Yesterday, a total of 31 people in about 20 vehicles joined leaders Scott Rogers (wickenburg-az.com’s Tommy Knocker) and Tom Riggs on a 4WD day trip to Isaac Bradshaw’s Grave. My husband and I, and our dog Jack, were among the group.
We met at about 10 AM at the parking lot across the road from the Rodeo Grounds on Constellation Road. I was surprised by the turnout. Although I estimated that up to 15 people could be joining us (based on the response to the trip description posted here), there were far more people and vehicles. So many, in fact, that I thought another group had decided to meet for a trip at the same meeting place and time. The group included people ranging in age from a little girl about 2 or 3 years old to older folks in their 60s or perhaps even older — I didn’t ask! — and every age in between. Vehicles included quads and other ATVs, Jeeps, pickups and even a Nissan Xterra.
After a few brief words from Scott and Tom, we headed off down Constellation Road. Because this was an historic trip — meaning that the main purpose was to get a little history lesson along the way — we made several stops where Scott or Tom told us about the places we were and pointed out things of interest. We heard about how Calamity Wash may have gotten its name, why Skeleton Ridge is also called Dead Woman Ridge, and how Jack Burden tried to get some publicity for his ranch long ago by arranging for a lion hunt.
From Constellation Road, we turned right onto Buckhorn Road and followed that up into the mountains. The road was long and winding but had been recently graded, so it was very easy to travel. We passed mines and ghost towns and got a bit of history about many of them. We saw ruins of more than a few mine sites, too, including mine shafts, foundations, and roads. We made a brief stop for lunch — most of us had brought along sandwiches, snacks, and beverages — then continued on our way.
We made a left turn off Buckhorn Road just as the road was descending down toward Buckhorn Wash. I don’t know the name of the road and it really doesn’t matter much, since there were no signs anyway. (In fact, it’s amazing how many roads exist out there without any kind of identification. Unless you have a foolproof sense of direction, it’s not a good idea to go out there without a GPS unless you’re prepared for the possibility of getting lost.) We passed the remains of the town of Swallow, where we stopped for a while for some more history, photos, and a look at a mine shaft near the road. This was about 15 miles from our starting point at the Rodeo Grounds. Then we continued on our way.
What’s very interesting (at least to me) is how many people live way out there in the desert mountains, far from the conveniences of “civilization.” We passed a few year-round homes — usually trailers permanently parked near a well or spring, using generators for electricity and doing without telephones or televisions. This is rough, remote living. And our caravan of 4WD vehicles was probably more traffic than they’d see in a week.
The road grading ended right after Swallow and the road began to get rough. It was narrow and winding, with steep hills littered with loose rock. I got in a bit of trouble trying to climb a hill in second gear. I lugged it to a stall, then started sliding backwards as the Jeep twisted a little to the side. It took two attempts in 4WD to straighten it out and continue up the hill. I kept it in 4WD in first gear the rest of the way.
When we arrived at Bradshaw’s Grave, it was nearly 3 PM. Although it was only 18 miles from our starting point, we’d made quite a few stops along the way. Neal DuShane had brought along a gravestone to put on the grave, so a bunch of us opened up the fence around the pile of stones and tidied it up a bit by pulling out the weeds that had grown there over time. (Future visitors with this goal in mind might want to bring along a pair of clippers to cut the young trees that have taken root at Isaac’s head and feet. We didn’t have the tools to do the job.)
After some debate over which way Isaac was lying (head east or west?), Neal and some helpers laid out the new gravestone at what we think was his head. We then closed up the fence, leaving the site in better shape than it had been when we arrived.
I got the group to pose for this group photo. Tom Riggs is on the far left side of the photo, partially in the shade of a tall saguaro. Scott Rogers is on the far right side of the photo. Everyone else (except me!) is in the photo. (To those in the photo, if you click this photo, you’ll get a high-resolution version (1.2 MB) that you can save to your computer. Just right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the photo and use the Save command on the menu that appears to save it on your hard disk. You can then print it or do whatever else you like with it.)
With the sunlight fading, we headed back the same way we’d come. We picked up the pace a bit and stopped only to make sure the rest of the group was behind us. At our last stop, on top of a ridge near Swallow, I took this shot looking back down the way we’d come. The circle points out some of the vehicles in our group and gives you an idea of the scale of this wonderful desert mountain range and winding dirt roads.
It took roughly 90 minutes to get back from Bradshaw’s Grave to Constellation Road. 18 miles.
I want to thank Scott Rogers for offering to lead this wonderful day trip and Tom Riggs for joining him as leader and adding his insight. I learned a lot about the history of the area and now have all kinds of ideas for places to explore in the future. I’m hoping that Scott and Tom lead another day trip for site visitors soon, perhaps to Harquahala Mountain? (hint, hint) It would be great if we can turn this activity into a monthly event for the folks who want to learn more about the area by seeing it firsthand.
I also invite the folks who joined us on this trip to add their comments about it to this article. Use the Comments link. If anyone wants to share their photos of the day, please use the Contact Us link at the top of the page to let me know; I’ll send an e-mail address where photos can be mailed.
Addendum, December 11: Lee Pearson, who is part of the Wickenburg Cultural Organization’s mapping project, provided the following topo maps to illustrate our route: Rodeo Grounds to Bradshaw’s Grave. This 4.2 MB file is in PDF format and requires Adobe Reader or other PDF-reader software to open, zoom (for greater detail), view, and print.