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Lost Gold In The Estrellas
Deep within the Sierra Estrella Mountains exists an old gold mine and rock house. Some believe it is Spanish in origin, dating to around 1740. The following information is from John Arthur at the sierraestrella website:
"In John D. Mitchell's Lost Mines and Buried Treasures Along the Old Frontier, there is a chapter entitled "Don Joaquin and His Gold Mine" that describes the mine and stone house fairly accurately and adds a few elements of pure fantasy. In short, Mitchell writes about a mine deep in the heart of the Estrella Mountains there was a mine worked by Indians and belonging to a certain Joaquin Campoy of Guadalajara, Mexico. In 1847, as the American Army approached the Maricopa region, Don Joaquin decided to grab his gold and run, supposedly loading 3,000 pounds of gold on 15 mules. Heading south, he buried the gold, killing his sole companion, an old Maricopa Indian, to guard the secret of his buried treasure. Soon after this, Don Joaquin was himself murdered, and a map - there has to be a map, of course - fell into the possession of a miner who took it to Mexico. No one ever returned to claim the treasure, and it still lays under a thin layer of soil in the back of a cave near Montezuma's Head.
Suppose the little stone house was built early in the 18th century. In that case, it is probably the third oldest standing structure built by the Spanish in Arizona, after the missions at Tumacacori, in a state of ruins, and San Xavier del Bac, still standing magnificently. That would probably make the little house the oldest non-religious building surviving from that era - and within a few miles of Phoenix. Is it possible? Only in the Sierra Estrellas."
Intrigued by this information, a group of Friends attempted to locate this piece of Arizona history. Additional internet searching found a reference to an old rock house ruin on the Estrellas western slope below Montezuma Head, the range's highest peak. We decided to first hike Quartz Peak, about 3 miles to the northwest as the crow flies. Quartz Peak is always a challenge and is well written up elsewhere on HikeArizona. After everyone completed the hike and ate lunch, our mine search began.
The roads to the base of Montezuma Head are accessible by high clearance vehicle, but be prepared for new pinstripes! Additionally, one can drive further using a 4x4, but heck, we ARE hikers!
Parking at a wide area at the mountain's base, we followed an old mine road which was put in during the 60s to the ravine below Montezuma Head. Here a faint trail can be found heading east. Questions enter our minds; Does this lead up to the mine site? If so, how far is it?
Following the old path up the south side of the wash, one must pay close attention as it fades in and out. You can tell it's an old trail, but it's overgrown in places. Just keep working your way up the hill. The further you go, the fainter the trail becomes, leading to more questions; How much further is it? Will we run out of daylight? Will the beer still be cold when we get back?
Further up the path, we climbed, scrambling around brush and rock. Finally, we found the remains of an old rock wall. Is this one of the clues mentioned at sierraestrella.com? We continued further up the faint path, finally reaching a point where I said, 'I think Don Joaquin's mine remains lost!' But one of my companions said he was going another 75 yards or so, then yelled, 'Well, here it is!' The old stone house is practically invisible until you are right on top of it, and is about 1 mile up the trail, located at 33.18082,-112.21182. A small structure of about 5x6 feet, it's roof is mostly missing, but it's walls remain strong. Inside there is a small glass jar with a note pad to sign. Note the pad's about full and needs replacing. Better yet, an ammo box!
Outside the stone house are the remains of an old water cistern, lined with rock. Yet further up the wash is the mine itself, tunneling straight down into the ground, located at 33.18123,-112.21182.
Do the stone house and mine date back into the 1700s or 1800s? Who knows. Perhaps someday, an expert from ASU will study the site. Until then, it will remain the Legend Of Don Joaquin's Lost Spanish Mine.
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