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  • Superstition Wilderness to Reavis Ranch Valley

    Wednesday, March 30, 2016   /   by Jeff Ross

    Superstition Wilderness to Reavis Ranch Valley

    March, 2016

    This will be our second Trip into the Superstition Wilderness. A couple years ago we hiked over by the Lost Dutchman area and found no gold so we are trying again.

    This year we are headed into Reavis Ranch Valley, on the far eastern side of the Superstition Wilderness and will try our luck there:)Superstition Wilderness

    Superstition WildernessOur adventures for this hiker are, Daring DebJumping Jack Flash and myself, Chef Jazzy Jeff. We left Flagstaff Sunday at noon, reaching our destination short after 5, only a couple other cars at the trail-head. We will camp here with a spectacular view of Apache Lake far below us.

    Will be a night under stars for me, Jack set up his tent, Deb is sleeping in the car.

    We are up Monday before the sunrise, and after hearty breakfast from the Flagstaff  Dog Haus, a ‘breakfast burrito’ always rated the number one in town, we are ready to hit the trail at 7:30.
    We expect today's hike to be about 7-8 miles, what we did not expect was the good condition of the trail and for the most part a gentle rise to 5000 feet, and then settling into Reavis Creek Valley some 9.3 miles and 5 hours later.

    After picking out a nice secluded camp by the creek we explored some, even going another ¾ mile up the creek to see the old ruins of Reavis Ranch.

    So who or what is Reavis Ranch you ask.



    Elisha M. Reavis 1827-1896 "Hermit of Superstition Mountains" Found dead

    Reavis Picture

    "Old Man Reavis, the Hermit of the Superstitions" is dead. His body, Half eaten by coyotes, was found last Thursday near his hut in the superstition Mountains, twelve miles north of the Silver King Mine. Whether death was natural or violent is only a matter of conjecture; also the time when it might have occurred, for the hunger of the wolves had not left enough evidence upon which to base an opinion. Of all men as widely known, there was none in Arizona whom so little was known as "Old Man Reavis". Much has been written about him by the few who have visited in his mountain home but it was generally produced by the imagination of the writers. It is said that the old recluse was driven into exile by a disappointment in love, but he never said so and nobody else has been found who could have known the facts..."from the Star by the Arizon Sentinal, Yuma, Az. May 16, 1896

    We found a lot of the old rusted out machinery, some of the old catch pens and corrals while walking around and through the old orchards that were in bloom. We capped that as we explored the burned down ruins of Reavis Ranch house.

    Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness

    After Elisah Reavis died in 1896, Jack J Fraser acquired squatter rights to Reavis Ranch, burning down the original cabin and constructed a larger cabin in its place.
    Fraser sold the ranch to Clemans Cattle Company in 1909, and ‘Reavis’ was patented by the cattle company in 1919. The Clemans and his sons ran the ranch until 1946.

    The original road into Reavis Ranch was started in 1910, but not completed until after Bacon and Upton purchased the ranch from the Clemans Cattle Company in 1946, the road was completed shortly after in 1948.Superstition Wilderness

    The ranch was sold another time until the Ranch was finally sold to the US Department of Agriculture in 1966 for $80,000 and some additional land near Apache Trail.

    Shortly after Reavis Ranch was sold to the government, the road into the Reavis Valley was closed because of maintenance and safety issues. From that point till today, it is only open to hikers and horseman.

    For the most part we followed this old road into the valley and we all wondered how a vehicle of any kind could have made it that 9 miles and how long it must have taken.

    From what I can find the cabin stood until sometime around Thanksgiving 1991 when it burned to the ground. Now only the cement pad and some tile show the location of this once majestic cabin

    So now you know a little about Reavis Ranch Valley

    Superstition WildernessWe are back at camp, and as dusk arrives Jack got a fire going and we enjoyed an evening of camp talk. Tonight's treat was popcorn, which proved to be extremely easy, just put the popcorn in my cook pot and shake over my stove. Great evening treat.

    We woke early to a much colder night than expected, Jack left a half filled water bottle out, it was frozen, my tent had a nice layer of frozen frost. Jack watch said 24 degrees.Superstition Wilderness

    Fortunately, there were some buried coals from the fire the night before, so a nice warm fire kept us satisfied until about 8:00 when the sun creeped down the east facing hill side and got to camp.

    Today's plan, a hike to the Circlestone Ruins 

    South we head, connect to the Arizona Trail for a while then branching off to our destination. Climbing to 6000 ft., we reach our goal.Superstition Wilderness

    Circlestone is about 100-150 feet in diameter, and at one time looked to be approximately 6 ft. high.  Large Portions of the circle have fallen over the years.

    Here is a brief article I found,

    Superstition March 2016 017For several years after the discovery of Circlestone, there were many theories about what Circlestone was. They ranged from a corral for cattle to an ancient observatory. It is now pretty much accepted that it is an ancient Solstice and Equinox Sun Watch Station, built by the ancient Sinagua, pre-Columbian cultural group of people, in Arizona. There is a site called "Casa Malpais", near Springerville, Arizona that has a slightly similar circular structure. There is an other similar site in Wyoming; called the "Bighorn Medicine Wheel."

    We do know that during the entire year, Polaris, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, and other night time objects can be seen from Circlestone.

    Also, about 1000 yards from Circlestone, there is a sandstone cliff with drawings of Ursa Major and the Sun.

    An opening in Circlestones wall does align with the summer and winter solstices.

    There is a 17 foot square structure in the center of Circlestone which has some Superstition Wildernessastronomical alignments into the square. And there are several others.

    For a more complete description of Circlestone we strongly recommend the book; "Circlestone, A Superstition Mountain Mystery" by James A. Swanson and Thomas J. Kollenborn.

    While walking the ruins we speculated who built, unfortunately we did not know about the cliff drawings when we were up there or would have went to explore. Maybe next time.

    We came into the circle in a big gap that had fallen,

    As we left, we discovered we walk right past a nice rattlesnake taking a peaceful nap, we looked took a couple pictures and left it alone.

    Superstition WildernessWhile hiking back three white tail deer scooted across the meadow in front of us. For whatever reason, we seldom see big game, lots of birds, and squirrels, but not big game, so that was a treat.

    Overall we had an 8 1/2-mile day hike.Superstition Wilderness

    Back in camp, we replenished our firewood for tonight, and relaxed.

    Dinner was early, as the sun went down, it cooled off fast

    Our after dinner treat tonight was Bannock Bread, a great flat bread we made over the fire in a flat fry pan.

    Here is what I found on Britannica.com

    Bannockflat, sometimes unleavened bread eaten primarily in Scotland. Although most commonly made of oats, bannocks of barley, ground dried peas, and a combination of grains are sometimes encountered. Selkirk bannock is made from wheat flour and contains fruit.

    The word bannock derives from the Latin panicum, denoting an edible, milletlike grain. Special bannocks were once made for holidays and religious feasts, such as Beltane bannocks on the first of May and Lammas bannocks on the first day of autumn. Stirring the batter for bannocks counterclockwise was popularly thought to bring bad luck.

    A well-known tale of King Alfred indicates that bannocks were once commonly eaten in England. The king, unrecognized, sought hospitality at a cottage during his campaign against the Danes. He was set to minding the bannocks that were baking at the hearth and was scolded by the mistress of the house when through inattention he allowed the cakes to burn.

    The version we had tonight had some Cumin and sunflower seeds to add some taste and texture, this was a great way to end the evening, Fresh bread in camp.

    One thing we noticed about Reavis Valley was the variety of trees, scrubs and succulents. Probably the largest variety of any hike we have done. This may be because of the mild temperatures, abundance of water and of course the ranch.

    Jumping Jack Flash, being the horticulturist he is, made a list

    Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness
    Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness Superstition Wilderness

    Cottonwood, Walnut, Manzanita, Ash, California Redbud, Pinon Pine, Ponderosa pine, White pine, Sycamore, Apple, Plum, Live Oak, Emory Oak, Hop Hornbean, Alligator juniper, One-seed juniper, Sumac, Willow, Mountain Mahogany, Current

    Agave, Sotol, Hedgehog, Claret cup, Sahuaro, Prickley Pear, Yucca

    California poppy, White Primrose, Red Penstemmon, Phlox, Showy Goldeneye, Mariposa Lily, Horsemint, 4 o'clock (Mirabilis), Wallflower, Desert Marigold, Deervetch, Sego Lily, Daisy, Fleabane, Arizona Thistle, Violet, Feather Duster, Lupine, Loco Weed, Buckbrush, Vinca

    Phainopepla, Whitetail Deer (3), Black-tailed rattlesnake, Owl, Red-tailed Hawk

    So as you can see, huge variety, which make the hike just that much more enjoyable.

    Up really early Wednesday morning, we are heading back to civilization.
    Got the fire started, this morning again well below freezing, but not as much dew and frost. The fire takes the edge off the cold night.

    As the sun finally reached our camp site and a hardy breakfast of oatmeal complete, it was time to pack up.

    We had a nice gentle 9-mile hike back down to our vehicle. Lots of flowers to see and very few other hikers.

    Another great hike in the Superstitions. For a nice 3 days hike we would highly recommend. Our camp as noted was about ¾ mile before we got to the ranch and over a small rise, so no one knew we were there and we saw few, if anyone as they may have hiked by.

    Superstition WildernessChef Jazzy Jeff