Monday, December 6, 2010

Squaw Box Canyon Trail

December 6, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The history of the Superstition Wilderness Area would be incomplete with a story about the Squaw Box Canyon trail, or better know as "Crazy Jake's" trail. Robert "Crazy Jake's" Jacob undoubtedly constructed this dangerous and notorious trail during the early 1970's to give him easier access to his diggings near the rim of the northwest end of Peter's Mesa at the head of Squaw Box Canyon. Jacob's original base camp was in some big boulders at the mouth of Squaw Box Canyon where it enters La Barge Canyon. The trip from his base camp to Jacob's digging site was about a half of a mile as the crow flies. Around 1983, maybe a little earlier, Jacob moved his camp from near La Barge Canyon to the top of Peter's Mesa.

The Squaw Box Canyon Trail climbs up the left hand canyon and up over the rim of Peter's Mesa.
The move required getting his camp from the bottom of Squaw Box Canyon to the top of Peter's Mesa. By 1985 Robert Jacob had five tents and a large camp established on Peter's Mesa a short distance from his diggings. Now outfitters had two options as to how to supply Jacob's Camp. They could bring in supplies from First Water Trailhead or Tortilla Trailhead. Either option was dangerous, difficult and tedious to say the least. Most pack strings required four to six pack animals. Either trip required three to five hours travel time one-way. Jake often took his investors in by the First Water Trailhead. Once they arrived at the base of Peter's Mesa in Squaw Box Canyon they were undecided about riding to the top of the rim to look at his camp or diggings. If you have ever sit on a horse at the beginning of the Squaw Box Canyon trail you would understand the consternation in one's mind before negotiating this trail to the top of Peter Mesa.

Originally there was a very primitive trail up through Squaw Box Canyon to the rim of Peter's Canyon. Old timers had followed a deer trail to the top. Jake had cleared and built up this trail in several spots making it possible to ride a horse over it while leading pack animals.

On Monday, May 18, 1987, Royal Norman, news weath-erman for Channel 3, Phoenix, departed on a five-day expedition into the Superstition Wilderness Area from Peralta Trailhead. Each evening Norman planned to transmit the weather live via microwave transmitter attached to a Bell Ranger helicopter to their Phoenix station. This was a very ambitious undertaking for a news reporting company. Most of the technology used was somewhat new and there were many variables. Royal Norman, expedition leader and news anchor, Brian Nellis, cameraman, and Ben Sobutian, sound technician were the Channel 3 crew. I was the expedition historian. Ron Feldman and I both served as guides. Ron and Jayne Feldman were the out-fitters with Bob Wright, Leroy Anderson and Robert Corbin going along on the expedition. Royal Norman interviewed a different person each news broadcast.

Our first evening was spent at White Rock in La Barge Canyon after a long day on the trail. The first broadcast was a success. The next morning we planned our next day's ride. After a little discussion it was decided to ride up Squaw Box Canyon trail ("Crazy Jake's" trail). Personally I had argued not to use the Squaw Box Canyon trail because it was quite rough the last time I was over it. However Ron felt it would be easier on the animals than the Peter's Mesa Trail above Charlebois Spring. Ron insisted we could make it up the trail. We made it, but what a price we paid.

The Squaw Box Canyon Trail climbs up the left hand canyon and up over the rim of Peter's Mesa.
Bob Corbin was swept off his horse by a large branch from a Mesquite tree, one of Ron Feldman's favorite horses almost made a leap into eternity off a cliff along the trail as we watched helplessly from above, and Royal Norman, the star of the production fell into an Agave plant that resulted in a painful puncture wound in his arm. After successfully making it to the top of Peter's Mesa on this trail we all agreed to stay off of it in the future.

Royal Norman's five-day expedition turned out to be a great success attesting to Ron Feldman's organizational and packing skills. Jayne Feldman prepared fine evening meals and had great lunches for the five days. After five days wandering through the Superstition Wilderness Area and visiting a variety of interesting landmarks such as Peter's Mesa, Tortilla Ranch, Roger's Canyon Cliff Dwellings, Circlestone and the Reavis Ranch everyone was ready to end this very successful expedition.

The thing that stood out most on this entire five-day expedition was the climb up Squaw Box Canyon trail. This trail had been eroded by summer rains and was overgrown by brush. The trail was extremely steep and very narrow in many places. Riding along the ledges near the rim of Peter's Mesa gave us the sensation of almost flying because the canyon was so far below and the trail was so narrow and close to the edge. We all survived it and I am sure none of us will ever forget "Crazy Jake's trail" or the Squaw Box Canyon trail.

This is another trail that will stand out in the annuals of Superstition Mountain history.