Friday, July 24, 2015

National Old Trails Highway

The thing I love about traveling is that it makes you think about things you never knew to even think of! The progression of highways across the nation is one such thing! In our modern times we take for granted that roads have always existed to wherever we might choose to go! From Kingman, AZ we took a ride through history along a portion of what was known as the National Old Trails Highway!
To find the Old Trails Road in Kingman go to the 4th Street and Beale Avenue stoplight and turn south. Go past the train depot and across the tracks. Go past Hubbs Park, which will be on your left, and shortly thereafter the Old Trails Road angles off to the right! Kingman, although having lots of mining history, grew-up as a railroad town. The first train pulled into Kingman on March 28th, 1883. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built this depot in 1907!
The National Old Trails Road (or Highway) is also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. It was established in 1912 and became part of the National Auto Trail system. It was 3,096 miles long and stretched from New York City to California. 
The alignment followed earlier Indian trails, wagon roads, railroad tracks and in some cases new construction. Note how the road hugs the ridge! 
Across the basin is a railroad track and higher up on the side of the ridge is a portion of Old Route 66! Most of the Old Trails Road west of Albuquerque, NM became Route 66! A great deal of Route 66 across the Mojave Desert still bears the name of the Old Trails Highway!     
Roy drove up a side trail to get this great photo of the path of the Old Trails Road and the great basin it followed. Looking online at Google Earth it appears that Old Trails Road continues up the hill to the wind turbines before fading into dusty trails. 
This is looking back down the trail towards Kingman. We turned left off this trail to continue south on Old Trails Road. 
This is a road off the Old Trails Road and is probably a good representation of what the wagon trails and early automobile roads looked like out west. I had read that even Route 66 that came after the Old Trails Highway wasn't  paved in the western states until the 1930's! This view  was just too intriguing not to go exploring. We drove quite a ways through this valley on what mostly appeared to be a natural wash, but at times had some pavement, as though it may have been a road. It went into an area that appeared to be the back way into a ranching operation complete with a corral and windmill. The trail got rougher and narrower, so we returned the way we went in. 
Further south on the Old Trails Road we came off the trail along the side of the ridge and into this open valley. Isn't this just what you would expect early wagon trains to experience! When early automobiles began using wagon trails, the trails were not usually linked to road improvements, although counties and states often prioritized road improvements because they were on trails!
Auto trails in the beginning were usually marked and maintained by organizations or private individuals! The Automobile Club of Southern California put signage along the western half of the National Old Trails Road in 1914.
This is a look at the modern highway coming south out of Kingman. Note how it still follows the natural passage through the plateaus! Do you feel the sense of continuity from our past to our present! It was in the mid-to-late 1920s that auto trails were replaced with the system of numbered U.S. Highways.  Parts of Route 66 later became U.S. Highway 40.
This is heading back north to Kingman. 
If you enjoy train photography, this road has many vantage points to take pictures of trains headed in either direction. With 100 trains a day, you don't have to wait long for a train to go by! Amtrack has two daily stops in Kingman, with one train heading east and the other west! 
This is the view through the valley beckoning one onward to California! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mohave Museum

The Mohave Museum in Kingman, AZ is not only a very nice museum, but a tourist bargain!  The entrance fee for adults is $4.00, seniors $3.00, and children under 12 free!  Your ticket not only allows you return use of the museum library, but provides free entrance to the Bonelli House (typically a donation fee) and the Powerhouse museum (typically a $5.00 fee).  While in the area you will see both Mohave and Mojave used on signs, although Mohave is the county name and more prevalent spelling used.  Mojave spelled with j is the original Indian spelling, whereas, Mohave spelled with h is the English version.  
The museum has a nice portrait display of all the U.S. presidents and first ladies.  The only other display of this kind is said to be in the Smithsonian. 
This room has the most recent presidents and first ladies. 
This is a nice mural of the Route 66 theme and James Dean. 
Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe!  I was just going to state their first names, but figured I better include the last names for the younger generations!
These displays chronicle the history of the area beginning with the local tribes. 
The camels in the first display represents Lt. Beale's trek along the 35th parallel utilizing camels to explore the desert for viable wagon trails.  I was surprised to learn of camels being used in America.  The second display is the westward move of pioneers and the third display is mining. 
Here is another look at the establishment of mining and communities.
This is the natural wood core of a Saguaro Cactus.
This is the Indian artifacts room.
I've always been somewhat fascinated with Kachinas, but made equally uncomfortable by their spiritual connection.  Wikipedia gives an excellent explanation of Kachinas.
This is an interesting display about the Mohave custom of tatooing.
Locally you will see reference to Olive Oatman for which the mining camp of Oatman was named for.  In 1851 at the age of 14, Olive was traveling with her family, when she and her 7 year old sister were captured by local Indians.  While living with the Mohave tribe, Olive and her sister were tatooed according to the Mohave tradition.  The military who heard of Olive's existence with the Mohave Indians negotiated her return to English culture at the age of 19.  Her sister had died at the age of 11.  Olive went on to live to age 66.  She wrote and spoke of her experience throughout her lifetime.  She died of natural causes in 1903.  There is a nice write-up on Wikipedia of the events that led to her capture, as well as, her life upon her return to the English culture. The experience of Olive Oatman will definitely give you a vivid picture of the perils of pioneer travels!
Here are more great displays of Indian artifacts.
Here is a display of branding irons and brands used before 1895. 
This is a nice display of an early tack room.
Who knew there were so many kinds of barb wire and a historical progression to their development and patenting!  It makes me think of the worlds only barb wire museum, located in McLean, Texas!  Isn't it interesting what captivates people's interest! 
Looking at the weight these burros hauled, one can't help but gain an instant appreciation for the impact burros had on conquering the West!
Look at this burro's load and the terrain it traversed with it!  I am totally in awe of burros now!   
This big room has a nice display of miscellaneous things from a variety of time periods. 
I got a chuckle out of the double meaning in the name of this early female baseball team!  Cute uniform! 
There were nice displays outdoors, too!
This is the inside of the caboose.  It is amazingly complete for all the things a person  needs to be comfortable. 
I love murals on the outside of buildings!  This mural displaying the progression of transportation through the West ties right in with the next blog about the National Old Trails Highway! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

White Cliffs Park

On the edge of downtown Kingman, AZ is an old ore wagon trail to the Stockton Hill Mines. The gold and silver mines operated from the 1800s until 1980! Click on the picture to enlarge it and then note the flagpole, old foundation, and evenly placed holes in the rock face to the left in the picture! 
Here is a closer look.  I suspect the holes were for log beams to create floors and ceilings of buildings built on the hillside. I couldn't find any historical data to support my theory, though.
Here is a closer look at the flagpole and foundation for what is documented as the Old Trails Tavern. 
Here is a look inside the tavern's foundation.
You can see some shallow ruts in the light colored rock made from the wagon wheels. The edge of the wagon road appears cluttered with fallen rocks. 
This is further up the wagon road. Lots of large rocks are cluttering the way. This may have been done intentionally to keep vehicles from driving on the wagon trail. Vandalism has been a problem for this historic site.
This is looking back down the trail. That is quite a road to be bringing heavy loads of ore down! 
Here is a view looking back down the road from further up the trail. I was amazed at the wide deep ruts, as I thought ore wagons would be small to accommodate moving heavy loads. It turns out that the wagons are massive! The holes along the side of the trail are called snubbing holes. All I could find out about how snubbing worked was that long poles were used for braking and leverage. If anyone knows more, please post it to our blog's Facebook page. 
If you enlarge the picture and look up on the cliff face, you will see a sign for the Old Trails Tavern! 
Here is a closer look! 
Here is another look at the Stockton Mines ore wagon road. It was once known as Old Johnson Road, as it came through the Johnson Ranch. 
Here's another view complete with the tavern sign!
Here is some easier traveling further up the road!
This is an ore wagon. Given the rough terrain they traversed, very few are left in existence! They represent some of the biggest, toughest, and most impressive vehicles that ever traveled the American frontier! Ore wagons are 16 feet in length and stand 14 feet tall to the top of their canvases. The back wheels are 7 feet tall and 4 inches wide with steel treads! Standing empty an ore wagon weighs 6,400 pounds. It has an interior capacity of 250 cubic feet. The dimensions of the wagon translate to a vehicle capable of carrying 9 tons of cargo! Comparably the wagons are similar in weight to a typical full-size heavy duty pick-up truck, but with about 4 times the payload capacity! That's some impressive early engineering!     
In my research of the technique of bringing ore wagons down steep inclines, I learned about wheel shoes or what are more commonly called drag shoes! To slow the wagon on a steep descent the back wheels would have drag shoes put under them and the wheels tied off to the wagon so as not to roll, but just slide! The drag shoes kept the wheels from shearing flat!
Ketchum, Idaho has a wagon museum and is proud to own six 1889 ore wagons! Every Labor Day weekend is the Wagon Days Festival. The highlight of the event is the parade and display of the six giant ore wagons! Note how the wagon train workers would have ridden on the side of the wagon. No seating was built inside. I suppose this is so they could quickly climb on and off performing various jobs required for getting the wagons safely up and down the mountain roads. 
This is a cool picture I found of two mule teams pulling lines of ore wagons!  It is an 1897 picture taken in Pinal County, AZ.  Click on the picture to enlarge it!
This is something I never would have expected, but happened across in my research! The Stockton Hill Mines that operated in the 1800s was just recently for sale and has sold! It is being promoted as having a lot more ore to give! It was brought to our attention at another mine we visited, that ore can be extracted with today's technology that was not accessible in earlier times.  
There is a lot of history readily available to explore in Kingman!