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Pre-Running the Hualapai

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posted on Sep, 12 2008 @ 10:39 AM
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Pre-Running the Hualapai


Ya know, I used to think the 44 Magnum was some kind of cannon.
I thought too, that I understood why some of the manufacturers are making even larger caliber
handguns.
And maybe even understood a bit why some African hunters use their 458 Winchesters for plinking.
Ok, just kidding here.


Any round that can vaporize a sealed soda can and turn the liquid within, into a soft and subtle fog has got my attention.
Then again, strikes me that a good backup for hunting some of the large by huge - and tough - African animals, a Warthog flying low cover would be about right for backup.


What brought all this subtle thinking about unsubtle calibers like the 458 to mind was a small, but interesting experience I had a few days back.
As y’all know, experience, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Maybe too I was lucky.


Big lead-in for a small story, but any learning experience is a good one long as ya don’t leak too much blood after the dust settles.



As I’ve noted before, my pals and I like to explore the desert and mountains in the vicinity.
Said vicinity being anything within a hundred miles or so.


In a small way, like when I used to run around with a fishing nut.
He was forever hearing about a new hot spot, we’d take off on our four days off, travel half the state to the north, spend a bunch of time finding the damn place, and most the of time learning our way around, catch a few fish and that was about it.


Then . . . next four days off, we’d go fishing.
Not to the hot spot we’d hit last time out, but a new one.
Never made sense to me, I always thought we shoulda gone back to where we knew our way around a bit and really do good.


Nope, we always went to the newest fabled hot spot.
Most times it was an interesting trip and aside from sinking the boat in the Mexican surf down in the Baja, mostly uneventful.
And like always, the locals would tell us, “Ya shoulda been here yesterday....”



Anyhoo, me and the guys have been hearing about this castle that was built in a somewhat hidden place in the dez.
The first version of the story I heard was that Don Laughlin, the founder of Laughlin, Nevada who’d got his start running a small fish camp at the end of a dirt road next to the Colorado River had built the castle as a getaway for VIP and other very special guests from his casino.


The castle, reputed to have been abandoned for the last 20 years or so had a lot of stories about it and we heard about lots of different places it could have been, but to tell you the truth I think we already found it on our very first trip to the dez as far as exploring went.


It’s a fairly large ranch with hotel looking main building, dirt airstrip, lots of water in a big pond that was almost a small lake and not all that far from civilization.
Not for a guy with an airplane or a Jeep and to tell the truth a low-slung Caddy Convertible could get there without too much trouble.


Distances are all about perceptions and it’s the guy on foot who figures he’s a long way from the bright lights of the city, a chilled bottle of beer and a hot meal.


A week or so ago I picked up a couple of books on Arizona Jeep trails to go along with my growing collection of Arizona related books and other stuff.
Reading through information on some of the local Jeep trails, each of which had a couple pages of history along with it I found some info and photos of an interesting old building at the Gold King Mine
The mine, long abandoned, but still interesting historically.


It was originally the Joseph Stickles mine and its seven claims were sold in the mid 1920's and renamed the Gold King Mine.


The big two story building was constructed in 1929 and what made it interesting was that it was fairly large
Buildings in the dez that were built near that time were nowhere near the size of the two story building.
It didn’t take long for the building to become known as the Gold King Mansion.


Depending on which history book you’re reading it was inhabited by the owners or the mine foreman.
More than likely both stories are true with the owners living there the first few years then moving back to town and letting the foreman take over the place.
With Kingman, Arizona being 27 miles away and the closest bit of civilization, not much of interest went on at the mine other than the day to day operations and I imagine the boredom factor was high.
VIPs and investors were entertained at the mansion and it looks big enough in the photos I’ve seen to hold family, foreman and several visitors at once.


The mansion was poured cement construction which pretty much explains why it’s lasted so well over the years.
A poured cement building is no big deal now, but back in the day, all the lumber, cement and other construction materials had to be hauled in by mule.


That’s the story anyway, but I’m pretty sure the mules were pulling a wagon.


What did help, in both the mining and building bit was the small stream nearby that runs year round.
The water comes off the back side of the Hualapai (wall-uh-pie) mountains which are named after the indian tribe that lived in the area.
Hualapai translates to Pine Tree Folk.


Learning local history is always interesting because you can reach out and touch it many times.
True here in Sunny Arizona and also true in Southern California with its rich history of Spanish exploration, the Channel Islands, the old coast road and the many Missions the Catholic Fathers built



So the drill was going to be, we’d do a little pre-running and find the start of the actual trail into the mansion.
We’d found that the trail head to the mine turned off of a major trail which was really a good dirt road about 30 miles long running through the area so that was a help.


I’d done a bit of research with several books, BLM maps and satellite views of the area.
My pal talked to a guy who’d actually been there, but about all he could get out of him was that we’d been on the wrong trail last time we tried to find the place.
Trouble with the satellite views available to the general public, many times they’re not clear enough to see what you need to see.


It’s surprising how many people knew about the mansion, thought they knew where it was, but they’d never been there.
And to be fair, there are a heckuva lot of trails branching off the main trail and to an extent, they
all look alike.


In fact one trail that looked to be little-used, overly narrow and overgrown with brush at the start turned out to be a good trail wide enough for just about any 4x4 and was a reasonably easy jaunt for anyone with a little four wheel drive experience.


We’d done that one last year, drove to the top of the Hualapai from the back side which is on the east, into the small community near the top of the mountain and had a great BBQ sandwich along with a cold mug of beer for lunch at the lodge where elk come to visit.


Along with that, we met a local at the bar where they serve lunch until the lunch crowd picks up enough to open the main dining room.
He was telling us about some trails that headed south off the Hualapai and mentioned he lived a couple of houses up the hill from the lodge where we were.
I commented that it would be nice to live close to a pub where you could walk down, have a cold one, talk to a few friends and walk home.
He said that he’d driven.
I guess I had a strange look on my face then he explained they’d been having a mountain lion problem in the area.


The darned lion had been on his porch and others, a few dogs had disappeared, so not many people on foot wandered the area at night.
He didn’t say so outright, but I got the impression he had a firearm in his pickup that was sitting just outside.
I hope so.




posted on Sep, 12 2008 @ 10:41 AM
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A few days back, I got tired of waiting for my pal to get out of his winter couch potato mode, quit fooling around with his hot rod 46 Ford, too damn cold in the garage anyway, do some more pre-running and if things looked ok we’d pack a lunch, toss the girls into the 4x4's, make a 2-4 vehicle trek to the mansion and make a day of it.
Three Jeeps and my 4x4 Ranger would make up the little safari if everybody could make it.


One reason I wanted to make a pre-run was to determine if Sweetie could manage the ride.
She’s got a really bad back and can’t handle too much swaying around if the trail is rough.
Although she could handle 4-5 miles of trail in and back and it looked to be about 2-3 miles in to the mansion.


The trail is on a big loop of 14 miles and is considered difficult on a scale of easy-moderate-difficult.
Probably true in the upper reaches of the trail where it loops up into a huge rock field on the side of the mountain, but down where the mansion is it more than likely falls into the moderate category with one or two stream crossings.
The way I understand the ratings is that easy means an SUV with 4WD.
Moderate, a stock Jeep or 4x4 pickup and a driver with some four wheeling experience.
Difficult, a more serious Jeep or pickup along with a fairly experienced driver.
Like most men, we figure we’re somewhere between the moderate and difficult levels far as offroading in the dez goes.


One thing that helps is we have many years of riding and racing dirt bikes under our belts so we have a feel for things desert as well as some experience in reading the lay of the land as far as how the trails gonna be and other things along those lines.
We do realize we have a lot to learn and do respect the desert greatly.
Me, probably more than the other guys.
I carry stuff to survive or have a rough camp sans vehicles if it came to that.
Rations, quite a bit of water, space blanket, light rope, very light nylon shelter like a tarp and meant for shade, but it’ll keep the rain off.
Nice part is, we know where a couple of streams that run year round are that are close to where we’ll be.


So . . . with my pal not getting off his dead ass I elected to do the pre-run by myself.
Not too bad a deal, I had minimal equipment with me if it got down to survival mode, people knew where I was going, the Ranger is a good running little truck and if I had to walk out from the trail head - which was as deep as I planned to go since this was a pre-run and all I was looking for was where the trail started.


Five miles to the north would have taken me to a ranch headquarters that is staffed year-round.
Fifteen miles the other way is a major highway.
Nice thing about that is, lots of hunters use the highway side into the area as that’s where most of the deer hunting seems to take place so maybe I could hitch a ride out that way if it came to it.


Animals in the area are deer, mountain lions, coyotes, javelina and elk who tend to stay at the higher altitudes.
Not to mention small game animals along with rattlers and Gila Monsters.


Now here’s where the stupid part comes in.
Not the running alone bit, but my choice of weapons to take along.
I thought about the P89 semi-auto pistol in 9mm and its convenience in carry along with ease of ingress and egress from the Ranger - which can be a pain in the backside cuz it ain’t the biggest pickup in the world and I’m a 195# six footer.


I decided against the 7 ½" barrel 44 mag Super Black Hawk since it’s a bit more bothersome getting in and out of the Ranger or Jeep with it strapped on.
Thinking I might do some plinking while I’m out I decided to take my 40 year old, bought new, still in very good shape 6" barrel 22 Long Rifle Ruger standard semi-auto pistol.
Hadn’t shot it in a while so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.


Now here’s the part where it could have been bad.
And a small reward for reading so far, but I’ll have more to report in a few weeks and I’ll remember to take the camera.



posted on Sep, 12 2008 @ 10:42 AM
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I’m rolling down the main road about 15-20 mph headed south.
Not making much dust due to not much speed and also because the roads not completely dry from a rainstorm a few days back.
I spotted a white water tank ahead and on the left.
Now water tanks are pretty common and you don’t always know when you’re gonna run across one, but this one struck me as being in a strange place.


The mountain on the west side took off from the road and a half mile or so that way it got pretty steep.
To the east, a pretty steep rise and then after 200'-300' it leveled off into a narrow ridge.
When I got closer I saw the ravine below the tank area and realized I was looking at what was probably a collection area for the open range cattle that run wild in the area.
The only cattle I’d seen on the big ranch were usually down near the gated entrance next to the highway about 12 miles away.


When I got close I could see two bulls in a corral about a hundred feet off the road and down an easy incline from the main road where I was.
They ran out of the corral one behind the other and I thought for a moment that they’d busted the gate down, but when I looked closer I saw that the gate was tied open.
For a few seconds I wondered where the bulls were going in such a big rush, but when they hooked a 180 degree turn and were starting up the incline I realized they were coming toward me and the Ranger.


Geeze Louise . . . they were PO’d and they were big.
Forget that meat on the hoof stuff, these guys were testerone laden steer hides in the large size.
Did I mention they were in a state of bad temper?


Probably because they were wild as hell and maybe because all the cows were down the hill 12 miles away and they were . . . lonesome.
To their way of thinking, perhaps I was a potential competitor or simply a transgressor in their territory.


Not much of a tale to be sure, but I learned several things from this little adventure.
Just cuz you know what animals to expect to see doesn’t mean that’s all there’s gonna be.
And the other . . . 22's have their place and time, but this is one time I wished the 44 mag had come along for the ride.
And maybe that I had one of those Great White Hunters from Africa along.
It says something about a guy when he figures a 458 Winchester isn’t enough gun for some situations.
I know, the 458's have brought down a lot of African big game, but I note as well that African hunters sometimes carry rifles up to and including 600 caliber and at times were probably wishing it was a 900.


Those two were the biggest damn bulls I ever saw and even being a city boy, I’ve seen a few.
I think one of them could have chased a water buffalo back into the river and both of them woulda had an African lion thinking twice about jumping these bad boys.
I’m really glad that I didn’t find out about these guys the hard way and on foot.
The trees in the immediate area are just barely tall enough to call trees.


Kinda funny, the dry lake where we like to shoot, there’s a big ol longhorn bull that hangs out there.
He probably got away from the ranch up on the hill to the west and I haven’t got a clue what he thinks he’ll find out on the big dry lake.
Ever since we saw him, we’ve been keeping a better eye out than we used to.
The main paved road through the area is only a mile and a half or so up a mild grade, but if the truck quit I’d hate to have to walk out.
And if I do, I ain’t goin’ up the bulls favorite road down to the lake.
The brush ain’t that thick.


Can’t quite get over the two bulls.
I’ll be thinking about them for a while.


I know one thing though, I always had respect for the Mexican Matadors who walked into the bullring to face down these big guys and the American Cowboys who rode off into the mountains and canyons by themselves to chase down open range cattle and bring em back for branding, the cattle drive or whatever.


Sometimes respect isn’t a big enough word, but then again, perhaps it’s enough to realize that I have a lot of it for these men.


There’s not as many of them as there once was, but they’re out there.


I tip my hat to them....


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

No photos of this particular trip, but here’s a few taken in the general area to give you an idea of what the area looks like.


Easy part of the trail up to the lodge.



One of the year-round streams in the area.



Again, the trail to the lodge with a Javelina barely seen up ahead.



Overgrown part of the trail



I realize the trees shown here are taller than those described in the story, but we have a little more altitude here than down by the main trail, corral and trail head to the mine.


The dry lake shooting area looking south.



At the south end looking west.



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