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2009 Trip Report - Desert Bar & Swansea

MOE Trip Report  Desert Bar and Swansea Run

December 5 & 6 2009

By Dick Taylor


Saturday, December 5

The Desert Bar, Swansea trip started at Calicos restaurant with the following  folks in attendance: Dick Taylor, Dan Messersmith, Haul & Mary Reddick, Sue  Baughman, Mignon Slentz, Elke Meister, and Ingrid Purder.

We left Calicos parking lot at 8:00AM and madeour way to the Chevron gas station  at exit 9 and interstate 40 to pick up the balance of our group. [Malcom & Jean  Roode, Scott Roode & Ryan Fitzsimmons and Charles & Mary Hughes] We placed a  call to our trail leaders Carl & Nancy Noah who were going to meet us at the  store/gas station atthe trail headin Parker. Our final tally for the first leg  of the trip would be 16 people and 11 vehicles.

Moving on we worked our way through the maze of traffic lights in Havasu. We  thought there were 18 lights to get past but it turned to be 20.The Bill  Williams Bridge was limited to one lane total due to repairs being made to the  bridge.Thisgave us one more light to wait for and gave us the chance to bunch  up. From here it was clear sailing to our trail meeting place.


We made radio contact with the Noah's and they were waiting for us at the trail  head, Were we surprised when we pulled in and found Carl & Nancy along with  maybe 50 other rigs staging up to run the same trail we were taking. It looked  kinda like a zoo with people and rigs all over the place. Carl was out of his  jeep lookingfor the leader of this big group. He returned and let us know these  folks were a part of the Parker 4 Wheel Drive group doing their annual toy run  over the route to the desert bar. (The entry fee for making the run was a  donated toy for Christmas presents for children in families in need.) They were  set to start at 10:30 AM and it was suggested we get out ahead of them. Being it  was just after10 Am, and with thesmoothness of a well oiled machinewe pulled our  group backtogether and were on the trail, just ahead of the crowd.We had a 10,  maybe 15 minute lead on them, but we were out first.

As I was toldlater by our folks the trail in was the most challenging of the  trip, as most of the vehicles in our group were stock 4x4s. In the first 100  yards we were in low range low gear climbing a steep rocky upgrade. Off to such  a grand start most of us stayed in low range the rest of the way in. This trail  travels some 5 miles or so through some really great country. Along the way we  were treated to some spectacular views and got topass a couple mine sites. It  didn't take long for the big groups eager beavers to catch up to us and we let  them pass as road conditions would allow. We made a rest stop a little overhalf  way in to allow more passing and to get our

group all together again. Some of our group did a little hill climbing to reach  the entrance to an old mine and a higher vista. Once we were all together again  we got back on the trail. By now everyone was an old hand at climbing over the  rocks and things and we soon arrived atthe Desert Bar. The trip in was just over  5 miles and took about 2 hours. It could be said that it was slow going.

The Desert Bar is quite an experience. It is located on an old mining claim  about 5 or 6 miles from Hwy. 95 and just north of the town of Parker. It is  quite large with awell laid parking area and room to handle what looks like a  couple hundred people. It is totallyself-contained with no utility hook upsfrom  the outside world. They have their own well and provide their own electricity  via solar panels, battery packs and inverters. They are open on weekends from  noon to dusk during the cooler months of the year and have a full bar and  limited lunch service. Visiting bands play from 1 to 5 PM most weekends. We  spent about an hour having lunch and visiting before hitting the trail again.

We took the well graded wide road back out to HWY 95 where Carl & Nancy took  their leave. We thanked them for the leadership in getting us over the trail to  the bar and sharing this unique place with us. From here we went in to Parker  for stops at the store and gas station. After stocking up with ice, supplies and  topping off our gas tanks we were off for Swansea. Leadership (or the blame as  some refer to it) was turned over to Dan Messersmith for this leg of the trip.  The first thing on the agenda was to cover a little ground and secure a campsite

for the night, After some noodling around on a couple side roads the group  choose a nicesite just shy of the Swansea mine. Soon camp was made, the fire  started and happy hour got underway. We had a number of goodies to samplebut the  highlight was the Dutch oven fresh apple cobbler cooked up by Mignon. It served  us well that night and again at breakfast. We visited around the fire to about 8  PM when folks started to turn in for the night.

Sunday, December 6

Sunday morning was overcast and cool as the group got started for the day. Dan  made a big pot of coffee in his brand new red enamel 36 cup camp coffee pot and  Minion made a back up pot by the camp fire. The coffee and goodies werequickly  consumed and all were busy with the morning chores and breaking camp. On the  road again we made the short jaunt to the Swansea town and mine site. Swansea is  an old copper mine complete with processing area, smelter, and town site which  has been active on and off from the early 1900 hundreds upto 1944. During its  heyday it had a population of about 500 people and the town sported saloons, a  general store, post office and even a movie house.

The BLM, with a lot of volunteer help, has done a good job on the kiosk lay out,  handout material and restoration work around the site. We made a stop to see the  old living quarters which are being reworked in a joint project between BLM and  the friends of Swansea. The old adobe buildings have been re-plastered and  covered with a new metal roof to keep the rains from completely washing them  away. Our group spent some time working our way through the rest of the site  with our last stop being the old railroad station. From here our objective was  to find and cross a ford at the Bill Williams River.

We picked up the old pipe line road that follows a small above ground gas pipe  line all the way to the river. With a couple stops for a map check we did in  fact find the ford crossing the Bill Williams River. There had been mush  discussion on our drive in about how deep the water may be at the crossing. Past  rumors had it beingdeep enough to come in the doors of a lifted jeep the last  time Dan had tried to lead a group across this ford. A well developed back up  plan had been developed for the possibility that we may encounter deep water  again this trip. We lucked out on this trip as the river had split into 4  separate small channels which were shallow

and easy to cross. The only challenge we faced was the deep soft sand between  the channels. Our group of well experienced drivers had no problem getting  through it.

On the far side of the river wereached a major pipe line road that would take us  back to Interstate 40 just below Yucca. A short distance after turning onto this  road we made a stop to visit a grave site on top of the bluff that overlooks the  river basin. This small cemetery contained 5 graves belonging to the Lopez  family who were ranchers at this site along the river. This site has a  commanding view of the surrounding country side and is a very peaceful final  resting place.

Moving on we trekked our way over many, many hills and valleys, whoop-de-dos,  and water cuts as we made our way towards the Interstate. We made a lunch stop  in a nice sandy wash. During lunch we got to rehash our trip and visit with each  other. We were soon on our way again. With the road flattening out and picking  up some washboard, we knew we were reaching the end of our adventure. In a short  time we had reached the Interstatewhere the trip ended. A good time was had by  all. Hope to see you all again on some future trip.

Thanks for joining us.

Post Script Note:

Thanks to Mary Hughes who provided us with information on the tiny cemetery to  pass along to our readers.

Abraham Lopez immigrated to the US from Mexico in the late 1890s. He married  Marie Rojas from Santa Maria which was located just upstream from the ranch site  but is now under the waters of Alamo Lake. They would eventually be blessed by  13 children. They bought the ranch site in the 1920s. It turned out they had  been swindled into buying Federal land but not until a land survey had been done  in 1949. They filed for ownership under homestead law and in 1952 were given  title to the land. On the ranch, the Lopezs farmed about 100 acres and ran  cattle on several sections.

The first person to be buried in the small cemetery was their daughter Mary. She  married a Mormon man by the last name of Alma. Soon after returning from a  camping trip to Zion National Park in Utah, Mary became ill and died in 1931.  She was buried in the westernmost grave. Abraham died in 1932 from miners  consumption and was buried next to his daughter. Abraham Jr. died in 1934 after  and accidental gasoline explosion while working on a Model T Ford at night. He  was buried next to his father. The fourth interment was Gumercindo who

died in a Jeep accident in 1944 while stationed at Camp Bouse in the waning  years of WWII. He was buried next to his brother Abraham Jr. In October of that  same year, Augustine was drowned in an accident while he was working with a tug  boat crew dredging near Parker Dam. He was buried in the easternmost grave next  to his brother Gumercindo, the last to be buried there,

Son Leo Lopez was the last to reside at the ranch and left shortly after the  homestead patent was given in 1952.