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White Mule Gold Mine, AZ
mini location map2018-02-10
70 by photographer avatarNightstalker
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White Mule Gold Mine, AZ 
White Mule Gold Mine, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Feb 10 2018
Nightstalker
Hiking8.00 Miles 1,640 AEG
Hiking8.00 Miles   7 Hrs   32 Mns   2.03 mph
1,640 ft AEG   3 Hrs   36 Mns Break16 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
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It’s been a while since I’ve been up to see the Squaw Creek Ruins and petroglyphs. While I knew that my crew of hike regulars would appreciate the ruins and glyphs, they would be expecting something more. I considered stopping by the Brooklyn Mine complex on the way to the ruins, but on a dirt bike ride back in 2009 I stopped by another mining complex that was just beyond the ruins. After some research, I decided we’d park at or near the ruins and go hike a loop to check out the mines and mills south of the ruins.

I was concerned about the condition of the roads leading back to the ruins. Last time I was there, I felt pretty invincible in my Jeep Wrangler. My RAM 3500 is wider, longer, and rougher. I had picked a couple of places to park in case we couldn’t get to the ruins. We left Phoenix at 5:30 which I figured should put us near the ruins just after sunrise. Easy ride up the I-17 to Bloody Basin Road and then 11 miles east on the bladed graded dirt road. Bloody Basin is suitable for just about any passenger vehicle. Turn south (right) at the Aqua Fria kiosk onto what’s listed as 9269 on the AFNM map, but I’m pretty sure the route was signed as FS14. Continue south for 4 miles to the intersection of FS610, turn right and pass through a gate. If you follow FS14, it heads east to the Brooklyn mine complex. This section of road is rougher than Bloody Basin, with some mud holes (which were all dry) and bypasses, but still not all that bad. Once you pass through the gate, the road gets even rougher and slower going and high clearance is required. Go another ½ mile south and bear left onto FS599. 2 more miles south brings you to the FS3164 loop on your left. FS3164 is a whole new world of hurt. I dropped into 4WD Low and proceeded to bounce my guests around the inside of my truck. About half way to the ruins parking area and just over 18 miles from I-17, I called it quits, we parked, and started our hike.

It was 56 degrees when I left my home in Phoenix, it was now 36 degrees, brrr! I knew the chill wouldn’t last long though with sun quickly rising to the east. We made a bee-line west-southwest cross country toward the White Mule Gold Mine complex. The terrain is flat with very little grass or cactus to hamper you. We eventually landed back on FS599 for a bit before taking the easy left on the unmarked road down to the mines. On my last visit in 2009, this road was barely passable on a dirt bike. However, the UTV crowd have now been making their way down to check out the mines. You’re still not going to get a jeep down this road as it’s too narrow. I was preoccupied with finding some foundations and old road to the west as we descended from the top of Perry Mesa. We did find some holes in the ground, possibly collapsed mine shafts, and the two building foundations. The old road or pack trail is shown on the 1930 Topo Map and it is still evident today. Stone walls line the lower side and a game trail works its way through the cactus and palo verde as the trail gently descend to the south. It was pretty easy going until we reached the point where the trail drops off the side of the mesa. The map shows the trail switch backing its way down to Squaw Creek below. We really couldn’t see anything resembling a trail and dropped nearly straight down to a visible building foundation near the creek. It was slow going, route finding, cactus dodging, slipping and sliding, but we made it not too much worse for wear. We spent some time exploring the area known as Ontario Mill. Building foundations, bottles, cans, and tons of turn of the century trash litter the area. An old stage route from Black Canyon City to the Brooklyn Mine complex is visible running through this area as well. From here we headed up stream towards the Golden Eagle mill site. The old stage route disappears into Squaw Creek which was full of vegetation and pools of water.

It’s a short ½ mile walk to Golden Eagle. If you look closely on the east side along Squaw Creek, you can see a water pipe that was used to deliver water from Golden Eagle Mill down to Ontario Mill. The Golden Eagle site covers a much larger area. This site had a tram that connected to the mines on the mesa above as well as a stage stop and Post Office. There are red brick structures and older stone/adobe foundations. There is also a large and small cement lined water reservoir. The big attraction for today was the tramway. While almost none of the trestles remain, the foundations are evident, and a steel cable runs almost the entire length! The descent had been a little scary and I wasn’t looking forward to our trek back to the top. My plan had been to follow the old tramway back up and that’s just what we did. The ascent started steep but easy, following the cable and debris of nails, various metal bars and bolts, and railroad spikes. We got to a spot where either a trestle had elevated the tramway over a deep drainage or the canyon wall had washed away over the years. Following the path of least resistance, we dropped into the drainage and found part of a rail car and a stack of rails. We rock hopped our way up the drainage and a super steep and slippery scramble back up to the tramway. This does eventually bring you up to what I believe to be the Devonshire mine, a horizontal shaft that is filled with water. There are some structures and mining equipment from the 1970’s – 1980’s, the last time I believe this claim was worked. From here, you can follow the mine road back up to FS599 on the top of the mesa.

As we short cutted our way across the top of the mesa toward Squaw Creek ruins, I commented that this was the first time I hadn’t seen antelope on the mesa. Not 2 minutes later, a herd of antelope appeared, as if on que, so we wouldn’t be disappointed. The girls were pretty tired out and there wasn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm for checking out the ruins and glyphs, especially with the truck in site in the distance. They reluctantly followed me down over the side of the mesa once more and enjoyed the work of artisans from a thousand years ago.

After 8 hours on the trail, we were spanked. No one was looking forward to the bouncy 75 minute drive back to the I17. But, the thought of pancakes at 50’s Diner Backseat Bar in Cordes Lakes kept everyone going. Unfortunately, they only serve breakfast until 3pm, and we were 90 minutes late. I laid my Nightstalker charm on mighty heavy, but I couldn’t convince our waitress to make just one more stack of pancakes to feed a table of four. I’m sure that tears welled up, but none were shed, we were too tired for that.
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