2011 Trip Report - Neal's Uneventful Trip
By Neal Johns
We joined Sunny and Jean Hansen and others on a private rock art trip along the Little Colorado River in northern Arizona to chase down dead Indian graffiti and capture it on camera. The rock art was readily accessible and all went well until we got a p.m. phone call saying her only sibling, Bill, had died the day before. He had been hit by a car a year and a half ago while riding his bicycle and suffered a massive head injury. This ultimately resulted in his death.
We drove all night to get home and spent a few days taking care of the immediate required details. Marian was not doing real and we decided to get away for a while. To the desert we went; where else? Nevada, this time, where there are no people and no problems. A vast basin and range country just waiting to be explored.
As is our usual way, we drove along the side of a mountain range and explored any canyons that looked interesting. It was a little more than interesting getting onto the down-valley road, the Delorme map was a little out of date, and we ended up starting on a gravel road and then traveling on a two track for several miles until finally getting on the right road. Don’t ask me where we were, I just tell The Boss where to turn after she points her finger (blindly, I suspect), at a point on the map. Men are ever so much better than mere women at navigating; any wrong turns are just to test The Boss.
An example of my great skill was to direct her up a two track road which clearly went up an interesting canyon. In a few miles, the road clearly ceased to be. Back the way we came, we went; Mutter, mutter. Proceeding down the valley, in a short distance we came upon a wide, graded road which went up the same canyon. I unilaterally decided taking the previous road was The Boss’s fault. Several other examples of her incompetence happened but I will spare the reader the details.
Because we had an upcoming trip with the Oregon California Trails Association mapping the Southern Emigrant Trail near Lordsburg, NM soon, we elected to stay out rather than go home for just a couple of days and then leave again.
We poked around Ellendale, a ghost town with a few downed buildings, traveled up Willow Creek (which had running water in it!), found our way to Milk Spring; yep, the water is milky, ate a tire and found a Goodyear the right size in Ely to replace our Goodyear. On Cherry Creek we found a nice free campground (I don’t want Marian spending my inheritance).
Finally heading toward Lordsburg, we stopped in Los Vegas to eat in a buffet and listen to the slot machine music. Went to Chino Valley, AZ to pick up the blue Tacoma we had dumped there because Marian had to get back home for something or other which she claimed was more important than mapping trail – ridiculous! Then we went to Sedona to visit her old college friend, Lee. Finally we made it to Lordsburg, went to camp and started trail mapping the next day with a half dozen other weirdoes. We do these trips a few times a year, come join us, free training. J
We drove a dirt road to within a few tenths of a mile of where the trail might be according to faint broken lines of darker vegetation on Google Earth. We parked, hiked over, and immediately found trail debris heading the right direction for the nearest water stop known to be used by the emigrants. Woo Hoo! Shortly, I found an ox shoe, only used to pull emigrant wagons. The other artifacts showed it was an old road, but the ox shoe dated it as the old road we wanted. No wagon ruts were visible, only a cow trail. It is surmised that the ruts were still visible after cattle were introduced and they used the trail toward water as it was usually a direct route. It is still common to see only cow paths where the emigrant trail was, as indicated by rust on rocks or debris common to the emigrant age. Many emigrant trails were abandoned when the railroad came in. Steam engines require water every 10 or 15 miles and water was required by both the new-fangled horseless machines and people, making a road located near the tracks a no-brainer. Some survive as Jeep roads and ranch roads (which makes trail finders work easier).
We soon ran out of cow path and had to rely on broken glass, cartridges, old bottles, old cans, musket balls, horse shoes, square nails, and other period debris. We ended up five miles away at a water hole (tinaja) known to be on the trail. We mapped in other places for a few days and finally headed home. Good trip, unhappy reason.