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The Iron King Trail in Prescott Valley is a new trail brought together by the Town of Prescott Valley, Rails to Trail Program, and others, having officially opened on July 10th, 2004. It is a new trail built upon an old foundation of a railroad bed where the full grading began on March 1st, 1898, for the Prescott & Eastern Railroad. And would tie into other lines until its completion in Crown King, where services started sometime in May of 1904 with Prescott.
However, what started as a nice mid-day hike turned into one of reflections and quilt as I studied the new development of homes, apartments, heavy equipment, and newly graded dirt roads enveloping the trailhead just off Glassford Hill Road. I was somewhat disappointed the trail did not start on the rail bed immediately; instead, I had to walk the first twenty minutes on a freshly graded road before hitting the actual rail bed. At this point, I came upon the first of many small railroad engines located throughout the trail to provide shade for hikers and bicyclists. I studied the contraption, the likes of which I had never seen before, and had no idea what its purpose was for the railroads.
The trail is relatively flat with a slight elevation gain and subtle curves as it cuts its way through Lonesome Valley to the rocks of Granite Dells. To my left is Glassford Hill, an extinct volcano named after Lieutenant William A. Glassford. During the 1880's he was a Chief Signal Officer and responsible for establishing 27 heliograph stations (signal mirrors used to send morse code) throughout the southwest during the Indian campaigns. Glassford hill provided communications between Fort Whipple in Prescott to Fort Union in New Mexico, with Baker Butte on the Mogollon Rim in the middle.
I looked up at the mountain, noticing the shape of the clouds rising high into the air. The threat of a thunderstorm is in the air as I heard the mournful call of thunder in the distance and felt the wind embrace my body. Both calling, both very soulful, lonely. Surprisingly, my eyes began to tear as I thought about and felt the days gone by. To reflect on simpler times.
caressing the landscape on
its quest for once was."
I thought about the days when highway 69 was just a two-lane ribbon of asphalt, and when driving through Lonesome Valley, my little sister and I delighted in seeing hundreds of antelopes along the fenceline. I've seen none yet. Visions of the railroad ties and rails being ripped up in the summer of 1974 when there were no more uses for the line. My mind ponders the times as a teen growing up in Blue Hills, and I would pull out any new wooden survey stakes with orange plastic fluttering in the wind and toss them in the scrub oak. And I remembered, before Glassford Hill Road was built, the new developments coming in, and well before this new trail, my oldest son, when he was just a lad, we walked this old railroad bed and then climbed up Glassford Hill to get a view of the countryside. He is now serving in Iraq as a Marine.
On top of all that, a quilt for not fighting hard enough or sticking to my guns to stop a particular development near the trailhead. At the time, I was a Prescott Valley Town Council Member, and it was this two year battle between some town citizens and the developers that convinced me I would not run again. I was fed up.
Fortunately, passing mountain bikers would break my deep, thoughtful recollections, and we would greet each other in passing. The trail is a bicyclist haven as I have seen more of them than hikers. And I might add far more of the fairer sex, which was pleasing to my eyes and gave my mind a brief respite from my deep sentiment.
After a little over an hour, the trail meanders into the broken granite countryside of Granite Dells and takes on a different feel as trees, brush, and rock closes in on me. The expansive view of Lonesome Valley and my deep meditation of days long gone faded into a pleasant appreciation of natures ripped up landscape. Pines, oak, and brush displaced among the rocks, boulders, and mountain tops. I slowed down to take my time and catch my breath as I admire, feel, and soaked in the radiance around me.
I enjoyed this portion of the hike up until I arrived at the end, which terminates into Prescott's rails to trail, the Peavine Trail, and I knew I would have to walk back. In the meantime, I kicked back on a picnic table located there, pulled my hiking shoes and socks off, and relaxed.
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