Monday, June 29, 2015

Arizona's Monsoon

June 22, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

According to legend and myth, the great “Thunder God” roars during the summer months in Arizona. Many of us do not find this hard to believe if we have experienced a severe and violent thunderstorm in the Apache Junction-Gold Canyon area during the summer monsoon season. The lightning, thunder and winds will convince the non-believer these storms can be dangerous and violent. Our summer monsoons are just around the corner. They usually begin in early July.
According to legend the great
“Thunder God” roars during the summer months
 in Arizona.

During the summer months most of the storms over central Arizona and the eastern portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area result from warm moist air flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico and sometimes from the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). As this air mass moves across Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico it is dried out some. Mountains force the warm moist air upward forming clouds that eventually release their moisture as they rise. This is known as “orographic life.”

These massive anvil-shaped thunderhead clouds that form over Superstition Mountain from July to September normally combine both orographic lift and convectional activity together. Convectional storm clouds result from the rapidly rising and expanding warm moist air and the rapidly falling cold moist air. It is during this convectional activity that lightning is generated. The uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes convectional activity in the atmosphere.

Lightning can be caused by the attraction of unlike electrical charges within a large storm cell. The rapid movement of ice and water molecules, going up and down in a thunderhead cell, creates friction that results in enormous amounts of static electricity being produced. A single lightning discharge can produce about 30 million volts at 125,000 amperes. A discharge can occur in less than 1/10 of a second. The results of a lightning strike can be horrific.

The rapid rising and falling of warm and cold moist air also creates violent bursts of energy. This type of storm activity can result in microbursts. A microburst can develop winds that momentarily reach up to 200 mph. As the clouds build and combine they form massive anvil-shaped thunderheads called Cumulonimbus clouds.

These clouds are massive static generators dispersing lightning and creating violent winds. These summer storms can be extremely dangerous and violent.

These giant thunderheads dominate the sky above Superstition Mountain during the monsoon season and the lightning produced by these storms over the Mountain can be spectacular.

According to most sources, the safest place during a lightning storm is in a non-grounded automobile. Don’t make yourself part of a lightning rod during an electrical storm by standing by a lone tree or on a high point. The use of your telephone during an electrical storm could be your last conversation, depending on the circumstances of a lightning strike. The same is true when connecting to the Internet during a violent lightning storm or thunderstorm.

Standing near or in a swimming pool is asking to meet your maker. Boating on a lake during an electrical storm is certainly risky behavior. This kind of activity could certainly reduce your chance of living to old age. Common sense needs to prevail during severe thunder and lightning storms.

Most Arizona monsoon storms are associated with two other dangerous conditions. They are flash floods and dust storms. A thunderstorm can dump three to ten inches of rain over a small area in an hour and create a massive flash flood. A flash flood near Payson, Arizona in the 1970’s claimed the lives of twenty-two campers along Christopher Creek. Many years ago I witnessed a four-foot wall of water roaring down Queen Creek claiming trucks, horse trailers and horses. This flash flood resulted from a thunderstorm in the mountains no one saw coming.

Huge dust clouds are often associated with Monsoons storms in the desert. Local weather reporters often refer to our dust storms as Haboobs.  Actually, Egyptian dust storms that blow in from the deserts of North Africa are known as Haboobs.

Dust storms are extremely dangerous to vehicular traffic along our state’s highways. Extreme caution should be taken when dust storms are encountered. It is recommended that motorist pull as far off the highway as possible and turn off your lights. While waiting a dust storm to blow over don’t rest your foot on the brake pedal. Your taillights or brake lights might attract drivers in the storm who might think they are following you.

If you’ve ever witnessed a violent electrical storm over Superstition Mountain it is not difficult to see why the early Native Americans held this mountain in such awe. We can partially explain the phenomena today with modern science, but the early Native Americans could only look to their religious shaman for an explanation. It certainly was their “Thunder God” with all it fury.

We, as late arrivals, should also respect the awesome power of these primitive peoples’ “Thunder God.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

Surviving the Desert in Summer

June 15, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Summer is here and temperatures will soon be soaring above 110 degrees F and a review of some summer survival techniques might be appropriate at this time. Each summer we read or hear about a tragic death or deaths resulting from dehydration, exhaustion or sunstroke occurring during the hot summer months on the Sonoran Desert. These summer deaths could be prevented with the proper preparation and training.

Living in the Sonoran Desert for more than sixty years doesn’t make me an expert on desert survival. However, I would like to pass on a few things I have learned over the  decades. Veterans of many desert sojourns in the summer months have died tragically because they took the desert for granted. The older we get sometimes the more careless we become. The most important basic rule of desert survival is to tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to return. This simple rule can save a life.

Now, if you insist on going into the desert during the summer months when temperatures exceed 160 degrees F. on the ground and the air temperature is around 110 degrees F., you need to consider some other basic rules of survival. For each adult in your group you will need a minimum of one gallon of water per day to prevent dehydration. Yes, you can survive on a quart of water per day under ideal conditions. This means you are in the shade, off of the hot ground and not exerting yourself.  Even under these ideal conditions a quart of water per twenty-four hour period will not prevent the onset of dehydration. A rule of thumb is always one gallon of water per day per person on any desert outing in the summer time.

When a family or group of four go trekking into the desert with their four-wheeler, sand buggy, ATV or family car they need to carry sufficient water for any emergency.  Remember, if you are planning a three-day trip into the desert and there are three adults in the group you need a minimum of nine gallons of water. If you have a sufficient quantity of water your survival has been increased three-fold.

Large quantities of water can be carried in a vehicle, but what about horsemen and hikers? A hiker or horseman must know the sources of permanent water along the route he or she has chosen. I would like to believe a reasonable hiker or horseman wouldn’t find themselves in a remote desert setting during the summer months. However, that is not the case. Each summer Search and Rescue teams pull dehydrated hikers out of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some succumb to the elements of the summer heat.

The next thing one should consider is their method of travel under extreme desert conditions, whether it is by vehicle, horseback or afoot. Surface temperatures can reach 180 Degrees F. on a hot summer day. Temperatures three or four feet above the ground may be only 110 Degrees F. depending on the color and texture of the surface. Dark colored material can increase your body temperature by thirty to forty per cent on a hot day. The best clothing to wear is clothing that is loose and reflects the suns rays and heat. The best color of material is always white.

If you are hiking, you also must protect your feet from extreme ground temperatures. Few people will attempt hiking in the desert during the heat of the day (1 p.m. until 4 p.m.). If one must hike in the desert during the summer months it is best to hike in the early morning, late evening or at night. Hiking or walking at night does have its disadvantages. The desert is a host to a variety of poisonous reptiles, insects and even an occasional mine shaft or prospect hole.

Vehicle operators often go into the desert during the hot summer months not giving a second thought to the operating conditions of their vehicles.

Tragedies can be caused by a flat tire, broken fuel line, dead battery, or a punctured oil pan in the summer time or just simply running out of fuel. A simple flat board might serve as a platform to jack up a stuck vehicle in the sand or to change a flat. Brush placed under a wheel to gain traction when stuck in sand can save your life. A vehicle will do better in sand if you lower the air pressure in the tires.

Of the many deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross the border between the United States and Mexico, more than sixty per cent of those desert deaths resulted from a vehicle becoming stuck in the sand or high centered on a rock. A large percentage of victims perished from the over extension of their physical capabilities.

Remember, survival begins immediately, not ten hours after you have become stranded and you realize the consequences of your decisions. People who have worked all day in the hot sun trying to free their vehicles suddenly realize they are in a hopeless situation. Once panic controls a person’s actions survival is dramatically reduced.

No situation is hopeless if preplanning has been undertaken. As soon as you know that you are in a dangerous situation there are three basic rules for survival. One, don’t let yourself panic, Two, stay where you are, and Three, try to signal for help.

You can build a signal fire from desert brush for immediate signaling with smoke. Automotive tires make the best smoke signal. The tires will give off a dense black cloud of smoke that can be seen for miles. You can use your car mirrors to signal aircraft. One important rule is always to keep a signal fire ready to ignite if you see an aircraft in your vicinity. The international signal for distress is three shots, three fires, or three of anything that can be recognized as distress signals from the air or from a distance.

Many times an individual will not panic until the second or third day. The only control for panic is self-confidence in the fact that you know how to survive the situation. Staying with your vehicle is very important. It is much easier to spot a car than a human being on the desert from the air. Most searches are conducted from the air. If you decide to leave your vehicle it is important that you leave some kind of signal letting rescuers know which direction you are traveling away from your vehicle. Sticks and rocks can serve as excellent markers if properly arranged to indicate direction.

These suggestions are not guaranteed to save your life, but they will increase your chances of survival. If you choose to walk out, try to walk during the cooler hours of the morning or late evening. Walking after dark would be the best, but there are many hazards in the desert if you don’t have proper lighting. Cactus spines, venomous animals, mineshafts, and pits are just a few of the hazards you could encounter while walking in the dark.

The Superstition Wilderness Area, and other desert regions of Arizona have claimed hundreds of lives over the decades from dehydration, exhaustion, and sunstroke. Many illegal aliens die each summer trying to cross the border between the United States and Mexico. Often, summer deaths on the desert exceed one hundred human beings. The desert can be extremely dangerous in the summer months.  Please use care and preplanning before going off into the desert for a summer adventure.

Also, I would like to make comment about leaving children or pets in a car in the summer time. If the windows are rolled up they will suffer from heat stroke or die. Most people would break out your windows to rescue a child or pet left in a hot car. Think about that when you are shopping in the summer time even in late evening. Don’t leave children or pets in a car. Also don’t walk your pets across a hot parking lot. The temperature of asphalt in the summer can fry an egg sometimes, what do you think it will do to your pet’s feet?

Think about the heat at all times when you are going shopping during the summer months and you may save a child or pet’s life.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Desert Flash Floods

June 8, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

As I rode northeastward toward Miner’s Needle Summit from the old Quarter Circle U Ranch that day, the furthest thing from my mind was a flash flood. I had ridden these draws and canyons of the wilderness for many years. I knew heavy rain could produce dangerous flooding conditions. But this particular day my mind was not on rain, flash floods or blizzards. This was April and it seldom rained in the mountains this time of the year. Most severe flash floods occurred during the summer months from late June until mid September.

In just minutes, a desert downpour can create a raging river like this one in Queen Creek Canyon.
 On this particular day I was checking the water sources at Bluff Springs, Charlebois Springs, Music Springs, Trap Canyon Springs and White Rock Springs. This would be a long day, it was very hot and very humid. The sky was filled with cumulus clouds, but they certainly didn’t look threatening in any manner. Actually it was quite unusual to see clouds like these this time of the year. The winter rains ceased around March and things dry out until the summer rains.

My boss wanted me to check all the main springs and see if they needed any repair work before it really got hot on the desert. The first spring I checked was Bluff Springs. When I arrived I found the concrete tank filled with water and there was a continuous flow of water from the spring up under the cliff which meant the pipe was not leaking or was not broken.

I then rode down Bluff Spring Canyon trail to La Barge Canyon. I checked the concrete tank at Music Springs and found a lot of sand and silt in it. I spent a couple hours at the tank scraping out as much of the debris as I could with my hands and a small Army shovel I had tied on the back of saddle.

After I finished my job at Music Springs I rode on down to White Rock Spring. The water was plentiful there. The Cottonwoods were leafing out and ready for spring.

From White Rock I rode back up La Barge to Charlebois Spring and checked the concrete tank and pipeline. Everything was working fine and the system was delivering water to the concrete tank. At this point it had been a long day on horseback from the Quarter Circle U Ranch. I rested a few minutes and looked up into the huge Sycamore trees that surrounded the area. It was then I first notice the heavy dark clouds gathering to the southeast. I thought momentarily, this is April not July. I still wasn’t really expecting any rain.

I climbed back into the saddle and rode back up La Barge Canyon toward Music Springs and Trap Canyon. Riding along the trail in La Barge it began to rain. All of a sudden the raindrops were huge. I put my slicker on and was able to stay somewhat dry and warm. The rain pelted me for at least thirty minutes as I rode up La Barge toward the outlet of Trap Canyon. I wanted to check the water source at Trap and then head back to the ranch. As I crossed La Barge near the mouth of Trap Canyon I notice the flow of La Barge was increasing rapidly.

It was at this point something in my psyche told me to get out of the canyon. I immediately turned my horse around and rode through the rapidly rising water to the opposite side of La Barge Canyon. All of a sudden I could hear the roar of water and the tumbling of rocks that sounded like a freight train coming down the canyon. The roar of the water and rocks was deafening. As my horse climbed the bank on the opposite side of the canyon the mass of water and debris roared by.

I was one lucky inexperienced cowboy that day.  As I sat there and pondered my life-threatening experience I realized cowboys had to think for themselves quickly if they were to stay healthy in the occupation. My time on the old Quarter U Ranch was a well-earned education I will never forget.

This flash flood down La Barge Canyon took out huge Cottonwood trees and even altered the course of the streambed in many places. This was the first actual flash flood I had witnessed up close. From that day on when it rained heavy in the desert and surrounding mountains I became concerned and cautious about my surroundings. Several years ago twenty-three campers drowned near Payson when they were caught in a devastating flash flood.              

As I rode over Miner’s Summit on the way back to the ranch that evening I thought about my experience in La Barge Canyon. The storm had raged, then became a drizzle and before I arrived back at the ranch it had completely quit raining and the sky had cleared. You couldn’t tell by looking at me that I had been through such an experience.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Camp Bowers: Pete Carney's Legacy

June 1, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Peter G. Carney, an Arizona mine promoter, owned some copper claims near what is known today as Carney Springs. Carney, a mine promoter and prospector, was caught up in the turn of the 20th century Arizona copper rush. After most of the prominent gold deposits played out around 1900, the Arizona prospector turned his attention toward copper. The great demand for copper wire created by the utilization of electricity in our modern society rapidly opened another frontier to prospectors and mine promoters. Copper was in and gold was out, so to speak. Peter G. Carney planned not to be left behind again.

Carney prospected for copper outcrops along the pressure ridges to the southeast of Superstition Mountain during the winter of 1905-06. He discovered a low-grade outcrop of copper ore and stain near a water seep south of Willow Canyon. A deep incision into face of Superstition Mountain formed a deep canyon. This canyon was located one mile due west of Willow Canyon (Peralta Canyon). Carney was certain this area showed the most promise for a rich copper deposit. Late in 1905 Pete Carney filed his first mining claims on the ore deposit with the Pinal County Recorder’s Office.

Carney soon found a very wealthy New York woolen goods manufacturer who was a willing investor and partner. His name was Ogden H. Bowers. Carney named his mining camp in honor of Bowers and the mine after himself.

Bowers became financially active in the Carney Mine in early February of 1907. In July of 1907, three crews of ten men were mining twenty-four hours a day. They sunk a drift some 800 feet into the side of Superstition Mountain searching for a rich copper vein or deposit.

In 1907 Camp Bowers was a very active mining camp with seven or eight houses used for living quarters and a boarding house to feed the miners. The Carney Mine activity began to ebb by 1909 when Bowers withdrew his financial support for the operation.

Carney immediately changed the name of Camp Bowers to Camp Carney. This is the source of the place name Carney Springs and Carney Canyon. In the heyday of Camp Bowers a stage ran bi-weekly from Mesa. From 1909-1914 Pete Carney constantly promoted citizens of Mesa City for financial support. He was convinced they would soon strike a rich copper vein.

A sketch of Camp Carney c. 1910 near the base of Superstition Mountain.

According to William A. Barkley, a noted rancher of the area, there was never more then a dozen men living at Camp Carney.  Barkley once told me about a feud that occurred at the Carney Mine. A mine foreman was shot to death near the property. There were those who believed a feud existed between claim jumpers and Carney. Most of the periodical accounts indicate it was a feud between men who worked at the Carney Mine and had nothing to do with claim jumping.

There were two things that allowed the Carney Mine to become reality and neither was a rich ore body. One was water and the other was a nearby road to the old Bark Ranch. Pete Carney certainly took advantage of the resources available to him and tried his luck at locating a rich copper deposit in the Superstition Mountains.

Peter G. Carney passed away in the 1930’s. His dream to be a part of the Arizona copper rush did not materialize, but it did create a legacy for his namesake. Carney Springs still remains on topographic maps and other maps of the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Arizona’s capitol building capped with a copper dome.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Caves of Gold Bars

May 25, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

One of the earliest stories about a cave full of gold was the story that emerged in 1934 when Charley Williams came out of the Superstition Mountains with a pocket full of nuggets. He claimed he had found a pile of gold nuggets just inside a cave’s entrance. He further claimed he bumped his head so hard he was disoriented for a couple of days before he could find his way out of the mountains. Charlie said he wandered around lost in the Superstition Mountains for several days. A search for Williams, a World War I veteran, was organized by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, but Charley eventually wandered out of the mountains unharmed. His gold was confiscated by the United States Government and was later proven to be dental gold.

This story was followed by a tale of gold bars buried near the Massacre Grounds. A prospector named James Baxter spent a lot of time prospecting the area between Superstition Mountain and Garden Valley area. Generally speaking this was an area within a two miles radius of the old First Water Trailhead. Baxter claimed he was guided to the cave by a blue light that emanated from it. Bob L. Ward confirmed Baxter’s story on several occasions, but said he never saw the cave or the gold bars. Baxter, after several years in the desert around Superstition Mountains moved back to his home state of Washington empty-handed and with no gold bars.

Since the middle of the 1930s there have been stories circulating around Apache Junction about a cave in the Superstition Mountains filled with gold bars. This story may have originated with a man named John Hallenberg. John always talked about a cave located on Bluff Springs Mountain filled with gold bars. He was convinced the story was true and had a map pointing to the direction to this “Cave of Gold.”

John told a story about the time he was hiking along a narrow ledge and spotted a small cave. He bent over and could feel cool air coming from deep within the Earth. He inspected the cave closer and found it to be large enough to crawl into. Several days later he returned to the cave site with a rope and two flashlights. He was determined to explore the cave. As he climbed down into the cave he found all kinds of old writing which he said was not petroglyphs. He thought the writing was Hebrew or something similar. Like many of the stories about the Superstition Mountains this was what I call a one-man story. A one-man story is a tale without any witnesses or any method of verification.

There is another tale about a cave full of gold bullion that emerged in the circles of treasure hunters in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The story centered on a man named Harry France or LaFrance. Dale Howard, Tracy Hawkins and Ernie Provence often talked about France discovering a cave filled with gold bars near Black Top Mesa or Weaver’s Needle. Bob Ward, a well known treasure hunter in the area, talked about a cave filled with gold bars and a man named Harry France. They claimed the source of this gold was from the Jesuits. Of course, Dr. Charles Polzer, a Jesuit historian at the University of Arizona, debunked any stories associating Jesuit missionaries with gold or silver mining in the Southwest. Still traditional treasure hunters continue to talk about buried or lost Jesuit gold in their narratives. It has never been decided whether Harry’s name was France or La France.

The most elaborate tale about a cave filled with gold bars must be credited to Robert Simpson Jacob or “Crazy Jake.” This cave allegedly was located in or near Squaw Box Canyon just east of La Barge Canyon and north of Charlebois Mountain (Black Mountain). Jacob talked about a cave filled with twenty metric tons of gold bullion. He talked so much about it he believed the story himself.

I first met Robert Simpson Jacob in November of 1964, just a month after he arrived in Arizona. He was driving down First Water Road in a 1960 Red Toyota Land Cruiser. We met at the old trailhead and had quite a talk. As soon as he found out I had worked for the Barkley Cattle Company I couldn’t get rid of him or his stories. He told me he came to Arizona to find the Peralta Mines. He was convinced he had located them in the mountain near a place called Squaw Box.

This is one of “Crazy Jake’s” alleged caves of gold bullion. This cave is located in Squaw Box Canyon near Crazy Jake’s claim called the Glory Hole #1.
Finally Jake and I parted company that day, but it wasn’t long until I ran into him again. The next place I found him was at Pop Hamaker’s Bluebird Mine & Curio Shop before Ray Ruiz bought the business in 1967. I believe Jake lived at the curio shop for a short time in 1965. “Crazy Jake” was making regular trips into the Superstition Wilderness Area by the middle of 1965 and was always looking for investors for a variety of schemes he was always promoting. He was always willing to sell you gold bullion half of spot price. If gold was going for $300 an ounce, Jake would sell you gold bullion for $150 per ounce with delivery within ninety to one hundred and twenty days. You would be surprised how many people fell for this deal and bought lots of mythical gold bullion.

Robert Simpson Jacob had quite an operation going in Squaw Box Canyon by the middle of the 1970s. I started writing columns for the Apache Sentinel in September 1976. Jake invited a reporter from the Mesa Tribune and me to visit his treasure site at Squaw Box. He guaranteed us we would see gold bullion. As you can imagine the trip never became reality. Jake was going to fly us in by helicopter in violation of forest service regulation. He claimed he had authorization from the U.S. Attorney General to land in the wilderness area with a helicopter. Those of you out there who remember Jake knew he was good at postponing those events that would reveal his scams or make him out a liar.

Jake was one of those individual who had a magnetic attraction to those who wanted to get rich. These people believed Jake was their instrument to wealth and fame. It was for this reason Jake was so successful at conning people out of money. Over a seven-year period it was estimated Jake raised more than thirty million dollars, however only seven million dollars of this money was ever documented. Robert Simpson Jacob was eventually convicted of fraud and sentenced to ten years in prison in 1986. He was eventually released and died shortly thereafter. Jake was still trying to find his Cave of Gold in the final month of his life.

Jake constantly talked about his cave of gold in the Superstition Wilderness Area. His story about a cave of gold in the Superstition Wilderness will probably survive and continue to be retold as long as there are dreamers out there who want to believe. Yes, I am sure there are people still searching for “Crazy” Jake’s Cave of Gold.

Ron Feldman began a search near Iron Mountain for a cache of gold bars. He was the first prospector to convince the forest service he had a valid claim. The government for the first time gave Feldman a Trove Treasure Permit to search for treasure in the Superstition Wilderness Area, On September 11, 2004, Feldman set up camp at Roger’s Trough Trail Head and proceeded to excavate an area nearby. His search did not produce any gold bars, but it did document the fact early miners had worked in the area prior to 1850’s. Feldman’s search continues to be a hallmark in accession rights of prospectors and miners with the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Forestry.

Now the “Cave of Gold” story can be found on various sites on the world-wide web. In addition to Williams, Baxter, Jacob, Feldman there are others who have made the claim of a cave filled with gold bullion, nuggets, or high grade in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

The stories of lost caves full of gold bars in the Superstition Wilderness Area are never ending. If such a cave were ever found I am to first to suggest it will be filled with copper instead of gold ingots.  As far fetched as that may seem; many years ago a cache of copper bullion poorly smelted was found in cave near the Globe-Miami area. Little information exist today about this discovery, however it could explain all the stories about caves full of gold bullion in the region.