Alamo Road, McCracken Mine, Signal Loops
March 22-25, 2009
By Dan W. Messersmith
Sunday, March 22:
The group caravanning from Kingman met as Calico’s Restaurant in Kingman at 7am. Those in attendance were Dick & Connie Taylor w/Sassy, Haul & Mary Reddick, Shelley Lossing and Martha Prumers and me w/Buddy. Joining us just for breakfast was Jeannie Jacobs. She informed us that Jim Jacobs had left for the base camp site in the motor home so he could go extra slow on the road out. Shelley and Martha would only be joining us for the day.
We were on the road by 8:00am and after a trip down the highway were we had to dodge what seemed like hundreds of 18-wheelers, We pulled off at Yucca and on to the dirt road. It was a bit rough so we moved along at a slow pace.
When we got to the base camp site, Jim was waiting at the south end of the airstrip as campers were using the north end where we wanted to camp. I went down and met with them and found that they were out of Lake Havasu and had been there for the weekend and would be moving this afternoon.
With their permission, we moved up the airstrip and parked near them with the intent to move into their area after they left. A few minutes later, we heard a call on the CB from some of the folks who had been at the Desert Explorers Rendezvous at Nipton, CA coming over to join us. It was Coop Cooper w/Toby, Bob & Karen Monson and Glenn Shaw.
Those of us tenting it went ahead and set up our tents. Glenn set up his Aliner. As lunchtime approached, we broke for a short lunch and then got organized to do the Brown’s Crossing Road, (right) Gold Bug Mine, Signal Road loop.
We got away from camp about 12:30pm. Steve Mendez from Lake Havasu City had hoped to join us for this run but was not there by the time we left.
Our run was short today, so we took our time and made frequent photo stops along the way. The desert was bright green and wild flowers were beginning to make a grand show.
When we reached the Gold Bug road, I took Shelley in for a quick look as she was concerned that her F-150 would get too much of a workout and pin striping. She decided she would not take the run. She and Martha would work their way back to Alamo Road doing photo stops along the way and then head for home.
As we made our way through the narrows and washes toward the Gold Bug, Larry Brown came over the CB informing us he was in camp. He asked where we were, but as he did not have proper directions or map, he could not catch up with us and decided to remain in camp.
We made the narrow ascent up to the Gold Bug Mine and enjoyed the flowers along the way and the great views from the top. The winds had increased and become cooler. On the narrow, steep descent down toward the Signal area, several of our folks tried to keep their eyes on the hillside rather than the drop off. They enjoyed the hillside flowers a great deal. Thankfully, all the drivers kept their eyes on the road and we all made it safely to the bottom.
Following our trail out to Signal Road we made a quick trip back to camp to have a great first night’s cocktail hour. Larry was set up and told us that Steve Mendez and another Jeep had arrived at 2:30pm, relating trail issues that kept them from joining us in time for the run. They had headed for home a short time later.
Unfortunately, the wind became colder and stronger. We moved Jims motorhome a bit to help make a windbreak of his and Dick’s motorhomes for our cocktail gathering but we were not able to have a fire. The wind intensified as the night moved on. I had to put large rocks in my large tent to keep it on the ground as the wind was hard enough to pull the pins out of the ground. The wind did not let up until very early in the AM and I got very little sleep until it stopped. My tent was damaged in several places.
Monday, March 23:
Camp was moving around about 6:30am and after coffee and breakfast, we were on the trail by 8:30am. It was sunny day with a slight cool breeze. Our main objective today would be to drive Centennial Wash all the way to the Bill Williams River.
Centennial Wash is one of the nicest washes you can drive for a long distance. It is a wide, mostly sandy, wash with wonderful and diverse rock formations all along its course. It ends at the Bill Williams River. You used to be able to get all the way to the river and camp on the edge. It has now been blocked by metal railings and has become part of a wilderness area. Where one could once more freely enjoy the area, the majority of people now are blocked from doing so.
Our first stop along the wash was at what I call a “Cowboy Cave.” It is a shallow natural cave in the side of the rocks. Indians may have used it for temporary shelter based on the artifacts found at the site. However, it was not a traditional spot for a Indian group of family to use for living quarters. The cowboys however made it a temporary home. They stacked up rocks for basic walls to block the wind and hung wire from nails to support a tarp or blanket or other cloth to make a shelter. Evidence of their frequent use is scattered all about the site.
We continued or drive down the wash, mile after mile, enjoying the flowers the rock formations and the gentle ride in the soft sand. Eventually we came to the end and the blockade that has been erected.
We walked in to the waters edge and let the dogs have a nice swim while we watched the birds and remembered when we could camp on the edge of the river. I guess you can still camp there, you just have to pack in all your gear. As this is not a backpacker destination and you have to carry a lot of gear to camp this far out, it makes little sense to block it off from those who can get there by 4x4.
Continuing on up the wash, we took a short “directionally challenged” side wash thinking it was the one we wanted. Turning around, we went further up the main wash to the correct side wash and made our way to the trail that would take us northerly toward the eastern side of Ester Basin.
We came to a tricky little area where you have to find and turn back up a trail over your left shoulder. I missed it and we played around for a while trying to sort it out. As I was about to try a different route out, Dick and Larry found the correct trail and we were back on course.
We soon arrived at the Lola Mine site and stopped for pictures at the old mill site. The years have taken its toll on it and it has collapsed upon itself. The old hand made stone staircase on its north side is still there and is always nice to see.
Continuing north towards and along Potts Mountain, our attention was drawn to an old adit on the mountain. It is the site of the Red Top Mine. Farther along we would pass the workings of the Lead Pill Mine site.
All along the trail we had to make our way through numerous large water cuts. Some were more severe than others. A few of us hit a tail end or two along the way but nothing was so severe that we could not get through although Jim kept some of our folks guessing with his friendly “warnings” about the “big wash-out” up ahead.
We got to Alamo Road and made short work of getting back to camp for cocktails and dinner. The wind again came up and was too strong for us to have a campfire. We again gathered around the windbreak of Dick’s and Jim’s motorhomes for cocktails and tall tales. It grew dark and most everyone had retired by 8:30pm.
My tent suffered a little more damage from the wind, but was still usable for the night. The wind had made it a cold night again and Buddy and I threw on an extra blanket for the night.
Tuesday, March 24:
Camp was moving around about 6:30am again and after coffee and breakfast, we were on the trail by 8:30am. It was sunny day with a slight cool breeze. Our main objective today would be to find McGuffie’s Cabin in Mississippi Wash. (Jim and Dick had not been able to find it on an earlier excursion to the area and Jim claimed it had vanished or the wilderness gods had taken it off the radar.)
We headed south on Alamo Road until we found the trail off to the west along Rawhide Wash. We worked our way westerly along a very nice trail past some prospects and mining activity until coming to Miller Mountain where we turned southerly passing Fools Peak on our right. Continuing southerly past the workings of the Little Kimble Mine we got to the access trail that would take us down into Mississippi Wash.
Enjoying our short run down the rocky bottom of Mississippi Wash we soon came to the McGuffie Mine road that comes in from Alamo Road. Continuing down the wash we finally came to a short hill out of the wash that becomes very rough, steep and rocky on the down side into the cabin area. With some effort and spotting, all of the vehicles got through the tough spot and on down the rocky wash to the cabin site. Jim was happy that it had neither vanished nor been swallowed up by the wilderness gods
After a short visit inside the cabin and photos taken in and around the site, we hiked down the wash to the dam and the pictographs below. Some of us stayed on the top area and others ventured down via a path to the wash below to view the pictographs up close.
Upon everyone’s return to the cabin we declared it lunchtime and broke out our food and found a little shade along side our vehicles.
After lunch, we headed back up the wash to the tough area and did a little rock-work to make it a bit easier to get some of our vehicles out and then headed for McGuffie Mine road. It was at that point that Dick and Jim recognized where they had missed the turn in their earlier search for the site.
About halfway back to Alamo Road, we took a side trail up to a cabin at the Bonanza Mine. We stopped for some photos and then took another trail out to Alamo Road where it was decided to go down to the lake.
Arriving at the lake, the first ones in the water were Buddy, Sassy and Toby. The dogs were quickly followed in by Haul and Mary, who rolled up their pants and waded out into the water up to their knees. Then came Bob, who had changed into his swim trunks and took a full-body dip in the very cold water.
After our visit at the lake, we headed back up Alamo Road. Jim suggested taking some folks up through Maggie Wash which is a great little run through some tight canyon sides. Some wanted to go, some did not. I had Jim lead the Maggie Wash side trip and I took others back to camp.
Back at camp Dick lined up his truck next to his motorhome providing an additional wind break and later Haul added his large truck to the site providing us enough quiet space to have a small campfire using a fire-box. Cocktail hour and dinner was shared in this area and a small fire helped make our last night there much more pleasurable.
With the fire, folks stayed up a bit later but we put the fire out and most everyone had retired by 9PM.
Wednesday, March 25:
Camp was moving around about 6:30am and had coffee and breakfast. It was sunny day with a slight cool breeze. Our main objective today would be a short run up to the McCracken Mine area.
The Monson’s and Larry Brown were going to pack up and head out so we said our goodbyes and were on the trail by 8:30am.
Our trip first took us up to the site called Rock Cabin. At the site, we did some photos and some of the folks wanted to explore an adit at the site. Most of us went in for some distance, others went in further and some did not go in. After everyone had again gathered at the cabin, we headed for the other side of the mountain and the old town site.
We did not get far as the mine owners had bulldozed the roads and blocked access to the west side of the mountain. All we could do is return down the hill to our camp. With that disappointment, I called the trip done and we returned to camp and packed up for home.
Except for this one disappointment, the trip was a great success and enjoyed by all.