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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Where's the Old Prospector?

This is the story of our discovery of an old mine and some other denizens of the desert.  You'll have to read on to see whether we found the old prospector, or his grave, or his descendants.  We won't tell you the answer in advance.

We've been here at Desert Trails RV Park for five weeks now, and, to be honest, we haven't had a lot of adventures worth reporting in this blog.  We planned this stay to deal with the logistics of trading our truck and fifth wheel for a new motorhome and Jeep, but we weren't prepared for all of the other logistical and other issues that have popped up during our stay here.

As a consequence, while we've hiked and biked the trails in Tucson Mountain Park north of our campground, only a couple of them have been noteworthy.  Today's hike, which was along Prospector's Trail to the base of Golden Gate Mountain, had more than the typical share of interesting experiences, so we deemed it blogworthy.

Here's David leaning on the trailhead sign which, as with some other signs along the trail, clearly hasn't seen much repair or maintenance for many years:

Just outside our campground, on the "North Trail," which leads over private land, through the boundary of Tucson Mountain Park, to the Prospector's Trail, we encountered the private version of a trail sign.  We were grateful for it, as we were not sure where we were.  It was pretty clear and very precise:

The private trails leading to Tucson Mountain Park are also graced with painted rocks.  Some of the rocks inform you of the trail you are on.  Others provide (believe it or not) GPS coordinates for their location (this assumes that trail jokers have not moved the stones).  Yet more are merely whimsical interpretations of Native American art:

But the surprises of the North Trail are not exhausted yet.  Further on, we encountered the remains of a Monty Pythonesque hiker who seems to have just given up after losing his way:

On a more serious note, as the North Trail approaches the boundary of Tucson Mountain Park, hikers come across two graves, marked with crosses:

For weeks, we wondered who these poor souls might be, buried here in the harsh sun and dry sand. Then, by chance, we were looking over the campground bulletin board and discovered an explanation.  Written by one M. L. Boyer, it reads:

Old Bill was not as many men, he claimed the right to fill the yen that gripped him from an early age to roam around o'er rock and sage.  And so he took this as his place and roamed these hills until his face was known to us and came to be a part of what we came to see.

You may have seen him, maybe not, as Old Bill sought his earthly lot.  He was a man not hard to know but hard to find, kept on the go.  I hope you sometime met Old Bill as he wandered 'round o'er every hill and valley and ridge this desert owns with his dog, Shep, just them alone.

Bill never talked 'cept once or twice I ever knew, nor broke the ice to make a friend or to confide what made him roam - what was inside his head, or why he'd never leave the desert.  There was no reprieve enticing him to go away.  He reckoned that he'd rather stay.

And stay, he did, Old Shep and him, though pickings here were pretty slim.  He never worked that we could tell and never washed, that we could smell.  But still, we liked Old Bill and knew he'd never leave.  We could construe that when his walking days were past we'd have to plant him where at last he'd have eternally a home in this old desert where he'd roam forever more, Old Shep and him, where he could gaze at every rim he'd loved so faithfully for years.  We knew we must, or shed the tears of the regret we'd never still if we ignored the wish of Bill.

We talked a bit, made up our mind that Bill could not leave Shep behind.  Were sure that Shep would have it so, that where Bill went, he'd have to go.  One winter morn we found him there, all cold and dead.  He didn't care, but poor Old Shep, so faithful still, was lying there beside Old Bill.  Shep wouldn't leave Old Bill, and so where Bill had gone, he had to go.  The dog ignored us as we placed the rocks and stones o'er Old Bill's face.  We piled them up and all round Old Bill, and still the dog was bound to never leave his faithful friend and, so, you know the story's end.

As you go up the northern trail among the cactus and the quail, you'll see a mound of rocks, a cross, to evidence that double loss.  Whenever I walk by that place where last we looked on Old Bill's face, I have to pause, and heave a sigh and tell Old Bill, again, goodbye.  If you should pause beside that mound where Bill and Shep lie on the ground, remember, should you start to sigh, that his whole story is a lie.

Hmmm....We'll those last words make us wonder if we've really uncovered the story of the poor souls buried out there on the desert.  However, the writer of this legend was kind enough to include the following photo of "Old Bill."  The photo is undoubtedly as genuine as Old Bill's story.

But I digress.

We turned onto the Prospector's Trail, wondering as we hiked why it had that name.  After a couple miles, we climbed a small hill, only to find the remains of an old mine.  Here, David looks down into the mine pit - the foundation of a hand-drawn winch in the background, which would have been used for hauling dirt and ore up out of the mine pit:

There is a long history to mining in the area of Tucson Mountain Park.  The following paragraph is taken from "Mines and Minerals in the Tucson Mountains," by David A. Kring and Anna M. Domitrovic:

The Tucson Mountains once were mined extensively for copper, gold, silver, lead and other metallic elements. Scattered through the mountains are remnants of over 120 mines, prospects and quarries. These mining activities, plus the work of academic geologists and private mineral collectors, have produced a dizzying array of over 80 minerals, including some of the world's most spectacular fiery-red vanadinite specimens.  Most of the ores and minerals were produced by volcanism. In the Tucson Mountains there have been three episodes of volcanism, the oldest remnant of which is a 160 million-year-old igneous rock called the Museum Porphyry. Most of the mineralization, however, appears to be related to the second episode of volcanism which swept through the region 70 million years ago near the end of the Cretaceous Period.  At that time, southern Arizona was saturated with a belt of towering volcanic peaks and a sea of volcanic vents. In the Tucson Mountains, a huge 20 x 25 kilometer volcanic caldera was created when a 4- to 5-kilometer thick sequence of hot volcanic ash poured out onto the surface of the surrounding terrain. Toward the end of this caldera-forming series of eruptions, several plumes of subsurface magma rose and began to penetrate the overlying sequence of rocks. These magmas carried the copper-, gold- and silver-bearing siliceous fluids that eventually deposited ore-bearing minerals.

Wow.  And there are only 119 more mines for us to discover as we hike this area!  The idea of so much hiking exhausted David, so he lay down to rest a bit.  Little did he know, but he had stretched out to a rock sculpture of another person - mayhaps a miner.  Kathy snapped this photo so that David could later compare himself to the sculpted miner:

By this time, our trail was heading straight toward Golden Gate Mountain, and led us up the slopes of some foothills toward Kinney Road to the east:

We eventually reached our destination - the foot of Golden Gate Mountain.  We rested, snacked and drank some water.  As we were getting ready to return another 3.3 miles to our campground, we noticed this handsome little barrel cactus cuddling with his nurse tree, a comely palo verde, and we couldn't resist snapping their photo:

This was a great outing!  We met two other couples enjoying a Saturday afternoon in the desert.  One was a hiking couple from Canada, and the other was a trail-biking couple who live locally but who, coincidentally, went to school in Philadelphia, where we hail from.  We chatted with each couple, to the point that our final GPS record of the hike showed 2.5 hours of hiking and 1 hour of stopping. Since we only stopped briefly at the old mine, and maybe only 15 minutes at our turnaround, I guess we paused longer than we thought in conversation with those other desert rats.

1 comment:

  1. Is it just me or does the old prospector look like Robert Davi?


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