Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Camping with friends on Mingus Mountain


Jeronimo's Cabin
And summer is here in Phoenix.  It's getting warm.  So Paul and I decided to take advantage of the last few weekends of seriously cool weather in Northern Arizona...as well as hanging out with some FJ friends.  The next few blog posts will be individually short, but will encompass several weekends spent tootling around Arizona in one or both FJ's and enjoying the last bits of cool weather before the triple digits hit the Valley.  
Our Campsite in the Pines
Paul has a good friend - Santiago - who I generally knew but had not formally met.  Santiago invited us to go camping with him, his family, and his buddy Shawn (another person Paul has hung out with that I just met this weekend).  They were headed up to Mingus Mountain outside of Prescott Valley to just camp and relax.  Santiago is an avid photographer (and is amazing too!!!) and wanted the opportunity to take some night shots, and it was supposed to be clear and beautiful.  And it was!

We all decide to head up Friday night and make camp.  A change from earlier in the week when we were going to head up Saturday and camp for one night.  But up we all went on Friday afternoon.  We met Santiago and his wife Julie, as well as his son Santi at Cordes Junction for the haul up the 69 to Prescott Valley.  As Paul and I waited for them, we opened up the truck and enjoyed the cool breeze blowing through the truck.  
Campfire Relaxing!
When Santiago and his family pulled up, we headed up the 69 towards Prescott Valley and Shawn's house.  Shawn knew where the campsite was buried on Mingus Mountain, so we stopped by his house, and then caravan'd up the 89A and into Mingus Mountain.

Paul and I have been up here before - on our first official camping trip together last September - the one I wrote about for Toyota Cruisers and Trucks Magazine - and while up there last September, I realized we were extremely close to an old cabin I wanted to visit.  But we were with others, so we didn't stop.  But this time we had extra time, and Paul said we would go with or without our camping buddies.  Funny thing - we were camped maybe a mile away from the turn off...it was meant to be!

Friday night was COLD!  We had gone from the high 90's to the low 40's and neither Paul nor I brought much in the way of warm clothes.  I was wearing my Keen sandals, no socks, and light weight cropped pants with a tshirt.  I only had a sweatshirt to put on...so I did.  I made some delicious nachos - I had already prepared the ground beef, so it was just heating up the Coleman Camp stove, layering the nachos, then heating them up until everything was hot and melty.  We all huddled around the fire, Paul and me in our new "zero gravity" recliner chairs - and just enjoyed the cold.  Santiago taught me some stuff about night photography (which my Nikon is NOT set up for, we discovered) and then Paul and I decided to turn in.  I was so cold I had a difficult time getting warm in the Expedition Trailer.  After about an hour of trying to get warm, I finally "borrowed" Paul's socks and got my feet warm.  After that - I slept like a baby listening to the pine trees rustle in the wind, and the coyotes howling.  
Paul's breakfast plate on Saturday morning
In the morning, we had turkeys again.  As usual, Paul and I woke up really early - but Santiago had already been up taking photos - so we weren't the first ones!  As we stoked up the fire, Paul made our coffee and tea, and we watched as Santiago tried to heat up water in his new Stanley coffee pot over the open flame.  But it never got warm!  Sure kept the water cool inside though!  Haha.  After a little "incident" with the bottom of the Stanley pot popping off in the heat (scared us all half to death), Santiago made his coffee the traditional way and we were all sufficiently caffeinated.  
The trail to the Woodcutter's Cabin (Jeronimo's Cabin)
Then it was time for breakfast!  If you've read any of my more recent blogs, you know food is a big part of our outings!  Paul and I just purchased a griddle to put on our Coleman stove - so we were going to try it out today.  Bacon, eggs and pancakes!!!  Yes - Pancakes!  The griddle worked out really well, and fit well in our camp cooking bin - so it stays!  
The very rare Rockus on Stumpus as seen on the hiking trail
After breakfast, we lazed around for a bit until around noonish.  Julie's dad came and we got him all set up, and then Paul and I decided to go check out this cabin.  Santiago and Santi wanted to go, so we grabbed Rocko the amazing dog and off we went!  Two voodoo blue FJ cruisers just wandering around the mountains - we looked awesome!
The also very rare Carcass on Rockus - which Rocko the Wonder Dog found very interesting
Jeronimo Pena was the man who built the cabin we hiked to.  The hike isn't long, or strenuous, but is a bit of a secret, so details as to where it is will not be disclosed here...the informational poster which used to be on the door of Jeronimo's cabin, is no longer there - I've heard it is in the Douglas museum - but it reads as follows:

As the population grew, so did the demand for firewood.  Woodcutters were forced to travel further up into the mountains as supplies diminished.  

Jeronimo Pena began cutting firewood on Mingus Mountain about 1920.  Throughout his life he shunned life's conveniences.  No running water.  No electricity.  He never owned a truck and refused to use a chainsaw.  He preferred his burros and a crosscut.  But he could always be depended on to deliver a full, tightly packed cord of wood at a fair price.  At over 80 years of age, the last of this hardy breed died in his cabin in the fall of 1957.  
The wire line and anchor which I had heard about on other sites
I knew we were on the right trail at this point!
I wasn't 100% sure that I had the right trail.  Or even area.  I had spent weeks pouring over Google Earth looking for this cabin.  But as we started off, all the waypoints I had saved in my GaiaGPS app hit perfectly on point!  There was a faint trail, we found the old line and land anchor, and we followed it in and up.  As we came to the area which indicated that the cabin was there, we couldn't see it.  I knew it was well hidden, and Santi decided to scout the area a bit.  We heard him holler "I found barrels!" and then next "I found it!".  So we scrambled up after him, all of us getting stuck and scratched by the sticker bushes everywhere.  But it was worth it.  Worth every single scratch.  
Our first glimpse of Jeronimo's Cabin
The fact that the location of this cabin has been kept such a secret is why there are still shoe remnants, Jeronimo's bed, and other things lying around.  Buckets, wash tubs, etc., all still around this cabin.  The front door has collapsed, but that was inevitable, as is the eventual collapse of the entire thing - but for now - what an amazing find!  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
The Last Woodcutter's Cabin - aka Jeronimo's Cabin
A wash bucket still sits outside...
Inside the main living area of the cabin
Some of the many artifacts left in the cabin...
The sleeping "room" or area
Our view as we departed this wonderful little cabin...the Last Woodcutter's Cabin
On the hike back down, we all discussed how Jeronimo must have lived.  How he got some of the things up there that he had if he didn't have a car, and the water source (which was a spring about .2 miles past the cabin, but that has since dried up).  What a life!
Lewis & Clark with Santiago's FJ - and Rocko Guarding - two FJ's are always better than one!
After the hike, Paul and I decided to go do a bit of geocaching, and then back to the campsite we went - and through it, to the little lake/tank/well to take some photos, then back to camp.  Where I grabbed a relaxing afternoon nap and Paul sat around chatting with everyone.  It was nice - we rarely just sit when we camp...we always have stuff to go see or do.  So having a relaxing day with a small hike in the middle was just what we needed!  
Lewis & Clark parked by the lake/well/tank by our campsite
Dinner consisted of the best stuffed mushrooms - deviled ham and cream cheese with cheese and cracker crumbs on them - they were a bit sloppier than my sausage and cream cheese ones - but I think I'll be adding the cracker crumbs and cheese to mine in the future.  And then Paul had a steak.  I wasn't hungry so I had the mushrooms and left it at that.  
Stuffed Portobello's cooking in our Coleman Camp Oven
The finished product.  Minus one.  Because Paul ate it.  
Then we had a great night all warm and comfortable by the fire just talking, laughing and, well, camping!  I was toasty warm when we went to bed, and we both slept well and through the night.  
Bacon, Eggs and Pancakes!  Best Camp Breakfast Ever!
Breakfast again consisted of bacon, eggs and pancakes.  I could get used to this...but this morning, we tried to use up the onions, tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and avocado that I brought.  Our eggs were AMAZING!  And the strawberry syrup we brought to try on the pancakes was really tasty!  

Then we all packed up camp and decided to head out.  
Smoke from the Tussock Fire sitting over the Crown King Road
On the way home, Paul wanted to take a back road, so we took the back road towards Cleator from the 69.  I took Paul through Cordes where Newt White lived (we know who Newt White was from our adventures up to Humbug - he is buried there), and then decided to go check out the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club.  There was a lot of odd haze on the way to Cleator - which we quickly discovered was smoke.  I looked it up on my phone, but the only fire I could find was the Tussock fire - which should have been over closer to Castle Hot Springs.  And it was - but the wind was blowing the smoke - and the fire - up over Crown King and into the valley near Cleator.  Crown King was being evacuated and the back road to Crown King had been closed off.  Paul had a beer and I had a coke at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club, then we headed down and towards home...
Lewis and Clark sitting outside the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club and the original Cleator General Store

My guy just having a beer at the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club
This weekend was a nice change from our usual excursions.  We camped with friends which we rarely do and we didn't do much at all - just lazed around for the most part - which we also rarely do.  But it was nice!  And we can't wait to do it again!!

Me and Paul at Jeronimo's Cabin

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