Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gold Rush backcountry trip

Just back from a long weekend exploring Prescott and the Bradshaw Mountains. The weather was absolutely perfect: cool, cloudy days, light rain showers, and evenings that got down to the low 60s. Just the tonic we needed in the middle of a Tucson summer!

Today we took the Senator Highway through the gold rush country, driving down the road that the stagecoaches traveled from Prescott to the mining camps in the Bradshaw Mountains. Most of the towns have left no trace; it is likely the stones and lumber were scavenged and used elsewhere. We drove through Palace Station (1875), Goodwin (1882), Bradshaw City (1863), Crown King (1888), Cleator (1901) and Bumblebee (1879).

At Palace Station the stage coach stop is still there, a simple log cabin with a huge apple tree out front. At Goodwin I found 2 building foundations and something even more precious: a rose bush that I think was part of a settler's garden. At first I thought it was the wild mountain rose, Rosa woodsii, but then I realized that the thorns were all wrong and that there was also mint growing nearby. I dug up two pieces that had suckered and we'll see if they survive a Tucson summer.

Crown King was a real hoot. It was the site of Arizona's richest gold mine and so prosperous that by late 1897 it had a post office, a company store, several saloons, two Chinese restaurants, and a feed yard. We expected it to be fairly modern and all commercialized, but it was the real thing! Crown King still has the state's oldest standing saloon and brothel, today a saloon and cafe. I was tickled by the sign on the door: "Friday and Saturday nights: Dogs cannot be in the Saloon after 8:00 p.m. due to prior dog fights / bites. All other times they must be on leash." We had our dog Arrow with us and he was totally welcome inside, as were several local dogs: Atlas, Scruffy and Kisses.

The road back to I-10 took the path of the 1890s railroad (Murphy's Impossíble Railroad, aka Prescott and Eastern Railroad) so I tried to imagine taking the trip by train. At least it kept my mind off the roughness of the dirt road =).

The trip took a lot longer than we expected: 6 hours (including our picnic at Goodwin) to Crown King and 2 hours from Crown King to the highway. All on dirt roads, but some of the prettiest scenery I've seen in a long time.

8/2: My "Goodwin Mystery Rose" has rooted! Yeah!

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