Bradshaw City to Prescott on the Senator Highway
May 15th and 16th, 2004
In 1863, William Bradshaw founded Bradshaw City, about two miles north of present day Crown King on what would become the Senator Highway. Located on the south side of the road, the stone foundations of the town serve as a reminder of just how recently this has all come to pass. Walking through the ruins, sitting inside those foundations, seeing the creek and visiting the cemetery on the lip of one of the most spectacular views in the area of the mountains and rugged terrain to the south solidified the depth of the drive toward riches and sense of adventure these pioneer prospectors felt.
We camped across the road from the Forest Service sign: "Bradshaw City, founded in 1863 by William Bradshaw. Population: 5,000.", pitched my tent in a clearing, built our fire and marveled at their accomplishments over a bowl of roast and potatoes. This was constructed by the tough, rugged, determined people who were driven to seek a better life through hardship, perseverance and determination in the middle of the Civil War and shortly thereafter.
Saturday afternoon, we walked the ruins as the sunlight filtered through the Ponderosa pines in an almost Disneyesque atmosphere. The huge pink blooming jojobas and lime green lichen covered granite boulders strewn the hillsides. As we waded the creeklets, we imagined what it must have been like for them a hundred and fifty years ago. No roads. No supply chain. Nothing but dreams and promises. These pioneers were truly Americans, regardless of their nationality. Those desires for a better life have propelled us or our families to migrate into strange lands and seek a better way. Sometimes we won. Sometimes we lost. But the dreams and determination fueled us along the deer trails and hacked out paths created by these adventurers.
Its nestled among Ponderosa pines at an elevation of about 6300 feet. Afternoon sunlight streamed through the boroughs as I walked along the creeklets toward the old cemetery located on a southern slope. The Scottsdale 4x4 Boy Scout Troop fenced the graveyard long ago. Iris shoots were popping up with the spring warmth, announcing the graves, one by one. Three or four nameless headstones remain but one was identifiable as an infant or small child because of its size.
A few yards beyond the graveyard was a spectacular view of the mountains to the south. Their ridges seemed endless. With a view like this, its hard to believe a city with over 3 million people is just over the horizon. Its remote, so quiet you can hear the frogs and listen to the wind brushing the pine needles.
Sunday morning at sunrise after hot coffee and rolls, we walked north in the creek bed using the waterfall stepping stones like a sidewalk. Fresh tracks from the local wildlife caught our attention. Mountain lion tracks, made within a few hours of our visit, followed a set of deer tracks for several hundred yards in an unhurried fashion. Bird and small game tracks peppered the sand near a watering hole. I knew the cat was there but never saw-or heard- anything out of the ordinaryas I scanned the ridge top. Cats attack when theyre hungry, sick or old, for the most part or startled. I learned long ago not to walk softly in the forest. We stopped by a few of the holes left by the miners where they had tested, probed and panned the area, finally beginning the climb back to camp.
The plan was to drive the Senator Highway up to Prescott as the
pioneers and miners had. Ignore the term
highway here: this is 4 wheel country. Old abandoned copper, silver and gold
mines dot the hillsides along the way. I
wasnt expecting it to be as rugged a drive as it turned into. It took three hours to cover the first ten miles! Only 20 to go! The whole trip took about six hours
from beginning to end with a couple of stops along the way to pick up quartz and
interesting rocks. To give you an idea of just how rugged this country is, take a look at
the photo. It's not mine, but one taken by another adventurous soul.
The plan was to drive the Senator Highway up to Prescott as the pioneers and miners had. Ignore the term highway here: this is 4 wheel country. Old abandoned copper, silver and gold mines dot the hillsides along the way. I wasnt expecting it to be as rugged a drive as it turned into. It took three hours to cover the first ten miles! Only 20 to go! The whole trip took about six hours from beginning to end with a couple of stops along the way to pick up quartz and interesting rocks. To give you an idea of just how rugged this country is, take a look at the photo. It's not mine, but one taken by another adventurous soul.
At about the half way point, the Palace Station appeared. This old stage stop is now occupied by forest staff and off limits to the public, unfortunately. It was half way between Prescott and the Peck Mine. Once a toll road out of Prescott, people came first by stagecoach then buckboard to reach the mines. How they survived that, Ill never understand. I put the Jeep into 4 wheel drive more than once along that road and figured those people must have had kidney problems and backaches galore for their efforts, and the smart business man who had replacement wheels for the wagons must have made a fortune.
I must say, the views along the way were really spectacular. Long rows of pine topped mountain ridges; steep canyons and uncluttered views were everywhere. Quiet and remote. As we finally approached Prescott, both of us were smiling at the term "highway". More importantly, we had deepened our appreciation and understanding of the true grit these early pioneers and prospectors had. It was well worth the effort.