East Side Inbound: Turquoise Mountain Loop, written by leaders Bob & Sue Jaussaud
March 1, 2013
This part of the desert has everything we love: unbeatable scenery to enjoy, lots of history to ponder, old roads to drive on, and mining ruins and cabins to explore. Add a whole bunch of Desert Explorers to share it all with, and you've got the perfect combination for a sunny, breezy Friday in March.
Our first stop was a small group of petroglyphs on a low, dark hill nearby. We saw only a few of the glyphs, which were inventoried by archaeologist Wilson Turner years ago. (An instructor at Rio Hondo College, it was Turner who sparked our first interest in rock art in the 1970's.) Halloran Springs tank, with its resident gold fish, and the boarded-over spring close by, were next on our agenda. As with any spring in the desert, this water source was very important for early explorers, prospectors, and later "auto-ists", and was probably known to early people who came to this area for its precious turquoise. A short distance away is the foundation of Halloran Springs Station, which was, among other things, a place for early automobiles on the Arrowhead Highway to stop and cool their overheated engines, after climbing the punishing grade out of Baker.
Four wheeling fun began at this point in the trip with our own "punishing grade", an uphill climb in very soft sand. But the reward was a visit to an abandoned mine, with its 2 mysterious metal "safes", one of which is still locked up tight. Nearby Bull Springs is a delightful place, its large corral intact, with a tank full of water inside the enclosure. The actual spring is in a sinkhole, covered with tules and overshadowed by a tall willow tree. Sadly, the two owls that we'd seen when scouting this trip with Charles & Mary Hughes were not around.
We stopped for lunch at "Francis Spring," which is sizable enough to be described as a small pond. This watering spot is correctly titled "France's Spring", named after William France, an early explorer and prospector in this area. Ironically, France would later perish from thirst near Cerbat, Arizona, when he got lost while prospecting and was unable to find water. Our repast here was made even better with a surprise birthday cake for Leonard Friedman, cake and candles supplied by wife Rebecca and daughter Hannah. Add to that Mignon's delectable "Wonder Bars," and we soon found ourselves on a "sugar high."
Our group got even higher as we drove the paved road up Turquoise Mountain to check out the large buildings and relay towers on the top. This installation is huge, and very startling to find in the middle of the desert. One account we read explains it as being a cold war installation, built to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast. The buildings supposedly extend downward for four stories into Turquoise Mountain. (We would love to have a chance to check that out!). Whether or not this is true, the facility is a very impressive site. And the 360 degree view from the top is fabulous.
A quick stop at a quail guzzler was next, and a drive-by of Hyten's Well(s) followed. Next stop was at the Wander Mine, a gold mine that has been worked from the early 1900s to the present, as evidenced by the small piles of recently sifted tailings. The miners followed a quartz vein close to the surface for quite a distance, and the result is a deep ditch that, ...well, wanders! Moving on, the cabin at Cree Camp came into view, and we stopped to have a look and hike up canyon to the small but wonderful mill and rock lined well. Unfortunately, none of our sources had any history at all on this old homestead.
Our thanks to everyone who joined us for this inbound adventure. Your enthusiasm, curiosity, and sense of fun made leading this trip such a pleasure for both of us!