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.
As I stood in the middle of the road taking photographs, I heard a rattle coming closer, and a brown UPS truck rumbled past us going in the direction of Crown King. I found out later that the Crown King general store and post office gets mail delivery six days a week. Impressive, when one considers that Exit 248 on Interstate 17 is about 27 miles away and that the round trip in good weather takes at least two hours.
In a pamphlet entitled "Crown King: A Brief History," we learned that gold had been discovered here in the 1860s, but Apaches fought with invading miners. In 1875, the Apaches were taken to San Carlos, and, on July 1, 1875, the largest mine, the Crowned King Gold Mine, was discovered.
Crown King is a forested, mountain community. We photographed the rustic general store, the Crown King Saloon, and the Mill Restaurant before resuming our journey. It was late afternoon, and I wanted to get to the Horsethief Basin Recreation Area before dark. One mile above Crown King, Forest Road 62 leads six miles to Horsethief Basin.
Forest Road 62 is narrow, steep, and rough. As we climbed higher, I could see patches of snow on the banks and under the large pine trees. As the sun got lower, the air was becoming cooler with each mile, and it was comforting to know that we had a truck with four-wheel drive.
We took photographs at Horsethief Lake before sunset. The placid water was covered with the reflections of the surrounding trees, clouds, and mountain peaks, but our time for true appreciation grew scarce. We had to leave--if we were going to get down from the mountain before dark.
As we started back toward Crown King and Black Canyon City, we were rewarded with a truly spectacular sunset, from a high vantage point, overlooking the Bradshaw Mountains. We had come looking for stories and photographs and we found them.
How the Mountains Got Their Name
Bruce M. Wilson credits the naming of these mountains to William Bradshaw. In his book, "Crown King and the Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History," Wilson writes, "The first known party of Anglos to enter the area was a small group of miners led by William Bradshaw. They did not actually penetrate the mountain range, but confined themselves to placering on Black Canyon and Turkey Creeks on the east side of the range. Bradshaw led about 50 men from the Weaver diggings to these new placering grounds in 1863." Bradshaw ran for political office twice, but lost. He returned to La Paz where he committed suicide in December, 1864, while drunk, by nearly severing his head with a carpenter's draw knife.
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The information presented in this column are, to the best of our knowledge, correct and accurate at the time of publication. However, because of our lengthy lead time and ongoing internet lifespan, we recommend calling the proper authorities or local experts for confirmation before visiting.