Sunday, February 12, 2017

Exploring Hohokam Rock Art on Petroglyph Peak, New River

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

"We are so fortunate," I remarked to my other half. "Most people never have the chance to do the simple thing we're doing right now: hiking up a little peak to see petroglyphs. We're even more fortunate that we appreciate being able to see them."  (In all honesty, I should add that as I age I'm triply fortunate to still be able to hike up that gentle little peak.) Today started out with a sprinkle and the expectation of more rain. Rather than get the horses out, Russ suggested a hike to the peak we dubbed "Petroglyph Peak" a mere three miles from our back door. I'd ridden by this particular little peak many times but never climbed to the top where, over a thousand years ago, the Hohokam scratched out simple but remarkable images in the malpais rock.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

We snuck Earl, our best hiking dog, away from the jealous pack and hit the trail. In just a few yards we were in the Tonto National Forest and in what was once part of the vast T-Up T-Down cattle ranch. 

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Here, many of the landforms have no official name on the topo maps. Some have been assigned alpha-numeric designations by archaeologists; some have locally-given names. Many, Russ and I have named just as settlers did a hundred or more years ago. Above is "Saguaro Ridge" with "Horseshoe Mountain" in the background - at least, that's what we call them.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Our ever-loyal McNab, Earl, poses atop what we call "Chalk Mound" above - a flat, dusty clearing where the caliche bed is exposed.  In the background is the mesa properly known as Black Mesa.  Once, it was called "Cook's Mesa" for an influential early rancher and sheriff, W.W. "Billy" Cook. 

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

As we reached the trail up Petroglyph Peak, the ridge of Horseshoe Mountain is on our right. Russ - our primary namer of spiders and landforms - dubbed it that for the way the craggy mountain forms a horseshoe shape around a piece of lowland. 

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

As we topped the small peak, the variety and clarity of petroglyphs stunned me. Several boulders boasted numerous etchings. They clearly depicted much of the area wildlife, among other images either abstract or symbolic. The scorpion, below, is familiar to anyone living in our area.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

The image below is arguably a Gila monster - or a gecko - as evidenced by the fat, stubby tail. 
Both are in residence here: the venomous, lethargic Gila monster perhaps not greeted as enthusiastically by some desert dwellers as the innocuous, chirpy, inoffensive gecko. I love seeing either - but am always particularly thrilled by a Gila monster sighting. More dangerous than the average rattlesnake, they're also much more difficult to goad into biting.


Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

The impressive selection of etchings below includes several canids and, just right of center at bottom, a bighorn ram.



The display atop Petroglyph Peak boasts several buck mule deer with impressive racks.  We rarely see them anymore due to the hunters and recreational shooters in the Tonto. They're smart enough to take refuge nearby in the Cave Creek foothills, as have the javelina.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller


Humans have made their presence known not just to the real wildlife but to the rock art wildlife as well.  One of the most stunning displays on Petroglyph Peak has had a large chunk of the boulder pried away and removed.  If you look closely you can see the lighter grey tool marks on the edge where someone used the natural fissures in the rock to insert a prying tool of some sort.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Perhaps, with so many years of outdoor explorers such as myself visiting the site, we shouldn't be as amazed at the fact someone would destroy such a treasure as we should be that any of the petroglyphs remain at all - human nature being what it is. It was the norm, when I was a child, for outdoorsy people to go artifact hunting, thinking nothing of collecting pottery, petroglyphs, and smaller finds such as arrowheads and sherds. The land seemed infinite and the relics seemed endless in abundance. Now the world has grown smaller and awareness has evolved.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

From the summit of Petroglyph Peak, the views of nearby landforms are as impressive as the close-ups of rock art. Above is another aspect of Black Mesa.  Below, Gavilan Peak to the west is ever-identifiable.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

As I often do, I handed the camera to my kind and loving husband. "Does Black Mesa make my butt look big?" I asked. He motioned me to step aside. "Move over. I can't see the mountain," he replied.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

We hiked back along Cline Creek and down to Cline Well, where once T-Ranch cattle were branded and cut. The site of the old windmill and tank is still clearly visible, although both have long since been removed. The barbed wire catch pen is damaged but still photogenic. 

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

We are fortunate. Blessed, even. We live in a place with postcard-perfect views in most directions where, most of the time, you can still hear the ground beneath your feet. I'm thankful to be able to share it here. 

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Learn more of New River's history by reading Marcy J. Miller's book in Arcadia's Images of America series:
 Images of America: New River

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared * Thank you for sharing, liking, linking, +1ing, tweeting, emailing, sending by carrier pigeon, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and reading! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Exploring the Historic Old Black Canyon Stagecoach Road and Arrastre Creek








The wall-like structure at center is the laid-in rock of the old stagecoach road.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Few mountain ranges intrigue and beckon to me as the Bradshaws, easily within sight on the northwestern horizon from my own home. Filled with ghost towns, old mining camps, stagecoach roads, ruins, and other echoes of the past, they are rich in history while still retaining stunning wild beauty. The Rock Gods have been generous to the Bradshaws: the terrain is daunting and in many places unforgiving, yet men have worked these mountains under harsh conditions in courageous efforts to yield minerals such as gold and silver. Many died.

Women - working girls - forded the water crossings and braved the elements to service the men at the mining camps. Some ended up respectably marrying miners. In these mountains, cavalry soldiers fought Indians; highwaymen robbed stagecoaches; cowboys picked their way through cholla and boulders to gather cattle; hunters sought mountain lions for bounty.

Setting out mid-morning
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
Our jaunt today was for pleasure, adventure, and research. It was the perfect sort of day: though cold and windy, it was sunny and clear. My companions in adventure were my friends Babs Sanders, her son Grant, and Grant's girlfriend Beth. Some guy who often accompanies me - Guitar Guy, also known as my husband Russ - rode shotgun with Grant. Babs and I were in her Polaris RZR, dubbed Ruby, and gutsy, petite Beth rode Gretchen the Quad.  

Is this historic Black Canyon Hill, the steepest hill on the old stage road? I'm not sure, yet. Accounts vary as to its location.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
 Although much of my research for my current book-in-progress on Black Canyon City's history is conducting interviews, and much more is poring over old maps, documents, and newspaper archives, I'm not satisfied until I walk the ground I'm focusing upon. I want to feel the story, not just imagine it. I want to breathe the air and labor over the rocky terrain and know firsthand the distances and setting. This is arguably the greatest pleasure in what I do: site research. Hiking along an old stage road and seeing firsthand the ruts the narrow wheels left. Riding a horse down a steep ravine and imagining what it felt like to the first Anglo explorer to see these then-hostile lands. Hearing the rush of water draining from one creek into another. These give me, I hope, a better appreciation for what it took to make history in this area. They definitely give me a good excuse to be out in this utterly stunning scenery.

Another view of the rock support for the stagecoach road.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
 We left the horses at home today - for which they'd thank me. Two weeks ago we tired them out on a steep leg of the stage road; today, we wanted to get farther into the canyon in considerably less time. As Babs said as we headed out, "I hate to see it, but this is going to be a lot more fun than on the horses."

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
 We were in search of several sites of historic interest: among them, Black Canyon Hill, described by contemporaries as the steepest hill on the Black Canyon Stagecoach Road, and what has been known as "the amazing Chinese diggings" on Arrastre Creek.

The gang hiking part of the old stage road that is long abandoned as a trail.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The old stagecoach road was originally cut by James Patterson, following what was known as "Woolsey's Trail" after Indian fighter and rancher King Woolsey.  Woolsey himself used old native footpaths for his trail between his upper and lower ranches, Agua Fria and Agua Caliente. Patterson, under contract to build the road, owned a stage stop in Prescott - then the territorial capital - and was a partner in the Patterson-LeValley Stage Line, among his other endeavors.


The old stagecoach road, with the wagon wheel ruts clearly visible over a hundred years later.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The roads Patterson built serviced not only travelers between Prescott and the emerging city of Phoenix, but miners working claims throughout the mountains.

The bare swath up the side of the mountain is leftover damage from the pipeline installation.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
Many stagecoach robberies occurred on this road. The unforgiving land offered a unique opportunity for robbers: horses or mules, tired out as they climbed the hill, could not break away boldly to make a run for it, nor could the drivers possibly turn them around on the narrow roadway. At the same time, the peaks and outcroppings provided excellent vantage points or tactical positions for an armed accomplice to cover a driver.

A steep incline on the old road.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller


A geocache well hidden on the hill, away from the trail.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
I hiked up the hill to assess strategic potential for would-be or actual stagecoach robbers. I was quite proud of myself for finding a geocache without actually looking for one - I don't geocache. Although we took none of the trinkets, I added something to the tin.

Husband-type-person checks the elevation and marks the spot of our potential Black Canyon Hill.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
A light dusting of snow still lingered this late in the morning from the Christmas Eve storm.

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
As we worked our way down the hillside, we headed toward Paducci Creek and Paducci Flats.  Spelled variously as "Paduchee" or "Paduchi," the site once had several structures. 

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
 The last remaining building was a still-livable old house. It's rumored that a local character may have burned it down while cooking meth.

Paducci Creek making a horseshoe around Paducci Flats.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

More laid-in rocks to support the stagecoach road.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The old - now abandoned - trail venturing down into the Paducci Flats area was long, steep and treacherous. We marveled that even the smart, sure-footed mules and burros could manage such slope.

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
 Arrastre Creek was so-named for the presence of many primitive "arrastres" - manually-operated structures that used mules, burros, horses - or men - to grind ore. "Arrastre" means "dragging" in Spanish, so describing the method of crushing the ore.

(c) 2016 MJ Miller
Chinese laborers worked the area's mining camps, appearing on 19th century census records as launderers or shop keepers.  Overt discrimination in California, including legislative action, made California a hostile place for the Chinese. They were far more welcome and better treated in Arizona territory. Along Arrastre Creek were some mines operated by the Chinese, referred to by locals as the "Amazing Chinese Diggings."


Fording the creek.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

(c) 2016 MJ Miller

(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Here I am at what we believe might have been the Chinese diggings site.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller


This large, flat slab of rock was deliberately placed atop several round rocks. Who - or what - is beneath it?
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Another view of the large slab of rock described above.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller


(c) 2016 MJ Miller
At the site of the possible diggings were the ruins of at least three structures. A considerable amount of blue slate - not from the immediate area - was discarded near the ruins. I suspect it was originally the flooring inside, as it was known to be used in other area ranch houses from the 1800s. You can also see thin pieces of it in the walls above and below.

(c) 2016 MJ  Miller
Two of the remaining ruins were small - as small as a Manhattan bedroom I once stayed in that had been converted from a walk-in closet - but still large enough to sleep in. It's the desert. As my mom used to say, who needs a huge house to dust?


The boulders along Arrastre Creek are a large part of its beauty.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Much of the year this creek is dry.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller


Two of our capable hosts, Grant Sanders and Beth.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Approaching the ruins.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Ruins along Arrastre Creek.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The largest of the ruins boasted a single room with a fireplace opposite the doorway. Just inside the entrance was a large, flat slab of blue slate on the remains of the floor.

Ruins of an old building at a ghost town along Arrastre Creek.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

These mountains were described by a member of the Walker expedition as a "sterile and graceless quarter." I find them beautiful beyond description.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller

Babs Sanders and I. Note the epic photobombing by Babs' son, Grant.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The water crossings offered a little bit of adrenaline-inducing adventure to our travels. Not only were they flowing enough to cause us to use caution, but they made ample mud we had to work around. The heavy rains also washed out enough of the trail in places that we had a couple of unexpected jolts. My knee should be colorful tomorrow.

How many men does it take to fix a disabled quad? (Depends on how many are union and how many are government employees.)
(c) 2016 MJ Miller 

Possible ruins of the "Amazing Chinese Diggings."
(c) 2016 MJ Miller


(c) 2016 MJ Miller
Viewed from the site of an old, abandoned horizontal mine shaft and related ruins, the brown item at lower center in the photo above is the wreckage of a long-dead car. From the angles of the metal it looked like an old Model-T.

Remnants of an old mining operation.
(c) 2016 MJ Miller
The final point of interest we explored was the site of the old mine ruins. The horizontal shaft has been "enhanced" with a culvert, blocked by three pieces of rebar, at the mouth. No chance of wedging through them to risk life and limb to explore it ... or to discard a body, as has been done too often in the Bradshaw mine shafts. 

Our next planned jaunts include visits to an ancient fort used by the area's Hohokam Indians, a search for the site of the one-time mining community of Clemenceau, and down to Bumble Bee. In late spring we expect to take the old stage road all the way to Prescott - just as was once routinely traveled by visitors to and from the territorial capital.


Copyright (c) 2016 by Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without express permission of the author * However, links may be freely shared * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, tweeting, posting, +1ing, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by.