Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wagoner Road, Prescott, Congress and SNOW! Lots of snow!

Placerita Cabin
It's the weekend before Paul's birthday, so off we went on another adventure.  We planned this one out ahead of time - the plan started out as a repeat of our Memorial Day weekend adventures, then morphed into heading out to places that neither of us had been - and while we did end up on the Senator Highway (eventually), the road there was new and full of amazing surprises!  Cabins we could actually access, mines, and tons and tons of snow, which was unexpected!

Fire on the Mountains...
We wanted to get on the road early Saturday - we had plans to stay the night at the Hotel Vendome in room 16 - the haunted room - where Abby and her cat Noble haunt visitors that stay there - more on Abby and Noble to come!  We also wanted to go back to Murphy's for a nice birthday dinner for Paul.  So we needed to be in Prescott by 6 p.m.  So we left our house around 5:15 a.m. and started up the 60 to Wickenburg.  

Ninja Cow - If you know, you know...

We stopped in Wickenburg for a quick breakfast sandwich at McDonalds, and we were off again.  The sun was just starting to come up, and the clouds were sitting really, really low - like on the ground low!  As we turned off on the Congress side-route, we could see the clouds sitting in the valley like giant fluffy pillows.  It was a gorgeous, cold, cloudy morning and made for some amazing photos!

Placerita Cabin
Our first stop was a stone cabin in a gorgeous setting that I had been to back in the mid-90's.  I was really excited to show it to Paul, as he loves old cabins as much as I do - but that's all that is around in this area - this old cabin.  It's called Placerita Cabin.  I had found it back in the 90's in an old ghosttown book, but nobody ever wanted to go because it was a very long drive to just look at an old stone cabin.  And the directions were sketchy back then - go about 5 miles to this, turn right at the cactus, etc. Typical pre-GPS directions.  But no more! This cabin used to have windows, and a fireplace, a floor with a trap door, and had a lovely open area out in front - and it looked over a small creek.  As we drove down the road to get to Placerita, I commented on how well graded the road is now.  But then we came to the turn off for the "road" to the cabin.  There isn't a road anymore.  It is completely grown over, and in the areas you could see a slight semblance of a road, it was heavily rutted.  But it was about a 1/4 mile hike in, so we parked the Lewis & Clark and hiked/bushwhacked our way in.  
Lewis & Clark parked for our hike into the Placerita Cabin - isn't she beautiful?
As soon as the cabin came in to view, I wanted to cry.  There is no roof, half of it has tumbled down, and it wasn't anything like it was when I went in the 90's.  Fortunately, the clouds and rain made for some absolutely beautiful photographs of what was no longer a usable line cabin, but was now a dilapidated old stone house that was mostly fallen down.   

The Placerita Gulch was founded by Anson Wilber Callen - also known as "Old Grizzly."  In 1887, Anson found gold in this area.  Placerita Gulch, the location of the town of Placerita, is up the gulch a bit from the old cabin.  Anson Callen was a colorful old man - cantankerous is frequently used to describe him - and he had his share of problems and would strike it rich, then spend it away.  The area of Placerita Gulch was also a big goat farming area...but now the Cabin, while privately owned, is surrounded by a different private cattle ranch which has been in the area for years.  We could see that the owners were trying to keep the walls intact with adobe/concrete supports on the walls - but time - and people - have led to the ultimate demise of this once gorgeous cabin in the Weaver Mountains.  The history on the actual cabin is muddled, but it is said that there used to be a concrete marker above the door that read "Isabella - 1875."  I don't recall this marker, but when I last visited this cabin in the mid 1990's, the walls were still standing and there was still a floor (with the trap door even!).  All of that has since been destroyed - even as early as 2008 the front wall with the doorway was fallen...
Windmill along the way somewhere...I love old windmills - this one wasn't working
BUT - there was more to see, and more to do - so off we went.  Back up to Walnut Grove to see if we could check out the cemetery (we couldn't, the road was closed with a locked gate), and we stopped at the Walnut Grove church and school house.  
Walnut Grove Church - note the old bell out front
Walnut Grove has a very sad history.  In 1888 a dam was completed across the Hassayampa River 60 miles north of Wickenberg.  A lovely, two mile long lake was created, however, the people creating the dam wanted to cut corners, and ultimately, the culmination of multiple corners being cut as well as unusually heavy amounts of snow and rain in 1889 and 1890 led to the extreme swelling of the Hassayampa River.  In the late hours of February 21st and the early hours of February 22nd, 1890, the dam's controller knew it wasn't going to hold.  A man was sent off to warn everyone of the impending danger, but unfortunately, the man chose to stop and buy a bottle of whiskey instead, and sent someone else - but it was too late.  At 2 a.m. on the morning of February 22, 1890, the dam gave way with a sound said to be louder than that of  Niagara Falls, and a 100 foot high wall of water went roaring down the Hassayampa River.  In less than 30 minutes, the water reached a smaller dam 20 miles downstream, which could not hold the rush of water.  When the water hit Wickenburg 60 miles downstream, after killing many and leaving a barren path behind it, the wall of water was said to still be 40 feet tall, and a channel was cut in the path of the Hassayampa all the way to to where it empties into the Gila River in the Phoenix valley.  at 9:30 a.m., the water reached the Buckeye Canal just west of Phoenix proper, and spread out over the valley.  
Walnut Grove one room schoolhouse and swingset
It is thought that more than 100 people perished in this flood.  People who perhaps could have been saved except for a man and a bottle of whiskey.  The man was eventually charged with manslaughter, but got off because the laws of the time did not address manslaughter through negligence.  He could not, however, remain in Walnut Grove or any surrounding areas...for obvious reasons.  The Walnut Grove dam disaster is considered the worst natural disaster in Arizona...
Historic Hassayampa River Bridge
After a quick stop at the church and school house (which is not currently in use as they encourage home schooling and a virtual academy due to the rural nature of the area), we made some of Paul's new favorite Death Wish coffee and decided to head up to the P-Bar Camp.  We passed over the historic Hassayampa Bridge on the way - the bridge was constructed in 1924.  It is the only wagon bridge in the state of Arizona that combines through and pony truss spans, and is essentially in an unaltered condition due to the remote area, and is considered to be a significant remnant of early Arizona bridge construction.  In 1979, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  
Lewis & Clark at the P-Bar Camp barn - which is inhabited by squirrels!
The ride to P-Bar Camp was uneventful.  We were amused by the fact that there are signs on the way there - but it is in a VERY remote area of the Bradshaws and we didn't see a soul the entire way up there or back...
The beautiful fireplace in the field by the brick home at P-Bar Camp -  note someone has shored up the chimney with concrete
I have no history on the P-Bar Camp.  I've tried and tried to find some, but it is on Prescott National Forest land, and therefore the history of leasing, etc., is difficult, at best, to discover.  I would likely need to find a park ranger - but we saw nobody.  
P-Bar Camp brick and concrete home with the barn in the background
Front of the squirrel infested barn
It had a one-holer!
It had been raining up until this point, and then it started snowing - which we were thrilled about.  Occasional little balls of snow, possibly hail, would bounce on the hood of the truck - and we were trying to stay dry while exploring, but the rain and snow made the wood of the barn look amazing - and showed us why the concrete and brick home was so damaged - the roof had caved in - probably from water on the roof - but every room was damaged.  But this was such a beautiful setting - I could absolutely imagine living here.  There must have been another building at one point - there is a beautifully masoned stone fireplace just standing in the middle of a field...with another fireplace directly across from it.  But I cannot see that there was one in the last 20 or so years - at least not according to Google Earth.  
The kitchen of the brick and concrete house at P-Bar - it was the nicest room.  Tons of black mold...
But the time had come to head out and to our next destination - Baldwin Place.  We past some amazingly large ranches (specifically, McNary Place) - one has to wonder about these places - these people are 50-100 miles away from anything...but are living their best lives.  Cowboys, ranchers, and, I assume, their spouses and children.  Living a way of life that generations before them have lived...

And then we stumbled on Baldwin Place.  Baldwin Place IS on private property.  I want to make that clear.  There is a Forest Service or BLM fence up in front of the private fence - and we did not enter the house.  But again, a beautiful valley with a beautiful wood sided building and some old abandoned vehicles too!  As at P-Bar Camp, I have no history on the Baldwin Place.  There is a darling tree house as well - and looks to have been a wonderfully delightful place to grow up as a child...
Old Treehouse at Baldwin Place
Old house at Baldwin Place
An old 1940's era White dump truck
As we left Baldwin Place, the sleet/snow really started coming down.  We were now on the trek up from the valley up to the Senator Highway - so we knew it would get colder, and due to the cloud cover, we would likely be getting more snow.  It started out as a beautiful drive.  But by the time we reached our next WayPoint, the Trails End Mine, the snow had gotten much worse, and the clouds were sitting thick on the mountains.  It looked like something out of a horror film.  
Prickly pear cactus in the snow

In the middle of nowhere - the satellite radio was looking for us...muwahahahaha
The Trails End Mine is part of the Prescott National Forest, and is not currently operating.  It is a Gold and silver mine and appears to have been last operated in or around 2018.  It is obviously a newer mine, but we couldn't see much - the clouds were sitting so low - it looked really creepy - like something out of a horror story!!  There was an adit and some random equipment.  I have no idea if Paul went in the adit or not - it was cold, so I got back in the truck!
Trails End Mine Shaft and Hoist
Trails End Mine Adit
Trails End Mine - Ghostly Equipment
Bobbi Jo hanging out in the Lewis & Clark - where it was warm!
When we left the Trails End Mine, we started heading up towards the Senator Highway to a point on the 82A where we had already been some months before when we attempted to go to the Eloise Mine.  But we were the first ones to crunch through this newly fallen snow, and it was beautiful - especially when the clouds lifted and it was just 3-4 inches of fresh snow.  We could barely see the trail - but we enjoyed the quiet of the snowfall and the forest.
As we got closer to Palace Station, our waypoint on the Senator Highway, we were startled by a red tail hawk struggling, low to the ground, that suddenly dropped what it had in its claws and flew up into the tree next to us.   We jammed on the brakes and realized he had just caught himself a squirrel - the blood and tracks from the fight were just in front of us in the bright white snow of the trail - and now the carcass of the squirrel was lying just in front of us while the hawk eyed us from a close tree.  He was beautiful, but we didn't stick around too long as we wanted him to be able to retrieve his meal and finish it while it was still warm - but what an amazing thing to see - a once in a lifetime sort of moment to watch nature at her finest...doing what nature does!
Note the dead squirrel lying in front of the truck in the white snow.  We had backed up at this point (hence the tracks)
Palace Station is straight ahead of us
The red tailed hawk waiting for us to leave him to his meal...
When we turned on to the Senator Highway, the snow got much deeper - and the longer we drove, the deeper it got.  This is the Bradshaw Mountains at their most beautiful - evergreen pine trees and snow - a more beautiful setting in Arizona there is not - the closest thing I can think of to Colorado and the Rockies!
The Senator Highway outside of Prescott - covered in 6-8 inches of snow
As we drove into Prescott, the snow started to dissipate.  It was clear it hadn't snowed as much in Prescott as it had in the mountains - but it was still crisp and cold - and we had a fun night ahead of us at the Hotel Vendome - we were staying in the haunted room!
Hotel Vendome
I've stayed at the Hotel Vendome a few times - and always in the haunted room.  Abby Byr purchased the Hotel Vendome (built in 1917) in 1921 with her husband.  Abby had traveled to Prescott for treatment of her consumption, as many people did back in the 20's and 30's.  The Byr's had to sell the hotel due to unpaid taxes, however, the new owners were kind enough to let the Byr's stay on and manage the hotel for them.  One night, Abby's husband went out for medication, and never returned.  Abby was heartbroken and refused to eat.  She locked herself in her room with her cat Noble and they both died of starvation in room 16.  Abby is said to haunt room 16, as is her cat Noble.  
Abby and Noble's Room - Room 16
Paul and I quickly dropped off our stuff and decided to go get his birthday dinner over at Murphy's, as they have been closing early since Covid hit.  So off we went for escargot, filets and delicious drinks!  We then drove around looking at some of the old Victorian houses in and around downtown Prescott and watching the absolutely stunning sunset.  After a bit, we decided it was time to turn in and see if Abby or Noble would make their presence known.  
Lewis & Clark getting snowed on at Murphy's in downtown Prescott
Old Victorian homes in downtown Prescott, AZ
As I stated above, I've stayed at the Hotel Vendome several times - and always in Abby's room.  But I've never experienced Abby or Noble.  They have recently renovated the Hotel, and Abby's room is lovely now - and feels much more spacious.  The bed was relatively comfortable, and we watched some TV, then Paul dozed off.  I, on the other hand, did not sleep quite as well.  Around midnight, I woke up to a cat crying to get in. I remember thinking how cold it was and how sad that there was a cat outside in the below-freezing temperatures.  But then I drifted off to sleep after about 5 minutes of listening to it cry...
Downtown Prescott and the beautiful sunset!
The next morning I asked Paul if he heard the cat.  He did not.  And he didn't understand how I would have heard a cat either - we are on the second floor, and he said there was no way there would have been a cat outside at midnight crying to get in.  Paul is certain I heard Noble.  I don't know...but it was weird.  The lady at the front desk said she's never seen a cat around the hotel, so she also is certain I heard Noble.  
Yarnell Hotshots Memorial
Yarnell Hotshots Memorial
Either way, after a night at the Hotel Vendome, we were off - fortified with a glorious breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes and hashbrowns from Prescott Junction (amazing food, by the way), we went over to the Prescott Pioneer cemetery to pay our respects to the Yarnell Hotshots.  Then we jumped back on the 89A to head down towards Congress and the beginning of our journey.  We had one last stop we wanted to make - not having any idea the tragic story that was going to be discovered after...
Skull Rock
As we wound our way down the mountains and passed the Yarnell Hotshots hiking spot, as well as our turn off on Wagoner Road, we enjoyed the sun and the cool weather.  We turned off just before we reached Congress, AZ on the 62/Date Creek Road.  We were in search of a toppled crane I had seen several time on Facebook.  We passed the infamous skull rock, and turned off and headed into the Date Creek Mountains.  The Date Creek Mountains are full of more stunning views - large boulders making up the landscape.  It reminded me of Pyornkrachzark, the rock chewer in The Neverending Story - I kept waiting for them to rise up and become entities...
Date Creek Mountains by Congress, AZ
We finally made our way to the fallen crane.  And we discovered a memorial cross.  At the time, we had no knowledge of the horrific accident that had occurred there.  In 2011, a young man of 26 was backing a Rough Terrain crane down the side of this mountain, boom extended.  The crane fell over on the side with the cab containing the young man under it.  It took the rescue crews 6 hours to extricate him from the wreck, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.  Looking at the one photograph we have seen from the accident to the photos we took ourselves, nothing has been moved since the accident.  The crane is still lying in the lifted position - the hooks and cables used to lift the crane up to extricate the young man are still lying on the ground. 
In memoriam...2011
The unfortunate crane accident
I have found one account of what happened on this mountain that day - and it isn't much.  It doesn't even tell us who the young man is.  Just his age.  It made for a quiet trip down to Congress and the old cemeteries there knowing what had occurred up on that mountain in 2011...
Paul and his baby - the Lewis & Clark
We stopped on our way out of the Date Creek Mountains to flex the Lewis & Clark a bit - and then headed over to check out the old Pioneer Cemetery and old mine works at Congress.  I've never been able to get in to the old Congress Mine Workings - although I'm dying to - but one can see them from the Pioneer Cemetery - which I've been to tons of times.  
Old Congress Mine Workings - fenced off
My favorite grave at the Pioneer Cemetery in Congress
I took pictures of my favorite grave at the Pioneer Cemetery - a grave I've been photographing for several decades.  It never changes.  It still has shingles on the top of each post - and no headstone.  I don't know who is buried here, but I've loved the grave since I first found it in the 1990's.  

The weekend was too short - but filled with adventure and fun - exploring places that neither Paul nor I had been to with just a couple of exceptions.  And in the Bradshaws no less - mountains that both Paul and I are extremely familiar with.  And there is still so much to explore...

The Senator Highway in the Bradshaw Mountains in all its majestic beauty.


  1. wow what a trip.......... you are doing what I wanted to do I have a jeep and been 4x-ing for years.........

    1. Hit us up sometime! We are always looking for off-road buddies!!