Saturday, April 13, 2013

Exploring Harquahala Ghost Mining Town

It was a bright and windy morning.  This was the day of my second Arizona off road excursion with the Buckeye Rock and Mineral Club.  We were headed west of Buckeye about an hour and a half to a turn off the I-10 freeway called Hovatter Road.   After driving along the dirt road about 15 minutes, I spotted the building perched up on a hill.  This was the gateway to Harquahala Ghost Mining Town.  The Native American name is pronounced "Aha qua hala", which meant "water there is high up."  The intent was to look for turquoise rocks but I naturally headed to the top of the peak to get to know the commanding metal building.   
Walking up the gravel slope I checked for turquoise and found to my delight rusted treasures of a bygone era. This place was settled for the sole purpose of mining gold in what was called The Bonanza and Gold Eagle veins discovered in 1888.  This location is so remote that there are lots of reminders still intact like vintage desert glass. I picked up beach glass in Washington when visiting my Mom and thought how cool it was to find a piece of glass that is from the turn of the century that nature has had its way with. The edges are soft and the glass is opaque with an opalescent dirty cast.  I found tons of it. 
I also liked these thin old tin containers with a hinged top that were mostly smashed flat and dark rusted brown.  I asked Chuck one of the most knowledgeable members of our group what he thought the containers were for and he said, "They didn't have cigarettes back then so they probably kept their tobacco in those containers to keep it fresh."  If you ever have a question about a rock you ask Chuck. He will pick up a rock and look it over with his weathered hands. I like watching his super sized knuckles the size and look of walnut shells. He will slowly move a rock around to inspecting it and know what it is called.  He always finds sparkly craggy rocks . He really knows where to look.  He once got bitten by a scorpion and secretly enjoyed it due to not having arthritis for 3 months. 

But I didn't want to look for rocks.  This rusted beautiful building was my Bonanza.  The views from each direction were spectacular.  The dirt from under the darting out foundation had eroded away so I had a worm's eye view for a couple shots.  There was a faint turquoise hue on a burnt window frame that looked onto a solid concrete box room.  I crept inside the doorway and found tons of deteriorated canvas bags semi buried in white sand with pale yellow tags that read Shell Mining Company. 

It must have been a really rough place to live. The surrounding desert was littered with shot gun shells from every vintage.  That door opening above is where I found all the empty Mineral Sample bags.  I love that most of the major structure was still intact.  For a small building, it has a lot going for it.  The concrete box with the water tank on top gives the building an anchor.  There is a center ridge vent that continues the whole length of the building probably used to cool the space. The ridge roof even cantilevers out over the entry which I thought was pretty cutting edge for back then.

This was a close up of the roof that had fallen.  Simple construction leaves behind poetic images for decades after the people who built them are gone.

An abobe structure sat in the distance with some walls missing.  It was quiet there today; the only thing I could hear was the wind blowing nonstop through this doorway.  The wood lintel was chard from a fire but still holding up the adobe made with small twigs, soft peach mud, hay and rocks.  Outside the entry lay a sun ravaged pile of wood mixed with rusted pieces of metal full of pocks and lacy edges.
I did end up looking for turquoise and more vintage glass.  I feel like I don't have to leave my home state to find beach glass. I have desert glass that is just as beautiful. Arizona erosion is the constant sun, intense baking heat and subtle movement of shifting sand.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. Very cool. I want to go there and search for some gems of my own. I really love how you did a "How To Pronounce American Indian For Dummies" though. Hahaha...I was way off in the way I was saying it. Can't wait to see your next!!