in the late 1880's for hydraulic mining purposes.  Not much more is known, except that it is a very popular place for off-roaders to go.  

I took a few pictures with my phone, but there were campers down there and we didn't want to disturb anyone at what was probably 6:30 a.m. or so, so back we went.  And over the scary little wash.  Which someone now found VERY funny because I was covering my face with my hands and squeaking like a mouse.  (Insert rolly-eyes emoji here)

Side Note - When did I become scared of basic off-roading?  My Dad took us all over the state of Colorado in the old Scout - and we went on some pretty hair-raising stuff.  I've never liked shelf-roads (heights aren't my thing), but seriously - when did this become "scary"?  

Latrine at the Homestead
Now we are off on the trail to the super-secret homestead from Google Earth.  It was an absolutely stunningly beautiful drive up into the Bradshaw foothills and up and around the creek.  Nothing too scary - had to find the correct route a time or two - but after we crossed the creek a time or two, all of the sudden I shout "I see stuff - I see stuff!!!"  On the other side of the creek I see old appliance trash - old refrigerators and washing machine shells.  I know we are close.  Paul runs the truck through the creek one last time and as we pop up the other side - I see old buildings!  I'm bouncing around all excited and can't wait to jump out and explore - there are a number of small buildings - and a latrine!  

Inside the main cabin are some built in bunk beds with sleeping bags and foam camp cushions (all newish), and a trunk with old books and the requisite Penthouse magazine.  It's just there for the articles though.  

I have no history at this time on this homestead.  It's on BLM Land - which is about all I know for certain.  I suspect it is an old homestead for cattle ranchers - but I'm still researching those land patents and it will take some time as the BLM/GLO records from the 20's and 30's are spotty.  

Paul and I poke around for awhile - looking at all the old trash, foundations, buildings, etc.  It's a beautiful place - but it's clear that at times the creek floods and the water gets up to some of the buildings as there is sediment build up inside - so perhaps not the best place in the world for a homestead - but it is gorgeous.  And someone spent a great deal of time building it.  If I find more information, I will post an update.  

After an hour or so of hanging around and exploring all around the area, we decide it's time to head to Humbug.

Saguaros above the Humbug Cemetery
Now I've posted about Humbug before.  So I'm not going to go in to any history - this is the annual Humbug Open House - always the first weekend in March.  Dave Burns graciously opens up Humbug to visitors who want to come and explore.  I've been going up there since 2010 and didn't take many pictures this time because I've taken so many on the 6 or so times I've been up there before.

Dave and Theresa were gracious hosts as always.  Paul didn't make it to the cemetery last time he was up here (2014) so Dave took us up there early before people started showing up so we could see where Newt White, Pat Fogerty and Johnny Lee are all buried.  We pay our respects, and found a single poppy amidst tons of lavender.  

Poppies in Humbug
As we hike back towards the Big House, we decide to head across the creek to check out the original homesteads of Joseph Champie and others - mostly just rubble foundations now.  There is a cool old stone smelter, and some other more modern stuff, including an old trailer, an outhouse, a chicken coop, and an old shed with a HUGE abandoned bee hive dripping with honeycomb.  

I find the old refrigerator that I take pictures of every time, take a few pictures, and I tell Paul that when I've opened it in the past, there was a huge black widow inside.  Guess who still lives inside the fridge?  The big fat black widow!

Humbug Big House from across the creek

Humbug is such a lovely throw back to a different time - the perfect place to spend a lazy day - especially when there are so few people up there.  When its busy, Dave teaches kids to pan for gold, and will give tours of the main Humbug ruins.  When I go to Humbug - I'm reminded of being a kid.  A time of exploring, hiking, no cell phones, no responsibilities - just wide open spaces that invite you to just "keep going."  Humbug is one of my most favorite places on Earth.  I've made friends, I've learned things, and I've simply sat back and taken it in.  

That is what Humbug was for me this year...pure bliss.

Vermilion Flycatcher in Humbug

Sunday, March 1, 2020

It's a new decade, and AZBackroadsGirl is back!

Agua Fria River north of Lake Pleasant after a small storm - February 29, 2020

So it's been a while - but I'm back - in full force!  The FJ, the Nikon, Bailey and I are hitting trails and taking pictures.  More to come soon!

AZBackroadsGirl (Bobbi Jo)