2009 Trip Report - Wickieup Loop
Hillside, Prescott, Wikieup Loop
July 11, 2009
By Dan W. Messersmith
Saturday, July 11
At 7:30am on Saturday Dick & Connie Taylor, with Sassy, Linda Grundy, with Georgie and Dan & Jan Messersmith with Buddy met for coffee and breakfast at McDonalds in Kingman. By 8:00am, no other travelers had arrived so we departed for our trip to Prescott. Jan & I took the lead, Linda was comfortably tucked into the rocking chair position and Dick & Connie took the sweep position.
We took I-40 east about 13 miles and exited on to Blake Ranch Road headed south. I pointed out the Blake Ranch to our small group and noted how active the ranch headquarters seemed to be.
We continued on enjoying our ride through the eastern Hualapai Mountain foothills. At the former Laughlin Ranch, now the Yellow Pine Ranch we saw a small airplane parked on the west side of the runway with “Yellow Pine Taxi” painted on the side. Linda noted that it had been there for some time and did not think it was being used. The airstrip had a fair amount of weed growth on it that would indicate it had not been graded or dragged for weed control in a while. The little pond below the ranch headquarters was about 3/4 full of water.
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We moved on. At the lowest point in the road in a little feeder wash to Cedar Wash, we stopped for a comfort break for people and puppies. After the break we made the steep ascent up to the mesa levels of the remainder of the Blake Ranch Road to where it connects with US93. This particular area of the road provides spectacular vistas of the surrounding area. You can observe the Hualapai Mountain range to the west, the Aquarius Mountain Range to the east, the northern part of the Big Sandy Valley and eventually the area of the Cane Springs Ranch. It is also one of the best vehicular rollercoaster rides in the county as the road rises and falls for numerous miles on its downward run toward the highway.
After we got through the gate and on to US93 we encountered a fair amount of traffic and wished we were still on the back roads. At Wikieup, we decided no one needed to stop and continued through. As an alternative, Dick suggested we take the old abandoned highway down to the Burro Creek Campground and stop there for a comfort break. Making the turn just prior to the Burro Creek Bridge, we descended down the deteriorating pavement stopping along the way to take in an overlook of the creek and campground. At the campground we found it deserted and without a camp host. We presumed this was because of the summer heat. We used the facilities and headed up the hill to US 93 again.
At this point, Dick took the lead and I took the sweep as Dick wanted to run a short dirt road along the Santa Maria River that I had not been on before. Linda just hung in there in that rocking chair position and kept the front end and back end honest.
Arriving at the river, we crossed the bridge and took an immediate left turn across the highway. A signpost told us that the Santa Maria Ranch and the Little Santa Maria Ranch were ahead of us. The map showed this trail as Santa Maria Road. We saw the turn off for the Santa Maria Ranch and in about 8 miles came to the Little Santa Maria Ranch area. This ranch, at one time, had some nice signs at every gate hanging from tall signposts announcing that this was indeed the Little Santa Maria Ranch.
A little further along, we encountered four or five abandoned “ranchettes” or “homesteads” that were not particularly old, but stood as quiet witness to dreams and opportunities that did not work out for those who built in this remote area. We also encountered what appeared to be a small settlement at one time that was now just a private home site as one very modern and nice house could be viewed among the abandoned trailers and small houses or shacks nearby. I speculated that it was the remnants of an earlier mining community that someone had purchased and built their private residence among the “ghosts” of the little unidentified mining community. (A later check of my maps of the area did not shed any light upon the little site.)
When we got to the highway (AZ96) we turned right and headed toward our next destination, Hillside.
Hillside is both an old mining community and railroad siding. The old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe line (now the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe) used the site as a stop for many years. This track ran from Ashfork to Phoenix with side routes into Prescott and Clarkdale. The route is known locally as the “Peavine” because of the way it winds its way through the rugged terrain of Arizona. As we approached the town, a sign on the highway proclaimed that the “HILLSIDE GENERAL STORE WAS NOW OPEN.” We made the turn and went in to look the town over. When we got to the General Store, we found it was closed. Turning around, we headed back to AZ96 (called the Thompson Valley Road at this point) to continue our way to Prescott and lunch. Dick and I switched leading and sweep duties once more. Linda continued her role of keeping us honest.
As we passed through the area of Yava, we encountered a man driving his farm tractor on the highway with a girl and boy holding on behind the seat. It brought back great memories of my uncle giving my cousin and me rides to the fields back in Illinois. From Yava to Kirkland we encountered some very prosperous looking ranches. One raised quarter horses, but the fanciest one had no indication of its purpose but had a huge house, extensive out buildings and outside lighting you would see at an outdoor event field.
Arriving at Kirkland we turned off of AZ96 and headed northerly toward Skull Valley on Yavapai Co. 10 (Iron Springs Road). Kirkland has some fine old stone buildings that reflect its age and location as a railroad siding. It also has a large restaurant and bar with a rodeo grounds off to its side. At one time this cowboy bar had a reputation of having to fight your way in and fight your way out, but it seems the wild west had toned down some from the welcoming signs and condition of the facility.
Continuing on, we began our slow ascent toward Prescott. At the town of Skull Valley, we found the local Café’s parking lot over-flowing with cars and pickup trucks. Looks like another visit to Skull Valley to test this café’s cooking is going to go in the planning book. It also had a great looking little general store. As we were attempting to get to Prescott for lunch we did not stop, but we will come back and do a tour of the café, store and small museum.
After Skull Valley, we worked our way toward Prescott through tall pines, church camps and miscellaneous campgrounds. We pulled into downtown Prescott and found it FULL! There were lots of tourists in town and parking places were at a premium. My original plan had been to park near the courthouse square and take in one of many nice restaurants around the square. After a few around the block efforts, I headed off towards Murphy’s, which is a block off the square. Finally finding some parking spots, we headed for Murphy’s for lunch. The food was excellent as always, but the service was well below Murphy’s usual standards.
We then headed back to our vehicles to go visit the historic Sharlot Hall Museum complex and see the governor’s mansion and first territorial capitol (both the same large log cabin building). When we got there, it had an art festival taking up its grounds and parking was a premium around the site. We did find spots behind the property and walked around the side to get in. We found that it had a $5 entry fee and since we had no interest in doing the festival we returned to our vehicles to head for home.
We worked our way back to Montezuma Street and AZ89 and headed out of town. We stopped once to top off our gas tanks and then were on our way to enjoy the beautiful but twisting descent that is AZ89. Making our way slowly down the grade and through all the twists and turns, we finally came to Wilhoit and stopped to let the dogs get a break from being in the vehicles.
When we reached Kirkland Junction, I decided that I would rather go back via AZ96 and connect with US93 off of AZ97 rather than continue down AZ89 to US93. It would take longer and retrace some of our earlier road, but it would also keep us off of a substantial portion of US93, which is a good thing if you are not in a hurry.
We enjoyed winding our way back and when we reached the Santa Maria River area we enjoyed the air-conditioning in our vehicles as the outside temperature had reached 111 on my truck’s outside temperature gauge.
At the AZ96 and AZ97 junction, we turned onto AZ97 and headed for US93. At US93 we headed north and within a short time were approaching Nothing, Arizona. This small stop along US93 was once a fixture for travelers on this route with cold drinks, ice cream and restrooms. Emergency help could be found there from towing to gas and minor repairs. A telephone was another emergency tool the site provided. When US93 was all two-lane travel it was a welcome relief to stop there to recover from the tension of driving a very dangerous road. Besides, where else could one stop at Nothing, relax at Nothing or just do nothing at Nothing. As their bumper stickers used to proclaim: “You haven’t seen Nothing if you haven’t seen Nothing, AZ.”
Well Nothing did become nothing for a while as the folks who owned it moved out after a bad fire took out the large garage. It went up for sale and just recently a couple (Mike & Bonnie) from Las Vegas, NV bought it and have been advertising its rebirth. We stopped to check them out and perhaps get some ice cream if they had any.
The couple is remodeling the little store with plans to put in a campground as well as a restaurant featuring homemade, wood-fired Italian pizza. They have big plans and dreams for their little “slice” of heaven. They did have fresh hot pizza and ice-cold beer, but no ice cream yet. We passed on the pizza and beer and promised to come back when they are open. We might even do another outing at Burro Creek Campground and build in a pizza night at Nothing.
You can check it out at: www.pizzamanmike.com
Continuing on, we made our way to Wikieup and stopped for ice cream. One of Dick and Connie’s favorite BBQ stops is Eat At Joe’s BBQ in Wikieup and it had a closed sign on it when we came through earlier today. The sign was still up so Dick was concerned, as one of the owners had been having some health problems. While the others were finishing their ice cream I drove back to Joe’s and found a sign on the door that said they had to close temporarily for some personal business and would be open again real soon.
Back on the road, we were soon coming down the hill on I-40 into Kingman. We had gone about 320 miles today and had a great time for such a simple little trip. We also found some things we want to go back and take another look at in the future. We said our farewells over the radio and headed for our respective homes.