Giant saguaros stood like silent sentinels as our truck climbed higher into the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona. One hour north of Phoenix, we'd decided to travel the old Maggie Mine Road, where it connected with the road from Bumble Bee to the Crown King Gold Mine. As our diesel rumbled along the dusty trail, I wondered how many other explorers came looking for gold and whatever else they could extract from the land. We were searching only for photographs and stories.
The Maggie Mine is now privately owned by a woman who wouldn't give us permission to photograph it, so we continued up the dusty road toward Bumble Bee. In the middle of a curve, we saw an American flag mounted on a whip antenna coming around a curve. An older man rounded the curve on a quad, saw us, and also came to a stop.
We talked for a few minutes, and I got a better feel for the area. They were from Black Canyon City and took their ATVs into the desert whenever they could. They travel narrow trails to old mining claims, where my F-350 couldn't follow. They told us the next three or four miles are kind of rough, but you won't have any trouble with this truck.
Reassured, we continued on through washouts and switchbacks, climbing higher into the Bradshaws. There was nothing on this stretch of road except cactus, creosote bushes, and narrow ATV tracks leading off into the desert. After about four miles, we came to Forest Road 259, the two-lane dirt road from Exit 248 on Interstate 17.
Our family sedan could travel Forest Road 259, but the road is washboarded and probably better navigated in higher-clearance vehicles with stronger suspensions. We traveled three more miles to Bumble Bee, which got its name in 1863 when prospectors tangled with a group of bees. Bumble Bee was once a stage station and gold-mining area. Gold can still be panned from the washes, but few of the town's residents remain. The general store is deserted, as are the frontier-type buildings in disrepair behind it.
We drove on toward Crown King. The trail book said we were now following the old rail bed of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway.