Humbug, AZ – Trip Report 01/30/2010

I started the morning off enjoying a bowl of cereal with my daughter, then it was off to meet up with my uncle for our trip to Humbug, AZ to meet up with Dave Burns, caretaker of this old town of days gone by.

Since my uncle had been there before some 30 years ago, I thought I’d let him lead the way.  even though I’d been researching the route to take, I didn’t want to waste time getting there.  It was bad enough I barely got any sleep the night before thanks to all the excitement of making this trip.

So by about 7:45am, we were on our way to Humbug, making our way through the city.  Nothing beats hitting the trail-head bright and early so you have plenty of time to explore, stop for pictures and whatnot. If you’re not gone by 8am, why bother?

The day was going to be a nice one I could tell, not too chilly and no rain in the forecast.  Had we tried this trip last weekend however, we may not have been able to cross Humbug Creek on the way in.  We were told later in the day that the creek was running 10-12 feet in depth in places.It wasn’t long before we were out on the trail and taking in the greatness that the Arizona back-country has to offer.  While Summer can be rather miserable, Arizona Winters are pretty tough to beat.

With parts of the desert still wet from the rain, the smell of the Creosote Bush filled the air.  The moisture also kept the dust down on the trail as well which was an added bonus as you can probably imagine.

It was nice once we got off Cow Creek Rd. as all traffic got left behind.  Most folks with ATV’s and 4×4′s enjoy the trail up to Crown King, AZ for a drink at the Saloon.  Because the trail we were on traverses through private property, it’s very unlikely that you will see anyone on your way into Humbug.

It may be a good idea to call ahead and make arrangements to visit though, because unless you call ahead, you will be considered trespassing if you pass the gate.  There is a small tube on the gate with the following helpful information:

THIS IS NOT THE ROAD TO CROWN KING !! Go back south five miles until you cross Cow Creek.

Then proceed north.

THIS IS NOT THE ROAD TO NEW RIVER !! Go back south one mile and then proceed east. Follow the sign indicating BLM, access.

DO NOT TRESPASS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY.

THIS ROAD DOES NOT GO THROUGH. It goes to the top of the next ridge and dead ends.

THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. SOMEONE LIVES HERE. If you are interested in the history of the Humbug Mining District, and would like to see and hear about Humbug, call 480-899-7317 and arrange a time to visit. We are happy to show the ghost town and tell about the history.

In Arizona, trespassing on a mining property is a FELONY.

This property has open mines and other hazards. Damaging gate or signs constitutes public endangerment, which is a FELONY.

Persons caught committing a felony can be ARRESTED AND DETAINED BY FORCE until a deputy can be summoned.

*I can assure you this is not to be taken lightly, so please, if you want to visit Humbug, give Dave Burns a call and set something up.  He would be more than happy I’m sure to share the history of Humbug with you and take you on a personal tour.*

After a relatively easy descent into the valley, you are greeted with the entrance to Humbug just on the other side of the creek.

As we crossed the creek I soon started to feel as though I was slipping back in time.  Just driving in this driveway with the old buildings off in the distance seemed to take me to another place.

Our host, Dave Burns, was up stream a tad doing a little dredging while a friend of his met us in front of the miner’s quarters.  After exchanging greetings, we followed her over to where Dave was working the creek and again exchanged greetings and introductions.

After a little background on Humbug, Dave took us around the town and pointed out all the dwellings, giving a brief history on each.   With the water still flowing pretty good in the creek, we were not able to get over and see the older part of Humbug which dates back to the 1870′s.

While I’m no photographer by any stretch of the imagination, this allowed for some great photo-ops nonetheless.  I could easily spend a day there just trying different shots.  With so many unique pieces of history here, your imagination is your only limit.  Well that and maybe batteries.

The one characteristic that seemed rather prevalent throughout was the dry stacking of stone everywhere you looked which from my understanding is very rare.   It’s hard to imagine the time that was spent constructing the walls and walkways that weave their way through the area with near perfection.

After our tour of the town it was time to break for lunch where sandwiches were enjoyed and stories of the area were exchanged.  I should add that from the time we arrived, we heard nothing but the sound of the creek filling the air.  This made our lunch break all that more enjoyable!

When lunch was about wrapped up, Dave asked us if we were ready to see the mine.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the town, nothing gets my heart pounding like exploring an old mine and really taking a trip back into time.

So we loaded up and made our way up the trail to the El Paro Bonito.  Due to the recent storms, we had to stop along the way to toss boulders off the trail and over the side so we could make it by.

Once to the top of the hill, the view was breathtaking.  In the distance we could see Lake Pleasant, and across the ravine peppered with mines and prospecting holes was Gold Hill.

The Paro Bonito consisted of 3 levels originally, however, the top level has caved in, the middle level is considered to be unsafe, and the bottom level is still complete with rails and two ore cars while still being accessible to those willing.

Should gold recovery ever really become financially feasible, there’s a good chance that work could very well resume at the Paro Bonito.  For now though, it offers the visitor a glimpse into the life of a miner as well as the past.

The sad thing about most of the operations in The Bradshaw’s is that vandals and weekend warriors like to steal and destroy things.  A favorite for these goons is to blast holes in things.  Regardless of the age of the relic or machinery, for whatever reason, they feel compelled to destroy.  With nearly 40 Ghost Towns in The Bradshaw’s, very rarely do you find a mine with rails still on the floor let alone not one, but two ore cars still riding the rail.

The Paro Bonito is one of the best preserved mines I’ve ever seen.   There were a few good sized stopes going up, but one that went way way down.  I tried to get a picture of the ladder that seemed so tiny, but I just couldn’t catch a shot of it as it was so far down.

Another stope clearly went high into the mountain and for a second, I thought I heard it calling my name beckoning me to climb up.  Dave gave an excellent presentation while inside the mine, explaining various terms as they related to the things we saw.  I have a better understanding of the minerals then I ever did, and also learned where gold likes to hide.

Parts of the mine seemed like something you’d see at an amusement park, but the reality is, there was nothing amusing about mining.  It was hard work and deadly.

Imagine getting up in the morning to walk about an hour and fifteen minutes up a long trail only to spend the day performing back-breaking labor.  The good news though, the walk down was only about 40 minutes after a long day.

Of course most miner need a drink now and then, so every Sunday the miners of the camp would make their way to Crown King for a few drinks.  I’ve driven the backside to CK, I can’t imagine what the hike must have been like.  This was probably somewhere between 60 and 80 miles round-trip…  In a day mind you!  Only to get up on Monday and do it all over again.

The mine slowly died out in the early 1930′s due to a drought.  Worth it’s weight in gold, without water there’s not much keeping a thirsty man in a dusty old town.

Without water for the machinery and for the thirsty workers, Humbug over the years began to take its place in history.

More importantly though then the possibility of gold in them thar hills, this little town is a jewel in its own right.  A priceless treasure that I hope to see live for many years to come.  Pictures and books just cannot do justice compared to the feeling you get when standing in the middle of Humbug.  It gave my daughter something she will always remember as well since her school falls short with regards to Arizona History.  She came away wanting to learn more.

When we were done exploring for the day, my daughter got a hands-on lesson from a true prospector, learning how to pan for and identify gold.  If she didn’t get the bug last year detecting, she’s got it now.  I detected a little bit along the water but after seeing how much fun she was having with Dave, I was really wishing I had my gold pans and sluice box.  She found her first bit of the yellow stuff, and Dave was kind enough to give her a vial to take it home in.

The day was rewarding in so many ways, at this point I just don’t have the words for what is Humbug.  While some may think of it as a dust bowl, I call it paradise.

It had been a long day and the time had come to say our goodbyes and make are way back down into the city.  While I’m sure I’ll be back before March, I know for a fact I’ll be there for the open house/potluck.  You can get more information by going to THIS LINK.

I had to stop for one last photo op before heading back to the city.  This was one of the best days of exploration I’ve had any many years, and I plan to go back as often as Dave will have me.  Humbug needs TLC and if you’d like to help restore a piece of Arizona History in our own backyard, drop me a line and we’ll put together a team and give Dave a hand.

Humbug is truly a Desert Jewel and I am grateful to Dave for sharing it with us.

If you are interested in more pictures from our trip, please visit the gallery by clicking HERE.

If you’ve got a few minutes, have a look at the following video.  This short presentation from Dave Burns comes courtesy of The Daily Courier.  In his own words, Dave gives you a brief history of Humbug, enjoy!

dCourier.com video produced by David McAtee and Bruce Colbert

Some other very resourceful sites that you might find interesting are listed below.

  • Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project – Humbug – http://www.apcrp.org
  • Ghosttowns.com – Humbug
  • seethesouthwest.com – Humbug

Another video with Dave Burns

You can reach Dave Burns by calling: 1-480-899-7317

Watch for more Trip Reports in the future as I’m already planning my visits to the various mines in The Bradshaw’s that I can reach.  I’m hoping my next report will be about The De Soto.

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