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C-47 Wreck - Armer Mountain, AZ
mini location map2015-04-09
40 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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C-47 Wreck - Armer Mountain, AZ 
C-47 Wreck - Armer Mountain, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 09 2015
Hiking4.40 Miles 2,290 AEG
Hiking4.40 Miles   5 Hrs   55 Mns   0.77 mph
2,290 ft AEG      10 Mns Break25 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Veni, Vidi, Vici!
(I came, I saw, I conquered! for the Latin-challenged folk among us)

I came... by Jeep on Forest Road 142 and on foot to the southwest slope of Armer Mountain

I saw... plenty of thick brush, rock slides and elk, but no wreck debris, absolutely NOTHING!

I conquered... the less than ATV-width road to the trailhead (AZ pinstripes galore!) and the less-than hospitable terrain, surviving more falls than I've ever experienced on a single hike, all without any lasting injury.

And all for what?

A bit of history of my interest, anyway...
Maybe five years ago I had done quite a bit of research about this wreck but now when my interest was re-awakened (thanks Bruce...) I was unable to locate the information.

But again, thanks to Bruce providing possible GPS coordinates to the alleged crash-site, and having driven within just over a mile of the site with my Samurai, why would I waste any more time thinking about it... let's git'er done!

The drive was decidedly noisier than when I last made the drive with the Samurai... the Jeep, being a full foot wider than the Sammy was thoroughly scraped as far as a foot onto the hood from either side. (Thankfully no broken windows!) good thing the mirrors fold back or they would have been forcibly removed.
Finally, the hike...
I set off with the thought this will be a quick over-and-done deal within a few hours. How could it take any longer... the way point was just over a mile from the trailhead.

So, what's the problem you ask? Hmmm, let's see. It's not just a straight line traverse across the slope along a topo line followed by a hundred yard climb at the end. With a half-dozen gullies and a bunch of rock slides along the way, to say nothing of some VERY thick vegetation in some places, well let's just say it became more of a chore than a challenge.
If it weren't for the myriad of elk trails the chore would have been much worse. But then just as often the elk trail boxed me into a dense tangle in which back-tracking was the only option.
Every once in a while along the way I heard an elk which appeared to be traversing the slope in the same direction as I was, so I was alert to the possibility of catching sight of it, if not grabbing a video. And eventually my patience was rewarded... I got closest to the elk when it was slowed by the deepest and densest drainage along the traverse. The crashing and crunching was so loud I took advantage to move closer as quickly as I could. No worries of it smelling me as the wind was in my face. (On the other hand, I definitely could smell it!)

The moment it broke into the open I snapped two quick photos then began shooting video. I was quite surprised how well it turned out, since I was breathing heavily from the effort to catch up as well as hand-holding the camera at a pretty good zoom. Check it out!

As it turned out, the slope the elk traversed in the video is where I would turn up-slope and climb to the given coordinates, which I did next. I purposely approached from below as I figured that's where I'd have the best chance of locating debris, which more-than-likely would have gradually washed downhill over 60+ years. I spent time for a PB&J lunch. (only one sandwich as I expected this to be a short hike, following up with two other hikes on the way home... fat chance of that now!)
Being an area of relatively high use by elk, it was easy enough to move around the given coordinates, but finding no trace of anything I decided to drop back down following a route that angled toward the deep drainage, again thinking simple gravity would be the driving force for any debris. But again, nothing. Not a scrap of metal, a shred of wire, nothing! Ok, I really didn't have high hopes of finding anything, so now that I had found nothing, it was easy enough to give it up and head back.
For whatever reason, the eastward traverse of the slope was decidedly more difficult. By the extra number of times I was boxed-in by heavy growth (Very little Manzanita, mostly old-growth holly, which was every bit as tough to push through) it seems the elk trails were easier to follow westward. Along the return leg I encountered an Arizona Mountain Kingsnake (at least I think it was... seems the saying to differentiate between Coral and Kingsnake goes...
"Red on yellow will kill a fellow, but red on black is a friend of Jack."
I took one quick photo as I figured it would zip away as soon as I touched it. :o
Which it did, although I did get a short video. (link below)

On the drive out I decided to take a shortcut up the steep slope to AZ 288 by following old (no longer on the FS Topo) Forest Road 2325. Again more ATV than Jeep, but it cut off 3 miles and 20 minutes of driving.

After Operation Report... (de-brief, if you will)
Based on my after-the-hike research (makes a lot of sense doesn't it, NOT!) I realized the information about the wreck was so vague that it could have been a half-mile away from the given coordinates. In fact, there's a lot to question about the whole deal...

On a number of pretty detailed military aircraft archive sites I found absolutely no record of a C-47 crash over the weekend 12/30-12/31 1951. I located a Payson newspaper report dated Tuesday January 2, 1952 referring to the plane having been reported missing on Sunday, which to me meant it may have crashed on Saturday.

Further reports from other newspapers simply provided me with a more perplexing scenario. Supposedly it was spotted from a farm below due to a blackened area in heavy snow up on Armer Mountain, which jives with the search crew mentioning it have blown up in a massive explosion, spreading debris over a large area. There was mention of finding small pieces over half a mile away, along with finding no large pieces, no sign of either of the two engines.

Now then compare that to the relative ease in finding the bodies of the 28 on board (mostly West Point Cadets on their way back east after visiting families for Christmas) as well as parachutes spread all over. Hmmm, if the plane experienced such a large explosion, how did the parachutes survive the fireball?

But no matter what I found or didn't find, it's still a sad reminder of the lost lives.

A pair of videos:
Elk climbing southern slope of Armer Mountain
(Includes a short bonus clip of an Arizona Mountain Kingsnake)

Short sample of the drive back out on Forest Road 2325
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