Monday, December 13, 2010

Hollywood at the U Ranch

December 13, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Movie set barn used on state lease land by film industry.
An old friend of mine wrote a book about the Superstition Wilderness Area and the many American Forestry Association trail rides he made into the area. John Dahlmann served as a representative for the American Forestry Association for more than twenty years. John had ridden horses on trail rides in many parts of the world including Alaska, Siberia, Morocco, Sinai Desert, and other interesting places. However, John's true love was the Superstition Wilderness Area and it's beauty. He rode with just about all of the outfitters from DeGraffenreid to Billy Clark Crader.

John had a special way of describing the Superstition Wilderness Area and it beauty as if it were part of his soul. He eventually moved to Apache Junction and retired in the area. John was born in 1911 and rode horses all his life. Trail riding was a way of life for John Dahlmann.

When John started riding with Billy and Rowean Crader in the late 1960's he ended up becoming friends with Ted and Marion De Grazia. Ted also enjoyed riding in the Superstition Wilderness Area. It was this common link that brought the two of them together. They eventually published a book together entitled A Tiny Bit Of God's Creation. John wrote the book and Ted furnished the artwork that included some of his Superstition Mountain sketches. Today this book is quite scarce and hard to find.

Not to long ago I was re-reading A Tiny Bit Of God's Creation and I came up on story John Dahlmann told about an old movie set near the Quarter U Ranch in Pinal Movie County near the end of the Peralta road off of U.S. Highway 60.

The movie set on state land near Quarter Circle U Ranch. In 1957 The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral starring Burt Lancaster was filmed here. Photo by Dan Hopper.
The site of this old movie set was approximately three-quarters of mile west of the Quarter Circle U Ranch.There is nothing remaining of the old movie set today. When I worked at the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the late fifties much of this old movie set was standing. The set was used for filming the 1957 movie, The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral starring Burt Lancaster and Angela Lansberry. A portion of the main street building props and buildings were still standing. Also the big old barn was standing across the street. This old movie set was a lease agreement between the State of Arizona and the movie industry. The Barkley's tried for several years to purchase the land used for the movie set and buildings.

John description of accidently walking into the movie set while they were filming is an interesting story. John tells the story something like this.

"We were going to Peralta Campground to hike up Peralta Canyon to Fremont Pass to get a good view of Weaver's Needle. It was at this point we saw something going on over near the Quarter Circle U Ranch. My curiosity dictated we should investigate.

We walked across the canyon from Peralta Trailhead due south for about a mile. It was a good thing we walked across. If we hadn't walked we would have been stopped. An Arizona Highway Patrolman was guarding the entrance to the Quarter Circle U Ranch for the film company. By walking onto the movie set dressed in our western apparel we were treated as part of the cast. We mingled on the set without being asked to leave. Burt Lancaster did not offer to shake our hand or mingle with us.

Our small group will never forget this adventure or the old movie set near the Quarter Circle U Ranch."

Over the years several movie were shot at this site, but I have not been able to find a list of those movies. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis did a film shoot at the site for the movie Partners.

When Earle Stanley Gardner was in the area working on his book, Hunting Lost Mines By Helicopter, he used the old movie set for his headquarters. A few times we observed commercial photographs shooting material for advertisements.

Other than this the old site was not used after 1965. This old movie set eventual was torn down and hauled off because of neglect more than anything. Hopefully this old movie set will be remembered in the future and mentioned.

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.