"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Crown King, Prescott & Skull Valley, AZ

Wilhoit, AZ
Camp Clark

We had quite a few things planned the week we were here with our friends, Doug & Dotty.  They included a 4x4 trip to Crown King, some hiking up to Thumb Butte in Prescott and some geocaching along Skull Valley.

We started out in Prescott driving through some beautiful pines.  There are some small lakes and several campgrounds along the way.  After a while the view opens up and you can see for miles.  The road to the old mining town of Crown King is 26 Miles of dirt road winding through the Bradshaw Mountains with incredible views and a good chance to spot wildlife.

Along the way is the Palace Station.
Palace Station is 17 miles South of Senator Highway in Prescott. Palace Station is one of many gold sites that lie in the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott. The old town is on the dirt road to Crown King. Many places have been destroyed over the years including Senator, Maxton, Venezia, Bueno and Goodwin. Only one building is still standing. Alfred B. Spence, his wife Matilda and their daughter came to the Arizona Territory in 1873. They settled down beside Groom Creek where Spence opened a sawmill.  The area was a popular stage coach station.  After the arrival of cars and phones the stage lines died out and Mrs. Spence sold the old station in 1910. Palace Station is now used by the Forest Service and is closed to the public but can be viewed from outside.

In 1864 the Skirmish at Battle Flat occurred where 14 Apache Indians & 1 miner were killed.

Hohokam, Yavapai & Apache Indians have all dwelled in the Bradshaw  Mountains since beginning in 1100 AD.  In 1870 gold and silver were discovered and the rush was on.

We arrived in Crown King in time for lunch at The Mill.  It's a quirky place with lots of character as well as good food.  There is a lot of old mining equipment inside.
Old mining equipment all over.

The Post Office is inside the little grocery store.

The Saloon.
Four wheel drive/quads/dirt bikes are the popular way to get here.

On our way back towards Prescott, we came across some interesting buildings with old items and really neat metal yard art scattered about.  We pulled over to get a better look.

Then we saw this on the window.

Guess we'll keep moving along!

Loved the colors of the lichen on these rocks.
Next up, was a hike up Thumb Butte in Prescott.  The 2 mile trail climbs steeply to a ridge just below the rocky crest of Thumb Butte. From here spectacular panoramic views of the Prescott area, Bradshaw Mountains, Sierra Prieta Mountains, Granite Mountain, Mingus Mountain, and, on clear days, the San Francisco Peaks can be seen.  If you want to get to the very top, some rock climbing is involved.  During certain times of the year, peregrine falcons nest in the jagged peaks of Thumb Butte.

Doug and I took the steeper, shorter route up the left side as we intended to rock climb to the top, while Steve and Dotty took the longer, more gently sloped route.

Alligator Juniper tree.  Very interesting bark.

We're at the top of the trail now looking up at the peak.

I love a hike with some rock climbing!

Climbing up (L)   Those tiny red dots are Steve and Dotty waiting for us. (R)

Made it!  Awesome views from the top!

Is that a view or what?!

A tree decorated with purple ribbons.
Steve, Dotty and Doug doing a little geocaching on the way back down.
A memorial to the Fallen 19 Firefighters

A baby tarantula

Interesting storm rolling in.
Later in the week we went geocaching along Iron Springs Rd through the tiny community of Skull Valley.  How did this town get its interesting name?

The name Skull Valley dates back to at least 1864, when the gubernatorial party arrived in the future Prescott. There were several severe battles with Indians after the arrival of white men in Skull Valley. However the name actually derives from the fact that the first white men who entered Skull Valley found piles of bleached Indian skulls. The skulls were the remains of a bitter battle between Apaches and Maricopas. The dead were left where they fell. At least 35 more skulls were added to the bleaching bones as a result of a fight on August 12, 1866, in which six freighters, five citizens, and four soldiers battled more than 100 Indians. (from the Juniper Well Ranch webpage)

While geocaching, we came upon this gigantic Cottonwood tree where the geocache was hidden.  If not for this cache, we would not have even known this beautiful giant existed.
The largest known Populus fremontii tree in the United States grows in Skull Valley, Arizona. In 2012 it had a measured circumference of 557 inches or 46.4 feet, height of 102 feet, and a spread of 149.5 feet.
Native Americans used parts of the Fremont cottonwood for a medicine, basket weaving, tool making, and for musical instruments. The inner bark of contains vitamin C and was chewed in treating vitamin C deficiencies.

This tree is HUGE!

Doug & Dotty's granddaughter, Kiera, came with us and had a blast finding her first geocache hidden in this monster tree. 

This pole in the above picture is holding up one very long, large branch.

Santa Fe Railroad running through town
Summarized from the internet:
In 1947, Warner Brothers Studio made a movie titled, "Dark Journey", starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Near the end of the film, Bogart goes into a bus depot in San Francisco to buy a ticket to "Benton, Arizona." The ticket clerk consults his tariff and tells him he can go by way of Ash Fork, Prescott, Skull Valley, and Wickenburg. Thus, for one brief shining moment, the community of Skull Valley was thrown into the worldwide movie spotlight.
Today, the little red and white depot stands as a proud reminder of the time when it was a center of activity in the community. The two passenger trains that served the Valley are long gone. The freight trains still rumble up and down the line, but no longer stop there.

We had lunch at the Skull Valley Diner.  Great place to eat and wonderful employees and locals.

And lastly, I had always wanted to hide a geocache here in Skull Valley at the Skull Valley Cemetery on Halloween.  So, here is Skull Duggery.  If you're in the area, stop by and see if you can find it!
Another great time with Doug and Dotty!


  1. Just had to post a spider pic huh?

  2. We had a great time!

  3. Looks like we have more exploring to do the next time we're in that area.
    Great photos!

    1. There are many off road trails around Crown King if you look it up. Pretty area!

  4. How do you go about 'placing' a geocache? That sounds like a great way to see new and interesting things-like the huge tree.

    1. It's actually easier to find them. But go to geocaching.com Read the rules, they are short and very helpful. It's a lot of fun. They are EVERYWHERE! You can use an app on your smartphone for free.

  5. Love that pano photo from the top of the butte, Debbie!

    1. It was one of the prettiest views I've seen.

  6. That cottonwood is ginormous! That is one of the cool things about geocaching, it gets you places you would normally not see.

  7. Hi Debbie,

    This is a voice from the past (Chris Johnson) and my wife and I at that time hung out with you and Steve once in a while. Don't know why I was thinking of Steve the other day and thought I would see if I could track him down. Been a lot of years since Kodak in the south bay. Hope you and the entire are well. I linked you as a Google friend so that you so that Steve can contact me if I have the right McCormacks:)

    1. Hi Chris! WOW! We have actually talked about you from time to time over the years! You can contact us at our e-mail and we'll give you Steve's cell. Would love to catch up! sd.mack@mindspring.com


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