Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 7: Kentucky Camp and the Gold Mines

Sunrise! A glorious sunrise!
April 19: Arizona is well-known for it's mineral deposits--especially copper. But there is also gold in them thar hills, and the Santa Rita Mountains have it. One popular way to get to gold back in the day was hydraulic mining where powerful jets of water blast away hillsides to reach the gold deposits. It still happens even today, at least in some places, but the wholesale slaughter of mountains probably isn't as common anymore. But even low-tech gold mining generally required some water. Panning for gold isn't easy if there's no water around!

But in Arizona, water was often in short supply. In these mountains, the gold deposits and ample water did not occur in the same valleys. There are two solutions to this problem: carrying the pay dirt to water, or hauling the water to pay dirt. When gold mining started in these hills in the 1870s, burros packed water to the mining claims which was sold to miners for 3 cents a gallon. I have a hunch that the folks hauling water to the miners probably earned more money than the miners did!

But this was a slow process that didn't scale up very well, and in stepped James B. Stetson in 1904. He was an engineer for the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company, and he pushed an idea to make hydraulic mining a reality. The company would build ditches, pipes and tunnels to carry water from streams and springs near Bear Spring to the gold-bearing gravels at Boston Gulch.

The 1,000-foot tunnel I camped near overnight wasn't the the first evidence of this elaborate aqueduct. The Arizona Trail follows on and along the 8.5 miles of this system. The ditch that carried water 2.5 miles to this location wasn't readily apparently anymore, although I did spy a couple of clearly man-made structures made of rocks and concrete that I suspect were part of the ditch. No signage near them explained their purpose, though, so I only had guesses and hunches. The tunnel, however, had a plaque which explained much about the details. Even better, the trail would pass about half a dozen of these informational signs, and I took photos of them all so I could tell the gold stories in detail later. =)

That's where all of this information comes from. No Google searches needed!

The next historical sign was posted at Stetson's Dam, or at least what's left of it. The miners needed a place to store the thousands of gallons of water that hydraulic mining required, so they build a dam 10 feet high and 100 feet long. Today, it's just a long mound of earth and rocks and holds back no water at all.

See the water cache hidden behind the tree?
The next structure to be featured was the penstock with an intriguing sign about "Making Water Flow Uphill." The sign explained:

From the upper parts of Gardner and Cave Canyons, water flowed gently in open ditches to this point, dropping only about 15 feet per mile. But from here the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company needed to get the water across the broad valley to the northeast.

To do so, the company laid a 24-inch diameter pipe. From this penstock the pipeline drops more than 200 vertical feet to the stream crossing, then gains 160 feet to the ridgetop 1 mile northeast of here.

Because the water entered the pipe higher than the outlet, no pumping was required to make the water flow up the opposite hillside.

The penstock was the structure where water flowed out of the ditch and into the pipe, and the sign included a cut-away diagram of its design. Bars at the entrance blocked larger debris from entering the pipe, and a settling tank at one end helped to remove dirt, leaves and smaller debris before the water finally entered the pipe. It was important to get all of this debris out of the water before sending it down 200 feet through the pipe and back up 160 feet to the outlet. It wouldn't have any trouble flowing downhill, but the debris would have trouble making it back up the 160 feet to the outlet!

A hatch at the top of the penstock allowed workers access to occasionally clear the settling tank of debris.

I checked out the penstock, taking photos of the entrance where water flowed from the ditch into the penstock and through the old hatch into the settling tank, then continued following the aqueduct.

Along this next stretch, I'd often see the 24-inch pipe partly exposed. Sometimes it would cross the trail perpendicularly. And then it had to cross bedrock, for which they provided another explanatory sign. This ground contained some very hard limestone. Most of the pipe was buried so the surrounding dirt could help support the weight of the water in the pipe, but here the construction workers found it easier to elevate the pipe on a massive rock masonry platform than to excavate into the bedrock. Masonry held the pipe in place while short, wooden trestles carried the pipe across small drainages.

Wildflowers of the Arizona Trail!
The masonry was still visible here, although the pipe was long gone.

Further along the trail, another information board explained the small-scale mining techniques that were used before this aqueduct was built. Miners used picks and shovels to dig small shafts down to the "pay dirt," the gold-bearing gravels just above bedrock. The worthless dirt above the gold-bearing gravels were cast aside to form heaps and piles in the area.

I looked around and saw a lot of heaps and piles. Were all of those the leftover worthless dirt from small-scale mining? That's would have been a heck of a lot of dirt to pile up using nothing more than picks and shovels! The heaps and piles looked like they'd been there forever--I wouldn't have given them a second thought if the sign hadn't made me stop to look at them more closely. They did have something of a symmetrical look to them, more than I would have expected to find naturally. After over a hundred years, though, they had grown grasses and shrubs and generally blended in with the environment around it.

The trail continued onward, finally reaching Kentucky Camp. The camp was built as the headquarters for the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company. The aqueduct worked, and hydraulic mining started in 1904. Three hydraulic monitors--essentially giant squirt guns that shot a pressurized stream of water 100 feet through the air--started their assault on the nearby hills. The Arizona Daily Star reported on August 24th of that year that the monitors "tear up the ground with splendid results."

In May of 1905, James Stetson died when he fell from a third-story hotel window in Tucson. George B. McAneny, the president and primary investor, was unable to continue his financial support and died a few years later in 1909. Ultimately, the operation lasted a mere six months and after spending over $200,000 building the aqueduct, it only pulled out a few thousand dollars of gold. The operation was a miserable failure.

After McAneny died, Louis Hummel acquired the property and used Kentucky Camp as a ranch headquarters until the 1960s. The camp, along with most of the Greaterville mining district, then became part of the Coronado National Forest in 1989 where things stand today.

Lest you think nothing happened today except following in the footsteps of old gold miners, you're largely correct. Not much else happened today. =)

All that's left of Stetson's 10-foot high, 100-foot long dam.
I did run into not one, but two backpackers during the day. The first, Day Hiker, was hiking southbound on the Arizona Trail. He had started his hike somewhere near Phoenix and wasn't staying exclusive to the Arizona Trail having wandered out on the Grand Enchantment Trail for quite a ways and looping around to all sorts of places I'd never heard about. I suspected his trail name of Day Hiker was due to his small pack--it looked like he could have been out for a day hike!

The second hiker I met called himself Whitney Houston. I was curious about what kind of self-respecting man would call himself Whitney Houston and where that trail name came from, but I didn't ask. =) He was hiking northbound on the Arizona Trail having started at the Mexican border but intended to stop at the Grand Canyon rather than continue on to the end of the trail.

"But why not do that last hundred miles?" I asked. "If you have the time, you may as well!"

But he told me that he wanted to end at a grand location, and what was more grand than the Grand Canyon? He had me there.... "But you'd be so close to the end of the trail by then!"

The part that really shocked me, however, was that he had started at the Mexican border just two days earlier. It took me a week to reach this location, and he covered the distance in two days! He was doing over 40 miles per day! Insane! And that he expected to reach the Grand Canyon on May 9th or 10th. I figured to be around the halfway mark on the trail by then.

I took this photo the day before. At the
time I took it, I recognized it as being man-made
(that crack in the rock looked a little too straight!)
but I couldn't figure out what it was for until
learned about the gold mining aqueduct. Now
I think it was part of the ditch that used to
carry water to the tunnel.
"Well, I guess I'll never see you again!" Most of the time, when I see long-distance hikers headed in the same direction as me, I know I might see them over and over again, passing each other multiple times. But there was no way in hell I'd be hiking 40 miles per day. Even if I could (and I probably could--if I really wanted to), I had to take photos for every mile of the trail for Walking 4 Fun and therefore couldn't hike through the night like he must have been doing.

I didn't know it at the time, but Whitney Houston would be the closest thing to a thru-hiker I'd meet along the entire length of the Arizona Trail. Technically, he wasn't a thru-hiker since he wasn't planning to walk the last 100 or so miles of the trail, but he would be the only hiker I'd meet that was doing more than half of the trail, and Day Hiker and Whitney Houston were the only two long-distance hikers I'd meet on the trail at all. The only other backpackers I'd meet for the rest of the trail would just be out for overnight or a weekend trips.

But I didn't know that at the time. I thought this was just the beginning of the long-distance hikers I'd be meeting on the trail--not the last of them!

Once I reached Kentucky Camp, the trail follows a series of dirt roads that were shared with more than a few ATVers. But it was Saturday--the roads that allowed motorized vehicles were probably busier on weekends.

Late in the day, the clouds started coming in thick and thunder roared in the distance. Rain seemed like a real possibility. I set up camp next to Forest Service Road 62--which turned out to be a remarkably busy road for being gravel. Seemed like a vehicle would drive down it every ten minutes or so until just after sunset. I set up my tarp again, just in case it rained during the night. It did sprinkle lightly near dusk as I cooked dinner, but nothing more than a light sprinkle.

Entrance to the penstock where water would flow from
a ditch (which I would have been standing in) into
a pipe going out the other end.

Looking through the hatch at the top of the penstock into the settling tank.

There is gold in them thar hills!

The clouds not only made a nice backdrop for my photos,
but it also provided a lot of shade on this otherwise
mostly unshaded area. =)

This 24-inch pipe was used to make water flow uphill. =)

Masonry was used to support the pipe in areas where engineers decided
it was too difficult to dig into the hard limestone.

This illustration on one of the informational signposts shows how the pipe
would have crossed a small creek on a trestle.

Some of the "heaps and piles" of waste dirt from small-scale mining.

One of the three monitors that used to "tear up the ground with splendid results."

I take a break on the porch of the main building at Kentucky Ranch.
Notice that I took off my hiking shoes and put on my crocs. I made myself
quite comfortable here! =)

There is lodging available at Kentucky Camp, but be sure to read
the small print. It's a Bed and NO breakfast!
Ruins at Kentucky Camp.

We've come 79.1 miles since leaving the Mexican border!

I really love the sky in this photo!

Several people in ATVs and other vehicles passed me along this stretch of the trail.

It would seem that there is still some small-scale mining going on around
these parts, but I didn't actually see anyone mining--just the mining claims!

Did you hear that? I heard thunder.... Despite the sliver of sunshine
still glowing on the distant peaks, rain appears to be imminent!

An ATV drives by on Forest Service Road 62.

I set up my tarp using this fence to prop up one side. Hopefully
lightning won't strike the barbed-wire fence. =) That's
the same forest service road as before in the background.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 6: Rain!

I woke up with this little guy crawling passed me.
April 18: When I woke up in the morning, ugly storm clouds filled the sky. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me because of all the tasks I thought to do while I was in Patagonia the day before, checking the weather forecast wasn't one of them. It had been pretty regular so far. Cold at night, warm in the afternoons. Never a hint of rain. Until now....

I wondered if Arizonians even had a word for rain. Or maybe they just called such events 'miracles.' I imagined the local television weatherman, "sunny every day for the next week, except Friday when there's a 30% chance of a miracle."

I should have guessed that it might rain now that I've mailed my tent stakes home, but that didn't leave me unprepared. Just in case, I packed all of my important gear that needed to stay dry in plastic trash bags which, until now, had gone unused. Camp clothes went into one bag. Food went into another one. All my journals, maps and other paperwork went into a gallon-sized ZipLock, and I pulled out a couple of quart-sized ZipLocks for my camera and the map I was currently using in case the rain started, but I wouldn't put those in the ZipLocks until it was absolutely necessary.

A couple of hours later, I met a hiker walking southbound on the trail. He was an older gentleman whose name I didn't get, but this was kind of an exciting moment for me. A hiker! On the trail! I hadn't seen a whole lot of those. A few backpackers that first day, but technically they weren't even on the Arizona Trail when I saw them. A couple of suspected border patrol agents, but they were clearly out for more than just enjoying a walk through the wilds of Arizona. They were men with a mission. This was a hiker!

We only chatted for a few minutes, and I enjoyed every second of it. Loneliness had been creeping in and, I knew, would continue to do so along the entire length of the trail. I also asked if he had heard a recent weather forecast, and he told me that there was a 20% chance of rain in the afternoon.

"You know what that means?" I said. "It means it'll rain for 20% of the afternoon. Just wait--you'll see." It's amazing how much more accurate I've found rain predictions to be when I use the percentage of rain as a gauge of how much rain I'll see rather than if I'll see rain at all.

He also told me that Arizona was in a severe drought and that everyone was hoping for rain. I'll admit, everything I saw so far of Arizona looked like it was in a severe drought, but I thought that's what Arizona was supposed to look like.

Later in the afternoon, five people on horseback also passed me in the opposite direction, but they didn't stop to chat. The trail today was just hopping with people!

At Bear Spring--the second of at least 5 springs named this in my databook--an ever so light sprinkle had started. It was a good time for me to take a lunch break, so I up my tarp between a couple of trees to protect myself from the rain, and as soon as I did, the rain stopped. Of course!

I filled up with water and snacks, and relaxed reading a book on my Kindle for awhile. About an hour later, I decided it was time to continue on and I started taking down the tarp at which point the rain immediately started again. Yeah, I may as well hang out for another half hour or so. My book was that good!

So I fixed up the tarp again and got back under it just as the rain stopped. The rain was clearly toying with me. I waited around for a half hour or so, but the rain stayed away and I moved to break down the tarp again. Just as I finished, the rain started up again. Enough was enough! I headed out, rain or no rain.

The sprinkle fizzled on and off, but it never grew heavy enough for me to pull out my umbrella. The trail meandered through some steep mountains, but at a remarkably flat grade. I'd be out of the mountains soon, and I figured the chance of rain was probably a lot higher among the mountains than it would be in the flat plains that surrounded it.

Then I heard thunder. Boom! If there's one thing that will turn a light sprinkle into a drenching downpour, it's lightning! It's almost as if the booming noise scares the water out of the clouds. I pulled the umbrella from my pack, ready to open it at a moment's notice. Then I followed the contours of a mountain around a curve when the trail went directly into a cave. Except that it wasn't really a cave--it was more of a tunnel through the rock. I've seen tunnels blasted through solid rock before, but this actually looked like a natural tunnel. Maybe 10 or 15 feet from end to end--not exactly a long tunnel, but enough to provide a roof over my head from the rain.

Another stock tank, but because I filled up with 9 liters of
water in Patagonia, I didn't need to stop for any here!
I decided to take a short break there and eat more snacks. Almost immediately upon stopping, the light sprinkle turned into a heavy rain. I could see the thick rain blowing down from the mountain tops, a massive dark cloud headed right towards me. Out in the distance, towards the flat plains ahead, I could still see sunlight lighting the ground. Dark and foreboding behind me, clear and happy ahead.

Thunder boomed closer than before and the wind picked up a bit. I shifted under my thin, rock tunnel--wind was blowing rain onto me despite the roof--so I shifted further away from the side it was blowing into.

I waited about a half hour at which point the rain started letting up and I continued hiking in a light sprinkle--so light that I didn't even bother to use my umbrella.

Late in the afternoon, I had reached Tunnel Spring where I decided to stop for the night. Just ahead, the trail would merge with a dirt road and I figured I'd get more privacy from vehicles on the trail than I would along the road.

The spring is named for a tunnel--no surprise there! Nearby was the entrance of a 1,000-foot man-made tunnel through the hillside next to the trail. It was built nearly a hundred years earlier to pipe water from Bear Spring to gold fields in an adjacent canyon. The tunnel was long since abandoned and no longer in use.

I know all of this because the powers-that-be installed an information sign about the tunnel and its history. What they may not have realized, however, was that I would use that sign to prop up one side of my tarp. By dusk, the sun was starting to poke through the clouds and rain no longer looked imminent, but I figured it would be prudent to set up my tarp overnight anyhow. It's not like I'd see many stars during the night either way.

Be careful not to fall into a cattle guard!

Death on the trail! I can't even tell what this animal used to be!

The adult cattle seemed more than little leery of me when they had calves around.
(See the little guy on the left?)

My map showed me passing an old mine called Amanda Mine.
I think this might be it! Amanda has her own mine! =)
Anaconda Spring


Into the mountains!

Water cache at Walker Basin Trailhead!

An old dam that now seems to hold back more dirt than water.

Horses on the trail!

Bear Spring. If you look closely, you can tell it's sprinkling
when I took this photo because you can see the drops hitting the water
in the spring.

Since I had mailed my tent stakes home, I used trees to set up my tarp
and get out of the rain during my lunch break.

The trail runs right through this "tunnel."

So I used it as protection from the rain during a snack break.
The only time it really rained rather hard, I was here. And it was
from where I listened to the thunder echoing around the mountains.


I love informational posts like this. Means I don't have to carry a guidebook
to tell me what I'm seeing. =) And I can use it to prop up one side of my tarp!

See the sign, holding up the back end of my tarp as the Arizona Trail
snakes around the front of it? I had to push that large rock to secure the front
and smaller rocks held down all of the corners.
(Remember, I mailed my tent stakes home, so I had to use
tools from the land to make my shelter!)

The 1,000-foot tunnel that was built to divert water to the gold fields
and that Tunnel Spring is named after.

Tunnel Spring looks awfully... green....

By sunset, the rain clouds had moved on....