Monday, December 29, 2014

Unforgettable Christmas

December 22, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

After 50 years, Tom and Sharon Kollenborn still
decorate and enjoy a Cholla cactus
skeleton for Christmas along with their traditional tree.
The spirit of Christmas was in the air in late December of 1955. The first snows had fallen in Arizona’s high country and winter had announced its arrival in the Superstition Wilderness. Low stratus clouds engulfed the towering spires of Superstition Mountain and a slow, drizzling rain fell, meeting with the approval of local cattlemen. 

Deep in the Superstition Wilderness there lived an angry, bitter and lonely old man who had chosen isolation rather than the kindness of friends. “Old Ben” had been prospecting the mountains for more than a decade. He believed the old Dutchman’s lost mine existed and he wanted to find it. His search for the Dutchman’s gold had become as strong for “Old Ben” as anyone’s devotion to Jesus Christ.

My father and I visited Ben over the years because he and Dad had something in common besides the gold of Superstition Mountain. They were both veterans and had served with General John Pershing, the Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, during World War I. Both men had witnessed the slaughter in the trenches along the Western Front and had survived the horror of the war in Europe. 

Each year Dad and I tried to visit Ben’s Camp a couple weeks before Christmas to say hello. Ben functioned well in the mountains, but within society he was a misfit. His experiences, no less than that of my father’s during the war, had left his heart laden with hate for those who were associated with the production, distribution and application of war materials designed to destroy thousands and thousands of lives during that terrible time etched in Ben’s mind.

Ben chose to live apart from society because he couldn’t forget the rattle of machine guns, exploding artillery shells, fumes of poison gas, and the screaming agony of the wounded and dying soldiers. The war had been over for almost forty years, but Ben still lived in the shadow of its horror and terror. His mind was scarred for eternity.

Dad had also survived the battlefield of that war and for that reason he understood Ben and was his friend. Ben and my father spent many hours in idle conversation discussing the Dutchman’s lost mine, each being careful not to reveal any important information about its possible location. We often sat under a large boulder in Petrasch’s old camp in La Barge Canyon talking about the Dutchman, Jacob Waltz. Sometimes Dad and Ben would hike up to Petrasch’s old camp on Tortilla Mountain and spend the day. 

Christmas was once again coming to Ben’s Camp in the Superstition Wilderness, but he never celebrated Christmas because he didn’t see any real value in it. He said there was no God or Jesus Christ at Meuse-Argonne, Verdun, or the other battlefields of Europe.

Once again we bid our farewell to Ben and began our hike out of the mountains, leaving the lonely old man to cope with his misery. As we drove home that day I thought of old Ben and his lonely existence.

Arriving home we found Mother had decorated a beautiful tree for our house. The spirit of Christmas filled our home as friends dropped by with a friendly “Merry Christmas.” My mother was always full of the Christmas spirit and she wanted to share it with everyone who would listen or sing carols with her.

On Christmas Eve morning I got up early and talked to Dad about our friend Ben. I kept thinking about Ben and finally suggested to Dad that I wanted to hike back into the mountains and spend Christmas Eve and Day with the old man. I was young and very impressionable at the time. My father’s first concern was my mother and our traditional family Christmas get together.

“What is Christmas, if it is not about sharing one’s friendship, didn’t you teach me this dad,” I inquired?

Mom and Dad decided to allow me to share my Christmas spirit of friendship and giving with Ben on Christmas Day. Mom provided me with a couple of quickly wrapped Christmas presents for Ben and I grabbed a colorful ornament from the tree. I prepared my hiking gear and I was on my way to First Water Trailhead with dad driving and advising.

I arrived at First Water about noon and began my hike. A light drizzle fell as I hiked along the trail toward La Barge Canyon. By the time I reached Ben’s Camp near Charlebois the daylight was rapidly disappearing. I called out for Ben as I arrived in his camp, wishing him a Merry Christmas. He called back inviting me into his camp. He immediately scolded me for leaving my parents on Christmas Eve and coming into the mountains. I handed him the two small packages mother had wrapped for him. The delicate glass Christmas ornament had survived the hike in my backpack. I handed him the ornament and then suggested we needed a Christmas tree.  Ben laughed and said, “Your not going to find many pine trees in this desert.”

At that moment I could see that Ben enjoyed having my company. He ended his comment with, “The only trees around here are those devilish Cholla.”

Near Ben’s camp, in the dark, using a small flashlight, I found a Cholla cactus skeleton that would serve as our Christmas tree. The Cholla skeleton made a fitting desert Christmas tree. I piled some large rocks around the base of our tree to hold it in place. Once the Cholla was secure Ben and I went about decorating it. 

We placed the Christmas bulb from my mother’s tree on top of the Cholla. We added a few pieces of tinfoil here and there. We then made some ornaments out of empty Sardine and bean can lids. Ben had a plentiful supply because he loved Sardines and beans. We made a simple garland out of bits of colored string we found in camp.

The tree was not an ordinary one, but then Ben was by no means an ordinary man. This was also no ordinary occasion for Ben. The meaning of Christmas had found its way back into Ben’s heart in that odd appearing Christmas tree. We laughed together of our effort to create a Christmas tree. We had found the spirit of Christmas together.

We sat admiring our handy work when Ben reached into his bag and removed a very old Bible, then placed it under our tree. He looked at me with a tear in his eye, and said, “Isn’t this what Christmas is really about?”

Yes, we were celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday in the simplest manner. I will never forget the happiness of sharing our friendship on that Christmas Eve.

This lonely old man taught me that it is not how much you have, but the sharing of your friendship with others that is so important.

Since that time many Christmases have come and gone, but few of them are remembered as this one.

My father eventually talked Ben into returning to society and being a friend to others. Ben returned to the world of the living and each Christmas for many years, until his death, we received a card from him addressed to “My Desert Christmas Friends,” and simply signed “Ben”.

After fifty years, Sharon and I still decorate and enjoy a Cholla cactus skeleton in our home for Christmas along with our traditional tree.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Golden Ghost

December 15, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

“The Golden Ghost” Stewart Adams (l) and his friend John P. Cunningham at a camp site at the Peralta Trail head area shortly before Adams’ death in 1934. Photo by Christensen, c. 1934.
Stories of lost gold continue to haunt the minds of men who trespass in the domain of the Thunder Gods. Superstition Mountain is like a magnet for dreamers. Eight decades ago Frank Dobie, an early American author, wrote about the Spanish conquistadors and hidden gold in the Southwestern deserts. Those who searched for the gold were called Coronado’s Children by the author.

Adventurers searching for gold in the Superstition Wilderness today are few and far between. These searchers were called Dutch Hunters, and it was their stories that became the history and legends of Superstition Mountain. These stories are told and retold today around campfires and in local coffee shops.

One might say Jacob Waltz and his legendary Dutchman’s Lost Mine is the Golden Ghost of Superstition Mountain. Since the time of Waltz’s death in 1891 the legacy of his mine has grown to almost unbelievable proportions, and the story is filled with more fiction than fact.  The true Golden Ghosts are the tales and stories passed on from generation to generation. No one can really legislate dreams, according to former Arizona Attorney General Robert K. Corbin. As long as there are dreamers there will be searchers and chroniclers of this infamous story of adventure, death, tragedy, lost gold and glory.

It has been eighty years since Adam Stewart died in his camp deep in the Superstition Mountain range. Stewart came to America from Scotland long before the turn of the 20th Century. He first prospected the mountains of California and then moved to Arizona about 1915. He established his base camp near what is known as the Don’s Camp, located near the Peralta Trailhead. 

It was here Adam Stewart met Dr. Rolf Alexander and John P. Cunningham. Dr. Alexander was a dentist who had aspirations of becoming a geologist. John P. Cunningham was a multi-millionaire ice cream manufacturer from Chicago. Alexander introduced Stewart to Cunningham as his partner in the mining operation near the Peralta Trailhead. 

Steward and Cunningham became good friends. The Chicago millionaire ice cream maker invested money in Adam Stewart’s dream to strike it rich in the Superstition Mountains.

Stewart was an honest and humble man who Cunningham respected and wanted to help. The old prospector was convinced the Lost Dutchman Mine was on his claims in Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon). Stewart had spent almost twenty years searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine, but never succeeded in finding it.

It wasn’t really the gold that brought Cunningham and Steward together.

After meeting Stewart, Cunningham realized he had gone to school with Stewart in Scotland and they had even dated the same girl. This interesting story became part of Cunningham’s love for the Superstition Mountains in 1917. 

Cunningham made a special trip to Arizona in 1934 to visit Adam Stewart and reminisce about the past. It was Cunningham and a photographer who filmed Adam Stewart, his mine, the Superstition Mountains on 16 mm film in 1934, providing historians with some of the earliest films ever shot in the Superstition Mountain area around the Peralta Canyon.

Adam Stewart died in November of 1934 leaving behind many years of hard work on his Superstition Mountain claims. His tenacity to search for gold in the Superstitions provided this humble man with credibility among his peers and friends. His white handled-bar mustache was his trademark and many of his friends remembered him as a honest, hard working man.

Rolf Alexander had the “pipes” played in the memory of Adam Stewart at a site just under the Dacite Cliffs three days after Stewart’s death. The Golden Ghost of Superstition Mountain has impacted the lives of many men and women.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Going Home to the Reavis

December 8, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Tom Kollenborn going home to Reavis, circa 1956.
A flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and the threat of rain made the old Reavis Ranch house a haven to weary hikers, horsemen and cattlemen that rode or walked the trails of the eastern portion of the Superstition Mountains for more than a half of a century. This old skeleton of a ranch house survived almost thirty years alone in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness Area with little or no maintenance.  Many friends of the old Reavis Ranch house tried desperately to help the old ranch house limp into the Twenty-First Century.

The Friends of the Reavis Ranch cleaned, cleared, hauled trash off and repaired the old ranch house for more than a decade.  Their effort was a labor of love, nothing more. We all understood the character and spirit of this old house after spending a few days in it. The roar from the fireplace, the clanging of the tin roof, the wind blowing through the breezeway and the attic, the squeaking of a door hinge were all familiar sounds. The house had plenty of mice and even an occasional family of raccoons. The beauty and solitude of this valley has made it a popular destination for hikers and horsemen. 

Since 1956, I have traveled to and from the Reavis Ranch on foot, horseback and by vehicle on many different occasions. I can recall the old road and how rough it was between Castle Dome Corral, through Windy Gap and on to Plow Saddle. I can remember the friendly smile of Alice Stone and the strong handshake of Floyd Stone when welcomed to their mountain ranch. I can recall the closing of the road and Mary Leonard’s article in the Arizona Republic about the old ranch in 1967. Only those who have spent time at the old ranch in Reavis Valley know what we have lost.

The Reavis Valley is a pristine ecological niche of the Upper Sonoran Desert with the old ranch serving as a window for humanity. The Reavis Ranch house burned down November 30, 1991. The old ranch house has been gone for more than twenty-three years.

The Reavis ranch house was constructed about 1937. William J. Clemans Company patented the ranch in 1919. Clemans purchased the ranch from John J. Fraser in 1909, and Fraser acquired the ranch shortly after the death of the old hermit, “Elisha Marcus Reavis” in 1896.

Clemans and his two sons, Earl and Mark Twain ran the ranch from 1910-1946. Billy Martin Sr. served as foreman of the Clemans Cattle Company from 1915-1946.  Prior to Martin, William “Billy” Knight served as foreman from 1891-1915. To this day there are old catch pens deep in the forest made entirely of wood, not one nail or a piece of wire was used in their construction.  The range was so brushy the Clemans’ cowboys had to trap a lot of their cattle.

The Reavis Ranch road was started in 1910 by a group of Mesa promoters who wanted to sell lots in the pines south of the Reavis Ranch. They never completed the road. Bacon and Upton purchased the ranch from the Clemans Cattle Company around 1946. Bacon and Upton completed the road into the Reavis Ranch in 1948. Floyd Stone, Bacon’s son-in-law, and Kenneth Lockwood purchased the ranch in 1955 from John A. Bacon and Upton. Stone and Lockwood sold the ranch to the United States Department of Agriculture in 1966 for $80,000 and twenty acres of patented land near the Apache Trail.

Shortly after the government purchased the Reavis Ranch they closed the access corridor. The reason for the closure of the road was the extreme maintenance cost and the danger to vehicular travel. After the road was closed in 1967 only hikers and horsemen were able to access the Reavis Valley and the ranch.

A sort of sadness prevailed when news of the Reavis Ranch fire spread among those who had visited the old ranch over the years. I suppose many of the wilderness purist believed the fire was a blessing to the wilderness concept, but many hikers and backpackers were disappointed to find their severe weather haven destroyed by fire. Now outfitters and packers will have to carry more gear and take more animals to provide adequate service to their customers. Many will just miss the old ranch house because of the nostalgia associated with it. I must admit I really enjoyed being a part of this history. The destruction of the old Reavis Ranch house ended an era in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Settlers and cattlemen have lived in the valley since 1874, and the Reavis Valley had served as the first Camp Geronimo for the Boy Scouts in 1920 before the Spade Ranch north of Payson became their permanent home. Arizona’s Governor Campbell rode horseback to the Reavis Ranch in 1920’s to visit with the Boy Scouts at Camp Geronimo and tell them stories around a campfire. Even post cards told the story of the idyllic Reavis Valley.

I visited the Reavis Valley in 1994, not for the last time, but to see the old ranch house once more. Only the walls were still standing and the chimney towered above the old house like a monument to the past.

I returned to the site of the old Reavis Ranch in October of 2000. None of the walls of the old ranch were standing. All that remained was the concrete slab the old ranch house was constructed on. I was amazed how obliterated the site was. All human history had just about been eradicated and the valley had almost returned to its pure natural state.

My most memorable visit to the Reavis Ranch was on Christmas Eve in 1989. We rode up to the ranch two days before Christmas. It was a cold December night and we had a roaring fire in the fireplace that kept the room warm. I found a poem written by an Apache Junction fireman called “The Night Before Christmas At The Reavis Ranch.” The poem was dedicated to the old Reavis Ranch and its unique character that charmed so many people who visited it. The poem mentioned the mice, the raccoons in the roof, the creakiness and moans of the old building and sound of trickling water in Reavis Creek. The poem was near a small Christmas Tree that was still standing and told the story “the night before Christmas at the old Reavis Ranch.”

This poem brought back so many memories of this old ranch and its inhabitants from the bygone days, the cowboys, cooks, and visitors who were a part of this history. This old ranch meant a lot to those who experienced it. It’s now gone, but its memory is still fresh in our minds. I didn’t have a pen to copy down the poem, and I also didn’t have the heart to take the poem away from others. I left it to be shared by those who might have visited the old ranch that particular Christmas week end.

The ranch was to be destroyed like all man-made things in a wilderness and was only a temporary fixture on the landscape. Those who knew the old house undoubtedly had a better understanding of man’s mark on the wilderness and the value of this place. The old ranch is now only a memory in the minds of those that once lived or visited there.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Apache Trail Circle Route, Part 3 of 3

December 1, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Apache Trail, or AZ. 88 as it is officially known, links Apache Junction with Globe via Theodore Roosevelt Lake, through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest; 40 miles of steep, winding and mostly unpaved road past magnificent scenery of twisted mountains with dense saguaro forests and several deep blue lakes.
Once you clear the divide and continue the drive, your next spectacular view is the blue water of Apache Lake, shimmering below the towering cliffs of Goat Mountain and Four Peaks.  Goat Mountain has become a sanctuary for transplanted Desert Bighorn Sheep.

When Apache Lake was filled in 1927, it permanently closed a portion of the Apache Trail. The “Trail” was closed for six months until a new road could be constructed.  A tugboat and barge were used to move traffic up and down Apache Lake until the new road was completed.  Apache Lake has a fine resort and restaurant.

Fourteen miles from Apache Lake turnoff you can see the spectacular new look of Roosevelt Dam completed in 1996.  Beneath this facade of slip-form concrete is the original masonry dam constructed between 1906-1911.  President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated this dam on March 18, 1911.  The dam was refitted and reconstructed between 1993-1996.  The original dam was raised seventy-seven feet.  This new facelift has changed the appearance of Roosevelt Dam forever.  A towering blue suspension bridge now dominates the view toward Roosevelt Lake from the dam.

As you continue your drive you will soon be looking out over one of the largest man-made reservoirs in America.  This is Roosevelt Lake. On April 8, 1927, one month prior to Charles Linbergh’s solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean, an Italian aviator and his crew landed at Roosevelt Lake in a seaplane named the Santa Maria. Commander Francesco de Pinedo had planned to fly around the world.  He and his crew had just flown across the Atlantic Ocean from Italy to Roosevelt Lake.  It was here at Roosevelt Lake tragedy struck.  A carelessly tossed cigarette ignited gasoline that destroyed De Pinedo’s seaplane at Hotel Point on Roosevelt Lake.

Just up the road is the entrance to Tonto National Monument. This national monument has an excellent interpretive center on the ancient Salado culture.  A visit to the monument is well worth your time.

It is twenty-five miles from Tonto National Monument to U.S. Highway 60-70 between Globe and Miami.  The scenery along this portion of State Route 88 is typical Sonoran Desert. As you drive along Pinal Creek you will see a typical riparian setting that includes large Cottonwood, Sycamore and Arizona Willow trees.  The mountains to the southwest contain a tremendous amount of low- grade copper ore.  This ore supports several mining operations east of the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Driving west along U.S. 60-70 toward Miami, there is a towering bank of mill tailings on the right side of the road.  These tailings are the result of milling (crushing) thousands and thousands of tons of copper ore from the mines in the area. There is also a towering black bank that is composed of solid slag from the smelting process that reduces copper ore to copper.  When the smelter was still in operation it was quite a light show when they dumped the molten slag off at night. The glow would radiate for miles around as slag flowed down the almost vertical walls. 

Miami is an interesting old copper mining town. Many of the buildings date to about 1915. It is worth turning around and driving east toward Globe to visit the Clara Woody Museum (Gila County Museum) on the right side of the  highway between Miami and Globe.

Driving west on U.S. Highway 60-70 toward Superior, the towering pine-covered mountains on the left are the Pinal Mountains. The highest peak in the group is Signal Peak, 7,812 feet above sea level. The U.S. Army used this peak   as a heliograph station during the Indian Wars from 1871-1886.

As you cross Pinto Creek Bridge, on your right you can see a massive open pit operation at the Pinto Valley Mines.  Eight miles west of Miami you will arrive at a divide known as Sutton’s Summit between Miami and Superior.  A short distance west of this divide is the old Craig Ranch (Pinal Ranch), sometimes incorrectly called the “Top of the World.” 

The “Top of the World” was a dance hall started in the 1920’s during prohibition along a portion of the old highway. The Pinal Ranch was originally settled by Robert A. Irion in 1878.  His stepson, Dudley Craig, continued the ranching tradition after his stepfather’s death.

Next you’ll descent into Devil’s Canyon, a beautiful region filled with rock formations that would please anyone’s imagination.  As you emerge from Devil’s Canyon you will see the Oak Flats Campground on your left. This road also leads to the Magma Nine Mine hoist house. The shaft below the Magma Nine mine hoist is approximately 4,000 feet deep.

Descending from Oak Flats through Queen Creek Canyon is one of the most spectacular drives in Arizona. It was here in Queen Creek Canyon that the highway department had such a difficult time building a road. 

Look carefully for portions of the old road as you drive through the canyon. As you leave the mouth of the canyon you enter Superior, Arizona, another mining town. Superior is an old copper mining town whose origins date back to the turn of the century. The mill and smelter on your right was built in 1915. A narrow gauge railroad was constructed between Superior and Webster on the Southern Pacific line some thirty-two miles away. The narrow gauge was replaced by a standard gauge in 1921.

Two miles west of Superior is the world famous Boyce Thompson Southwest Arboretum. This botanical garden exhibits arid land plants from around the world. The arboretum bookstore has one of the finest selections of books on the Southwest and they also sell many varieties of desert flora.

The big mountain with towering cliffs located immediately south of the arboretum is known as Picket Post Mountain.  This mountain also served as a heliograph station during the territorial Indian Wars.

At Gonzales Pass, a few miles west of the arboretum, we leave Tonto National Forest again. While descending Gonzales Pass, keep an eye out to the north, and you will spot a pointed peak on the northern horizon. This pointed peak is known as Weaver’s Needle. The needle was named after Paulino Weaver, prospector, guide and mountain man who frequented this area in the 1830’s.

This same landmark serves today as the focal point of the legendary Dutchman’s Lost Mine. Also, the “needle” named in 1853, served an an important landmark along the Gila Trail.

Once you are down on the desert floor you will soon cross the tracks of the Arizona Magma Railroad. The Arizona Magma Railroad ended all regular steam engine revenue runs in 1965. One of the railroad’s steam engines was used in the spectacular Hollywood motion picture titled “How the West was Won.”

You can no longer stop at Florence Junction.  J.W. Willoughby opened the Sun Kist Service Station at Florence Junction on June 14, 1923. George Cleveland Curtis opened Apache Junction for business some sixteen miles up the road on February 2, 1923. Curtis opened Arizona’s first zoo in Apache Junction in July of 1923.

As you motor toward Apache Junction on your right is Superstition Mountain.  This giant monolith dominates the eastern fringe of the Salt River Valley and Apache Junction is the gateway to the central mountains of Arizona.

When you complete this final leg of the trip you join an alumni of thousands who have motored this great “Apache Trail Circle Route” and have been mesmerized by the spectacular beauty and adventure of this trip.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Apache Trail Circle Route, Part 2 of 3

November 24, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Fish Creek Hill struck fear into the hearts of teamsters and tourists as they began their descent of this notorious grade.
Driving along the shores of Canyon Lake (formed in 1925, by the completion of Mormon Flat Dam) is a real contrast compared to the desert along much of the road.  Visitors seldom expect to see such a large body of water in the middle of such an arid region. 

At Canyon Lake you will find a restaurant, marina and a variety of services. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the beautiful lakeside restaurant. If you have time take a cruise on the Dolly.  Tourists have been visiting the beautiful waters of Canyon Lake since October 4, 1925, when the S.S. Geronimo was launched. You might consider camping for a night on the grassy private beach owned and operated by the Canyon Lake Marina.

Two miles from Canyon Lake is the famous old stage stop of Tortilla Flat. This stage stop was constructed in 1904, and served as a staging area for the construction of the Mesa-Roosevelt Road from this point to the bottom of Fish Creek Hill. At Tortilla Flat you can enjoy fine food, drinks or just do a little tourist shopping if you want.

There are several interesting points along the Apache Trail between Tortilla Flat and Apache Lake. As you leave Tortilla Flat you cross Tortilla Creek, which drains a large portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area.  Some old timers claim the legendary Dutchman Lost Mine is located in the drainage of Tortilla Creek somewhere.

The pavement ends about six miles east of Tortilla Flat.  The Arizona Department of Transportation maintains the road from this point to Roosevelt Dam. Recently the state department of transportation has been experimenting with a variety of sub-surface treatments of the roadway. These treatments have provided a much smoother ride over the Apache Trail from Tortilla Ranch corrals to Reavis Ranch road turnoff. Today these road surface treatments have all eroded away.

From Mesquite Creek, the second crossing after Tortilla Creek, you begin to climb.  Seven miles from Tortilla Flat you will see a sign marked ‘Fish Creek Hill.’  There is a beautiful rest area recently constructed at this site.

It was Fish Creek Hill that struck fear into the hearts of teamsters and tourists as they began their descent of this notorious grade. The roadway down Fish Creek Hill is a 10% grade. The road is still narrow, single lane and with sheer cliffs. Since 1906 automobiles have been tested on Fish Creek Hill for power.  Professional filmmakers and photographers still find Fish Creek spectacular for filming.

Once you descend the hill, about eight-tenths of a mile from Fish Creek Bridge, on the right side of the road you will see the site of the old Fish Creek Lodge. All that remains today are a few concrete footings and a stone cistern.

The lodge burned on January 6, 1929, ending an era on the Apache Trail.  The lodge has served as a halfway station for tourist since the construction of Roosevelt Dam.  Beyond the lodge site you will cross another steel bridge then you will travel along the course of Lewis and Pranty Creek until you arrive at the Arizona State Highway Yard and the IV Ranch. 

At the top of the divide, on the right side of the road, is a sign directing your attention to the Reavis Ranch Trail Head. This trail leads to a beautiful high mountain valley deep in the Superstition Wilderness. Elisha Marcus Reavis once occupied this valley. He was known better as the “Hermit of Superstition Mountain.”  Reavis lived in the valley from 1874 until his death in 1896. He grew vegetables and packed them to the many mining towns around the area.  After Reavis died John J. Fraser moved into the valley and ran cattle.  Fraser sold out to William J. Clemans in 1909. Clemans and his sons operated the ranch until 1946.

It was 1910 when a group of Mesa entrepreneurs thought they could promote the qualities of the Reavis Valley to residents of the Salt River Valley.

This group started selling lots in the pines south of the Reavis Ranch to provide valley residents a relief from the hot summers. They promised to build a road from the Apache Trail to the Reavis Valley, a distance of 12 miles.  They named their resort Pineair.  The resort failed and the road was finally completed in 1947, for another reason. The road serviced a cattle operation not a resort in the pines. This service road was closed in 1967.

The Reavis Valley’s greatest claim to fame has to be when it was selected as the site of the first Roosevelt Council Boy Scouts’ Camp Geronimo in 1921. Arizona’s Governor Campbell visited Camp Geronimo the first year at the Reavis Ranch.