Tracing Trails Of The Past
Forgotten communities and ore-rich veins are scattered liberally throughout the Southwest. These are places where men migrated in search of buried precious metals, and lived hard lives trying to scratch their fortunes from hard rock. In the Prescott National Forest in Arizona lie the Bradshaw Mountains, a geological expanse that contains a high concentration of such mineral deposits.
We were interested in exploring some of this area to learn of its history, enjoy some wheeling, and take in the scenic terrain. Mark Longfield was our leader for the day and is well familiar with this locale. After spending about 35 years of his life in central Arizona and spending many of those years wheeling the back roads, he was able to share with us some frontier tales and show us some fun trails near Battle Flat and surrounding areas. We began our day following a portion of the Senator Highway (named after the Senator Mine in the area) until we jumped onto a Forest Service trail in the deep pine woods. After a quick break, we were following a broad sand wash that turns to a tighter trail. The course alternates between winding dirt two-track and canyon washes. Some areas presented some mild boulder crawling and allowed the group to work a little harder getting through the obstacles.
We found the site of the old Desoto Mine, which was a hotbed of activity in the early 1900s. This mine has about six levels carved into the mountain and a substantial array of tunnels from what we've been told. We found one gated entrance to the mine and many tailing piles. From one scenic vantage point on the mine mountain, Mark pointed out an area below that was once the town of Middleton. The Desoto mine produced large quantities of copper ore in the early part of the century and later in support of World War II needs. Today, signs of its existence remain, including some old foundations and wooden timbers from tram towers.
Earlier, in the 1860s, there was considerable unrest in these parts. Miners and native Indians clashed on a regular basis as settlement of this area suffered growing pains. A story is told from the recollections of Joseph Reddeford Walker, a western explorer and settler, of an incident that occurred in 1865 on Turkey Creek just north of where the Desoto Mine lies. At the time, there were no settlements here and five men were prospecting for gold. One evening, while the group lay asleep with their horses tied nearby, a group of Apache Indians spied them and made plans for a morning attack. They stole the horses and made a feast of them during the night and then lay in waiting until the sun rose.