|The “good road” to Crown King.|
Our adventures are always subject to last minute adjustment and change resultant of my schedule that seems to be in a near constant state of flux. As a result, over the years we have learned to be rather flexible and view last minute changes merely as opportunities for unexpected discoveries.
|The “good road” as seen by Garmin.|
Originally, as I had planned it, my dearest friends birthday expedition/photography safari was to commence with a leisurely early morning drive down Route 66 to Seligman. It would then continue with a 100 mile Arizona back country odyssey, first down the scenic Williamson Valley Road, a portion of which may have carried National Old Trails Highway traffic if Professor Nick Gerlich’s investigations are correct.
This would take us into historic Prescott. Before entering the wilderness again we would then drive through a neighborhood of stately Victorian era homes, then along the territorial era Senator Highway to Crown King.
However, the important Saturday morning interviews necessitated an adjustment since the trip to Crown King on the “good road” would consume at least three to four hours if we didn’t stop to take in the sites or engage in a bit of photography.
|The Mill restaurant in Crown King.|
So, the sunrise departure gave way to mid morning but by 10:00 we were rolling east on I-40 in a Jeep loaded with gear for almost any possible contingency since our plans still called for back country exploration. As it turns out, our timing was most ideal.
|The delightful ambiance of the Mill restaurant in
However, as the place was built twenty years ago to look vintage, or condemned, using parts from a wide array of condemned historic structures, the need for repair seems to fit the theme in an odd sort of way.
Present company, the ambiance, and the over stimulated appetite all contributed to how good the meal tasted. Rounding out the excellent flavors of the grilled talapi on a bed of seasoned rice, the stir fried vegetables, the fresh herb bread toasted to perfection with a hint of olive oil, and the fresh garden salad was a delicious moscato wine that washed the dust from our throats.
|Doozy’s in Crown King.|
There was a definite chill in the clean mountain air as we drove through town and back to our room so we added the comforter from the closet to our bed rather than run the electric space heater all evening. The gentle sounds of the wind in the pines lulled us into a most restful nights sleep.
|The Crown King store, in business since 1904.|
We returned to our room, loaded gear, cinched down the tail gate with a ratchet strap, and left our hosts with a copy of my book Ghost Towns of the Southwest. The proprietor of the Cedar Roost Inn called on Monday evening, thanked us for the book, and said that the bartender in the photograph illustrating the Crown King segment of the book was her husband. Now, I am quite sure they weren’t any more surprised than I was!
|Historic Crown King, Arizona.|
As I had topped off the gas tank near Dewey, we set out on the historic Senator Highway with plenty of fuel for the 38 mile, four hour adventure on this historic roadway. It should be noted that I used four wheel drive only twice and only as I was hedging my bet on a couple of stream crossings.
|The historic Senator Highway.|
|Along the historic Senator Highway.|
As the old road is a secondary escape route for Crown King, the forest service provides minimal upkeep that is really little more than occasionally removing dead falls, repairing extreme wash outs, and clearing rock slides. In essence the Senator Highway (forest road 52 for most of its length) is little changed from the time when it was built in the late 1860s as a toll road linking the territorial capital of Prescott with Phoenix as well as the mining boom towns in the Bradshaw mining district such as Bradshaw City, Hooper, and Crown King.
|The view from on high along the Senator Highway.|
At the first junction (Note: the road to Lake Pleasant is not recommend unless you have a vehicle that is modified for extreme off road use) the Senator Highway takes on a more adventuresome feel as there are larger rocks in the road, deeper ruts, and mud holes but still the shade dappled road has a soothing feel. With the exception of an occasional ATV, we had the road and the sounds of the forest to ourselves.
|Signs of drought in the Bradshaw Mountains.|
The only thing to cast a pall on our adventure was the evidence of just how severe the drought was becoming. The brush and grass was dry. The trees were often tinged brown or dormant. Streams trickled as though it were late July instead of early spring.
|The Palace Station on the Senator Highway.|
After running the ridge line for several miles, at the junction with the Wagoner Road (Wagoner was another important town in the area more than a century ago) we stopped in a shady grove to take in the sites and evaluate our options. The Wagoner road connected with the modern world and the highway at Kirkland. This would allow us to still make Prescott but as the road required a crossing of the Hassayampa River, and we didn’t have a current report on depth or width, we decided to stick with the Senator Highway. Besides I had something very special to share with my dearest friend.
|Modern day prospectors encountered on the historic
|Author Jim Hinckley in his native habitat,
the road less traveled.