What a difference a century makes. One hundred years ago Cerbat was just another fading mining town consisting of a few dozen hardy souls, a post office and a small store.
Thirty years before that Cerbat was one of the most promising communities in the Arizona Territory. The mines that dominated the hills above the remote desert community were producing copious amounts of gold, silver, and other metals.
This and its centralized location to other mining communities led the territorial legislature to designate it the county seat. This fueled the remote mining towns growth and soon the streets were lined with houses, law offices, stores, boarding houses, saloons, a school and churches. This was a town of several hundred people and with a promising future.
Even the most creative imagination may have difficulty seeing any of this among the mine tailing’s, discarded mining equipment, looming head frames, and ruins of stone that lie scattered throughout the choking brush and along the sand washes that are the dominate feature of the town site itself.
Sunday morning dawned clear and cold and the forecast was for a windy afternoon. Here, in the desert southwest that means wind speeds of around fifty miles per hour. My wife suggested we take advantage of the beautiful morning, escape from the phone, the traffic and the general frantic pace of modern society and find someplace quiet so we could relax a bit. If the wind did kick up we could always eat lunch in the cab rather than on the tailgate as we have done so many times.
It takes little to encourage me to head for the desert back country. So, the suggestion of having lunch with my angel in a quiet, scenic place was met with an enthusiasm not to be deterred by the possibility of high winds.
With little forethought or planning I suggest the old town site of Cerbat for our destination. My wife packed a lunch, I filled Barney the wonder truck with gas, tossed a shovel in the back and we were off on another grand adventure. The trip began with a short drive west on old Route 66 through historic Kingman and then north on US 93 over Coyote Pass. Our journey only required a drive of about eight miles in the modern era.
At the historic marker that stands in mute testimony to the lost world where Cerbat was the crown jewel we turned north on to the ranch road that winds deep into the Cerbat mountains. With each passing mile on the dusty, rocky track the modern era and the cares of the world faded from view like the highway seen in the rear view mirror.
As the road climbs from the ranch higher into the canyon it becomes increasingly rocky with deeper ruts, sand and washouts but a 4×4 is not as much a prerequisite as is ground clearance and common sense.
After skirting a small mining mining complex that dates to the 1970s the road twists past all manner of ruins, mining remnants, and vestiges of current ranching operations.
Surprises are a common commodity in the back country of the desert southwest. On this trip the surprise of the day was finding the remains of a miniature Noah’s Ark on a rocky ridge miles from the nearest body of water. I know these canyons are subject to roaring floods but just how high was the water?
We could have driven farther into the mountains but as the goal was to savor the solitude, the scenery and the company we found a suitable place to park the old Dodge and began our hike higher into the canyon. As on our earlier adventures this month we were blessed with a beautiful day as the wind never materialized and temperatures were near perfect for hiking.
After a hike of a mile or two we climbed down into the sand wash for the return trip. Sand washes are a never ending trail of surprises in the desert and this trip was no exception.
On this trip we found numerous horseshoes that showed evidence of great age, a windmill head, veins of quartz that gave rise to visions of a gold strike, innumerable rusty cans, broken glass turned purple by the desert sun and shards of broken china. By the time we reached the truck it was evident that nothing found would enable me to quit the day job.
There is nothing like a quiet hike in the clear mountain air to fire up an appetite. So, we dropped the tail gate, settled in for a pleasant lunch among million dollar views and savored the quiet broken only by the cry of a soaring hawk.
All to quickly the time came for the return trip and with reluctance we bid adios to the delightful solitude and steeled ourselves for the drive back to the modern era. Later that afternoon our son, his wife and daughter stopped by topping off a wonderful day. It was truly a day of great thanksgiving for the multitude of blessings we enjoy. Counted among the blessings is the success of the Saturday book signing at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts. The popularity of Route 66 manifest in how well Route 66 Backroads is being received is rather astounding.
Next week we take the show on the road with a trip to Flagstaff. Even though the planned signing fell through there are still stops to be made and a lunch to be enjoyed at the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams.
We topped off the weekend ( I have Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Mondays off) with a rare treat, a movie date. Our theater was closed for more than a year and there have been few movies in recent years that we couldn’t wait to see until it was released on DVD. We decided that the new Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino might be the exception to the rule. We were not disappointed.
Now its back to the business of life. There is the day job and figuring out how to pay for the hospital visit of December, trying to sell the publisher on another book project and promoting Route 66 Backroads.
Then there is my special project, planning a birthday outing for my wife. How do you say thank you to the most wonderful women in the world? How do you express a gratitude that words can not describe?
Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.