Arizona Strip – East Side
May 20-27, 2009
By Dan W. Messersmith
Wednesday, May 20
Buddy and I met Dick Taylor, Buffalo Hayden with Jesse Comeau at the Mobil Station on East Beale at
the appointed time and after I made a return trip home to get my wallet, we were on the road by 6:15am.Even though we were all pulling trailers, we made good time along the way until we got through
Hoover Dam and into the Lake Mead area where we encountered road construction in multiple places.
By the time we got to Overton, we were at least 30-40 minutes behind schedule and we needed to
stop for some gas and a quick sandwich in Overton. We were able to make phone contact with Glen
Shaw who was waiting for us at Exit 93 on I-15.
After adding Glen to our trailer caravan, we made the best time we could along the Interstate with one
comfort break along the way. By the time we got to Lins Market in Hurricane we had made up some of
the lost time. We got gas for our extra tanks and did our last shopping for food, drinks and ice and were
on our way to meet most everyone else at Pipe Springs. While there I got several phone calls. One from
Coop Cooper who thought he was behind us but he was well on his way to Pipe Spring. Another was fromTom Weiss who phoned to let us know he and Stu Nicols would proceed to camp on their own. One
other was from Bob Younger who had reached Mesquite and was wondering if we had passed there yet. I told him to keep coming and meet us at camp.
(click Read More, below, to continue)
By the time we had reached the Mobil station at Pipe Springs we had made up most of our lost time
and were able to head out toward camp by about 2:15pm. We found that the Mobil did not have any ice,so Dick made a quick run to Fredonia to get what he needed and met us at the turnoff on Mohave County 109. Joining the caravan at Pipe Springs were Coop Cooper and Bob & Karen Monsen in their new Jeep and camping equipment trailer. We were expecting to find Stu and Tom at the campsite and have Mal & Jean Roode and Bob Younger join us there.
The road was heavily washboarded and we were traveling fairly slowly with most of us pulling trailers.
It was extremely dusty as well. We had gotten in about 24 of the 27 miles before our turn-off, when Coopcalled over the CB that he was seeing a liquid trail in the road. We all stopped and checked our vehiclesand trailers. It turned out that the rough road had upended containers in the Monsen trailer and they wereleaving the trail.While that issue was being handled, the Roodes arrived in their two vehicles. Just as they got stopped,Bob Younger came rolling up in his Alaskan Camper pulling his new Jeep. Just as he got there, Tom and Stu, in Tom’s Jeep, came thundering in from direction of camp to see why we were taking so long. TheMonsens got their trailer repacked and we started off again. Tom & Stu along with Bob Younger headedfor camp ahead of the pack. We followed along, finally reaching BLM Route 1058 which would take us tocamp in about 4 miles.
We arrived at camp much later than we had hoped, and everyone got busy selecting a campsite and
setting up their individual camps.We got things organized and had a quick dinner and enjoyed a campfire before calling it a day and retiring to our campsites.L to R: Buffalo, Dan, Dick, Bob Y., Stu, Jesse, Mal, Glenn, Bob M’s Chair, Karen, Coop & Tom.
Thursday, May 21
We woke up to overcast skies but no threatening cloud formations. As we got our coffee and breakfast
organized and out of the way, The Mal and Jean let me know they would be going in to Kanab to secure
some medications for Jean that she had forgotten. They would try and catch up with us on the trail later.
Our plan was to go out to Kanab Point today. We headed out about 8:00am going southeast on BLM 1048. Our first stop was anold house up on a hill not too far from our base camp. Relatively new and made of whitewashed cinderblock with a shiny metal roof, it has lots of remnants around it from its
days of occupation. It was more likely someone’s dream cabin/home rather than a ranch building.
Continuing on we traveled past Merle Finley Tank that I misidentified as Robinson Tank, but thanks to
a heads-up by Stu, we corrected the identification for our group.Down the road, I took the trail I remembered to get to Kanab Point. It used to go there. Now it only goes to a locked gate at the National Park Boundary. After a few choice words about the modern National Park Service I checked the maps and found a cut over to the only trail still open to the point. (There used to be three access trails, which allowed folks to do a loop trip in and out of the point.) At the point we enjoyed two overlooks. One that allowed us to look northerly up Kanab Creek Canyon and the other atthe connect point of Kanab Creek Canyon and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. As said so many times before, this is the most spectacular point on the north rim and thankfully is not part of the tourist trap the National Park Service calls the North Rim. As it was about 11:30am, we had our lunch break on the rim before moving on.
Returning to BLM1058, we took a northerly route up to one of the Uranium mines in that district. It
had been cleaned up but did not look like it had be activated back into service. After a short time at the
site, we returned back to camp. Shortly after we returned, the Roodes pulled in. It turned out they had
been following our tracks to Kanab Point and back, including going to the closed gate. The weather was
cooperative and we had cocktails, dinner and a nice campfire to round out the first full day.
Later, around midnight, some strong winds came up and we got a few sprinkles, but no serious rain.
Friday, May 22
Camp up and moving at sunrise and coffee and breakfast made a good start for the day. We were on
the trail by 8:00am again and headed for Toroweap today. We made our way through the cows and
calves at Jensen Twin Tanks and out to MC109.Along the way south on MC109 we looked for an access road off to the left that would go into a campground we found once before. We did not find it and continued down the road toward Toroweap. I had also considered stopping at the Witches Pocket. Located in the western side of Toroweap Valley it is a small spring fed pocket of water. It was given its name by the Powell expedition in 1870. It is said his Indian guides believed evil spirits called “innupin” lived in around the pool. There is a white Christian cross, painted on a rock face at this location that is sometimes called the Escalante Cross. There is no evidence that the Escalante party ever got that far south and the cross appeared well after the 1776 crossing of the Escalante party. In 1925, three men dug a small tunnel westerly about 25 feet into a hillside to try and find water they could hear running in the rock. They did not get to water. Two of the men were Frank Heaton and Brady ‘Windy Jim’ Inglestead. By the time we got to that area, it was decided to just continue on to the Toroweap overlook.As we neared the National Park Boundary, we encountered long stretches of deep soft, talc-like powder areas in the road. It was miserable to travel through. When we got to the Tuweep Ranger Station we stopped for folks to see the old site. The station is located at the base of the eastern wall of Toroweap Valley about 6 miles from the rim. Built by Public Works Administration funds in the late 1930’s, the contractors were the Olds brothers out of Winslow, Arizona. The five-room cabin was built of nativestone. It had running water in the bathroom and kitchen that came from a water catchments system and 4,400 gallon tank on the hillside above the house. Originally it was outfitted with propane to run gaslights, gas refrigerator and combination wood and gas stove. A garage/barn combination was also constructed using the same materials. In October 1940, Bill Bowen became the first ranger in residence. Additional amenities have been added over the years and it is still a comfortable residence for the ranger and his family who live there. Before leaving the Ranger Station site, we stopped to take a quick look at the old road grader that has become a piece of yard art at that location. We continued on to the overlook and those who had not been there before were in awe of the unfenced 3,000 foot straight down overlook to the river. Those of us who have been there before are still always impressed with the views. Bob Younger shared how he had camped at this very spot 50 years ago and took some pictures of a tree that he pitched his tent under.On our way back toward the Ranger Station we encountered a group of folks on horseback who were
riding out to the rim for lunch. We speculated how far they had ridden to get there, then found their
support vehicles and horse trailers out by the Ranger Station. We presumed they had come over from the Bar 10 Ranch. Back at the Ranger Station, we stopped once more at the grader as several folks wanted to check it out more closely. It was climbed, inspected, wheels turned, and every gadget on it fiddled with for some time. Although most of the older “boys” had a great time, Jesse seemed to have the best time working the old controls. Leaving the grader we headed back up the road towards the talc sections. As we approached them, we encountered a white pickup with California plates. The two young men had been hiking at Toroweap. When I stopped to ask if they needed assistance, they told me that they had gotten stuck in the talc on the way in and were afraid to try and get out without help. I agreed we could help them and called for Buffalo to bring up his Jeep as it was the best equipped among us to pull them out from the front. Buffalo pulled through the talc area, well ahead of the boys, and waited to see if they could get through. The guys hit the talc with as much speed as they could muster and slipping here and there put up a cloud of talc that saturated the area and blocked all vision for several minutes. They made it through and I don’t think they stopped again until they got to St. George. We all crawled through the talc and gathered Buffalo back into the caravan and headed back for camp.
When we got back to the area of camp, some of us wanted to look a little more for the “lost” camp
site we had looked for this morning. We drove up and down 109 and looked at everything we could but
to no avail. We still could not find it. We headed back to camp early as this was potluck night and Dick and I needed a little extra time to cook up some Dutch oven recipes. It was noted that we covered 77 miles today, just going to Toroweap and back. Our potluck was a success and all had more to eat then they should have. I made an apple, raisin upside down spice cake for my very first Dutch oven attempt. It was very good and made a great dessert. Dick cooked up a big pot of chicken supreme in his Dutch oven and it was a great main dish for our dinner. We did not have a campfire tonight and had the threat of rain and some light rain overnight.
Saturday, May 23
Today was to be a short run day with a trip to town for those who wanted to go for ice, gas, supplies and perhaps dinner. We decided to go take a look at the lava cave that is located over at the Findley and
Heaton Knolls just to the west of our camp. We treaded once more through the cows and
calves at Jensen Twin Tanks and over to MC109. Going south for a short distance, we turned off on a road that would take us around behind the knolls. My memory of the lava cave was that it was on the west side of the knolls so we were not looking real hard for it along the southern sides of theknolls. However, Coop called over his CB that he had seen a large hole in the ground next to the road that
looked like what I had described we would be looking for. It was and I was somewhat surprised that we
had come upon it so quickly and on the south side of the knolls. We got out to look it over and to look for artifacts of Indian habitation. One of the first things that was found was a rather large rattle snake at the entrance of the cave. Several of the guys did there best to get close to the snake to get a picture of it. (I was not one of them, satisfied to be up out of the way.) We did find lots of pieces of broken pottery of several different types as well as many flakes from making stone implements. After a nice visit there and the snake safely away under a big rock for cover from the photo seekers, we continued on toward the back of the knolls. Taking our time we drove up to the northern parts of the knolls and Tom and I examined the site of a second cave that is shown on the map. The last time we were there, this cave site was filled with tumbleweeds and we could not see if there was an entrance or not. This time were less tumbleweeds, but any entrance in the depression of the site of the cave was obscured. We speculated the cave entrance may have collapsed and created the depression that fills with the weeds.
Going on, we passed rain collection site as we slowly returned to MC109 enjoying the changing views
along the way. At MC109 we turned north and headed for Hack Canyon. At our arrival we found the road into the canyon to have been greatly improved from the time of our last visit some years ago. Also at the start, someone (Coop?) spotted a structure built into the cliffs along the road. We continued our descent into this spectacular display of rock formations. The road was smooth, wide and well graded. BLM signs had been added to the route and what had once been a rocky wash to traverse down the canyon was now a graded route. We made our way down to the Hack Mine site that BLM had claimed was completely restored back to nature and could not be found. It was somewhat changed from our last visit but still easy to find based on several indicators. While there, Buffalo found and followed a rattlesnake around a bit. We decided not to go any farther down the canyon as it would just end a short bit ahead at an uncalled for wilderness boundary that is a reverse cherry stem to keep people away from the lower part of the canyon.Returning back up the road to the top, we decided to take a closer look at the structure that had beenseen coming in. Arriving at the site, we found a heavy timber wall and door that was covering a small and shallow natural looking chamber. We did a lot of speculating as to its purpose with the best guess being that it may have been used for dynamite storage when they were building the original road into the canyon. We headed back for camp and lunch. After lunch, some of us went to town (Kanab) for gas, supplies and dinner. We encountered a good rain while in town, but not much was reported to us upon our return to camp. It was heavily overcast with storms and lightning in the distance around us in the North and East. No campfire tonight and everyone had retreated to their camps by 8pm.
Sunday, May 24
After breakfast and coffee, we decided to search one more time for our missing possible camp site.
Both Buffalo and I had been to the site several years ago, but we remembered its location a bit differently.The one fact we mostly agreed upon was that access to it was off of MC109. I would be riding with Dick today so I could work with my maps and gps as we did our search. Stu headed for home today and would be missed. Making our now frequent run through the cattle at Jensen Twin Tanks, we found the cows to be more use to us and no longer much interested in our passing. After getting to MC109 we headed south to a point I had pinpointed on a map as the probable location of the camp access. We found nothing. We tried a few other roads off to the east with no success. Giving up, I decided just to noodle around and take a round-about way back toward camp. We found a number of roads that badly needed us to drive them and much nice scenery along the way. I twisted and turned at numerous locations, always working toward camp but trying to keep those behind me guessing where we were or where we were going. That is not an easy task when you have experienced travelers with state of the art gps and computer equipment, but I was pretty successful in throwing them off a bit
along the way. I nearly got us back to camp without anyone guessing where we were, but Tom spotted the Finley and Heaton Knolls once and toward the end Buffalo and Jesse spotted the Uranium Mine head frame and old home/homestead building on the distant hill. I tried to convince them they were seeing things, but could not. As I approached camp I made note over the radio that I had encountered someone else’s base camp and would be stopping to talk to them. I had twisted and turned, lied and misled and come in from a different direction enough to fool a couple of people right up to that point as we drove into our camp, but most knew where we were. As it was about 11am, we decided to continue our journey and headed out to look for the second Uranium Mine that was closer to camp. Finding it, we looked it over and Buffalo and Jesse discovered that the road around the facility would give us a good look at it. We made our way around the compound and were treated to a number of great sites. Along the way, we found a back gate wide open. I checked it out and it was locked, but had come loose of the fence. I returned it to its fence post so that it looked closed again. Now lunchtime, we headed for the vacant hillside house we had visited earlier in the week and took a nice break from the trail.
After lunch we headed toward Water Canyon Point to find a significant prehistoric Indian Cave. We
took a route through the trees that had not been driven in some time and worked our way to the access
trail to Water Canyon Point. At that intersection we turned to a southerly trail down hill and soon came to the cave location. We found it had been badly vandalized with may pot holes from illegal digs around the site. The pot hunters had even cut a vehicle road into the site that had not been there in the past. Still it was worth the stop particularly for those who had not been there before as there were lots of pottery pieces and flakes to be admired. Leaving the site, we found a BLM marker that declared this a protected archeology site telling people to leave it alone. The sign had been torn down. We gave the sign to Tom who took it and replaced it near the site. Back up to the intersection, we took the trail out to the Water Canyon Point overlook. This point overlooks the place where Hack Canyon intersects with Kanab Canyon. It is nothing less than spectacular. Hack Canyon Kanab Canyon As it started to rain a little, we returned to our vehicles and headed back to camp retracing our trek through the woods.
Back at camp it was decided to dig up the time capsule we have maintained at this site since 2000.
Our plan was to place another penny in the capsule, rededicate it and rebury it. However, when I dug at
its location, I found the small jar had broken open. As we dug for the pieces, we only found the little
turtle, arrowhead and two of the pennies that had been in it. The pennies were badly corroded and noneof the paper contents could be found. Disappointed I put everything away and would take it home tocreate a better container to hold up in the freeze and thaw and corrosive environment of the ground.
We had a great campfire tonight and spent a good deal of time discussing the pros and cons of the
appropriate engineering it would take to preserve our future time capsule. When I felt we had engineeredourselves to a point of extreme for our humble time capsule, Bob reminded me it was a simple choice ofsuccess or failure. So we engineered some more.
Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day)
Up and about by 6am, the folks were ready to go by 8am and we headed out to MC109 once more to
head for Trumbull Mountain today. As we began our ascent out of Toroweap Valley we gained elevation quickly and ever larger pine trees surrounded us. Arriving at the Nixon Administrative site we noticed they have added several more log chalets to the site. Poor BLM and Forest Service personnel sure have to rough out here in the sticks. The last time we spoke with some of the guys out doing the heavy work (controlled burns) they told us they could not use the fancy lodgings and had to camp out in tents around them. The lodges were maintained for the “brass” to use when they had to do a visit.
Moving on to the historic sawmill site we found the sign in very bad condition. This site was one of
seven sawmill sites that had worked the logs from Trumbull Mountain now a wilderness area. Moving up through the site, we encountered new signs and an improved trail that had not been there on my last visit. I continued to move the group up the hill to a prehistoric Indian pueblo site. We took it in and
discussed its history then returned to our vehicles by using the improved trail. Our next objective was to drive south past the Nixon Administrative site and follow a trail through the timber to a place called Hell’s Hollow. The first section is a beautiful drive through lush forest with one point along the way that overlooks Toroweap Valley. Reaching the “downhill” section, I advised everyone to use their 4x4 low as they would soon need it. We had gone just a little ways when we encountered a Polaris ATV coming up the hill with two couples and a driver in it from the Bar 10 Ranch. We waved and continued on. The trail is steep, rocky, slippery and requires drivers to pay attention to the trail as they grind down the slope.
Reaching the bottom we turned and headed down to the Bar 10 Ranch. As they looked busy, I went in
and tracked down Garth Bundy who works there to see if we could come in and have lunch in the shade
of their big trees. He introduced me to Ben Sorenson who along with his brother Joe, currently manage the site. They said we could come in and indicated where we needed to park to stay out of the way as the loaded passengers on buses to take them to airport to fly out to Las Vegas. The Bar 10 is a working ranch as well as a dude ranch that caters to visitors coming up off of raft trips on the Colorado River. They also fly people in to start a raft journey. It is quite an operation and you can find out lots of information on it at www.bar10.com. You can also check out their beef operation and sales at www.bar10beef.com. They ship their beef anywhere. I inquired about Verdon Heaton who had been a fixture at the site and one of the first Arizona Strip people I met in my first visit in 1995. I was told he had passed away at age 79 in April of last year (2008). Packing up from lunch, we continued our journey and headed for the Mt. Trumbull (Bundyville) schoolhouse. Reaching the site, we got out to tour the site when the Polaris from the Bar 10 came rolling in. They were doing the same loop as us, but in the opposite direction. It was there that we found out the two couples were from Germany. (Stu would have been delighted, but missed his opportunity once more.) We headed back up the road that steeply climbs up the Hurricane Cliffs and back to the Trumbull Mountain area and then back to camp for an early day, so that we could have another potluck that night. Again Dick and I pulled out the Dutch Ovens and this time I did a cornbread and chili dish and Dick did a “dump cake” recipe. Both were great and disappeared quickly through the efforts of our hungry campers who also provided many treats to tempt the pallet.
Tuesday, May 26
Camp got going again by 6am. Mal & Jean and Tom were leaving today so we all said our goodbye’s
and got on the trail by 8:30am. Today was to be a noodle around day to see what ever came up.
We traversed over past Jensen Twin Tanks to MC109 once more and headed south to find some trails
to run. Along the way we decided to look at a road that ran off to the southeast to see what was back off the road. What we found was a very nice campsite for a future trip. Placed back in a small basin with some trees for shade and cover, it had lots of open space for tents and campers. It is not suitable for motorhomes but small to medium camping trailers and pop-up campers, would work there. It is at an elevation of 5,741 so it is just a bit higher than our current base campsite, but it is more sheltered from the winds. Moving on we worked our way back to MC109 and continued south to look over a few other roads that would take us easterly. Along the way we stopped at an old ranch site at the north end of Toroweap Valley. Substantial ruins and corrals still stood in silent testimony of an era gone by. The main
house’s fireplace was still standing and had a unique mantle as the homebuilder had incorporated either wagon or truck leaf springs into the fireplace to hold the mantle. As we looked around the site, it was obvious that this was once a very nice home with lots of shade trees with garden areas and stock areas. Its location along the road made it the perfect spot for early travelers to find a cool drink of water
and hospitable ranchers. As we exited the site, we found the skin of a calf or cow had been hung on the fence and naturally tanned by the hot sun. Down the road some more we finally came to the trail I wanted to run today and headed up the hill and in an easterly direction. As we leisurely traveled along we took forks and turns that kept us moving east-southeast. We were doing just fine when we came to a locked gate blocking the road with signs saying it was the National Park boundary. Another perfectly good trail is gone by an arbitrary, unjustifiable and unnecessary decision of the National Park Service. It really spikes the blood pressure to find these closed trails. What a crock of bull these closures have become. Turning around, we retraced our tracks back to another road and headed east toward Hancock Knoll, a significant landmark in the area. Once we reached the trail that would take us north toward camp, we pulled off for a lunch break. After lunch we continued northerly toward camp and when we reached Jensen Twin Tanks we decided to tour the cowboy camp at the tanks. There is an old stone
bunkhouse with an old trailer incorporated into it as well as several old sheepherder
wagon campers (exterior and interior photos by Bob Yo u n g e r ) on site. There is even an old
motorhome, which has been converted to be pulled with a fifth-wheel hitch. We stopped
and took several pictures and looked the place over. As this is an active cowboy camp, we
took care not to disturb anything at the site. From there we headed northerly into Nate’s
Canyon and past Nate’s Tank where we found another group of Heaton cattle in residence. We
continued on to get to an overlook of Hack Canyon. There are two overlooks, but we only went to the
eastern overlook where we could see part of the Hack Mine site. After enjoying our time at the overlook, we returned to camp for cocktails, dinner and a rarecampfire to round out the day.
Wednesday, May 27
By today, everyone was ready to call it a trip and so the morning was spent with a leisurely breakfast,
packing up and saying our farewells. This had been another great trip for the books and we look forward to the next one.