Where in the World is EG's Little Traveling Box?
On Monday, November 24, the caravan of five vehicles gathers at 9:00 a.m., anxious to head into the desert for our first group run of the year. What is that on the hood of our Ranger? Look real close...you might have to click on the picture to make it larger...it looks like a little talking box!
Annie and Otter Dawg are excited to be included.
We leave Bouse, Arizona, heading NE on the old Swansea Road. This portion of the road is smooth, having been recently graded, but the dust is rising so thickly behind our rigs that visibility is limited, causing us to keep a good distance between vehicles and holding our speed at a maximum of 30-35 mph.
We turn right on the Lincoln Ranch Road. These are all "primitive" roads, but easily traversed by a two-wheel-drive vehicle until we pass under the power lines, where the road narrows and can get quite bumpy in places. We are still in 2WD, but it's rough. We soon come to Johnson Ranch Road. I would suggest only 4WD vehicles continue on from this point, as we find ourselves driving down the wash toward the Bill Williams River. For those of you not familiar with a wash, think of a dry riverbed with loose sand, and sometimes large rock "falls".
It is soon time for potty breaks all around, from guys on the right, gals on the left, and dogs wherever they want! Needless to say, there are no luxurious rest stops out here.
Back into the rigs, we have to cross through the river in two places (the big red X on the map). I'm not expecting to reach the river this soon and don't have my camera ready, but we've made this trip several times before so I have an older photo of one of the group crossing.
Sometimes this section of the river is underground, sometimes it is so deep as to be impassable. Today it is just a refreshing little "swim".
Once we cross the river, the road is rough, narrow and like a roller coaster. It isn't long before Annie gets carsick and barfs all over her blanket. We had expected her to get sick, she usually does, so we are well equipped with water and paper towels for cleaning up.
Once again we enter a wash. This one is confusing. There are many possible ways to go, but our fearless leader, Jim "Bigfoot" Norton, knows the desert like the back of his hand. Just to be extra safe, he makes frequent stops to tie red ribbons on the brush so we can find our way back.
The brush is harsh, scratching the sides of our vehicles. We take it all in stride, and proudly display our "desert pinstripes". We are among the lucky, we have a son-in-law who does auto body work and can buff out the scratches when we get back home to Washington next spring.
We turn onto McGuffie Mine Road. The wash is rough, with loose sand and rock "falls" at each turn. Soon Otter Dawg gets carsick and barfs all over the center console. Out come the paper towels and water jug again. By now I'm thankful neither dog ate before we left, so it's not terribly bad cleaning it up.
As we near our destination, we come upon a sight we hadn't seen in our previous trips. Someone didn't quite make it!
We round the corner, nearing our destination, to be greeted by worse conditions than we've ever seen here before, the results of heavy rains having washed out the already treacherous stretch of wash and making it nearly impassable. We are bringing up the rear of the caravan, and Bigfoot calls us on the CB radio to tell us we might not want to go any farther, as the four vehicles in front of us had got beaten up pretty badly going down over the rocks. Mr. H gets out to took a look.
Believe me, it is worse than it looks in the photos. We decide to save the Ranger from unnecessary damage, and walk the rest of the way to our destination, about a quarter mile down the wash.
Finally, we reach our destination, McGuffie cabin.
And Little Box meets a barrel cactus.
"Ouch!", says Little Box. ""What am I sitting on?"
Venice McGuffie was born August 26, 1890. She came to the cabin, which is situated on McGuffie Mine Road in Mohave County, as the young bride of a miner.
The road south towards Alamo Lake was maintained much better than it is now and that is the way she would travel in an old truck. The last part of the road down into the house at one time had been surfaced. We could see some of the concrete that remains over that last rough spot. Rain has eroded most of what had been.
The man built a dam up from the house, then backfilled it with rock which served as a filter. Apparently there was a pipe a person could open years later & the water came out clear & cool. The man was smart to have designed such a system.
The house is wired for electricity so they would have used generators. Venice may have been into ceramics ... there are some tiles on the fireplace hearth & in back of the house where she had made a shower. The shower bottom is leaned up against the house, tiles are embedded in the concrete. A kiln has never been found.
Mike Riddle, who has worked for BLM as a volunteer for many years, said her name was Vernice McGuffie. However, on a faintly painted sign on the house it looked more like Venice. (I later found the Social Security record of her birth and death, which verifies the name Venice.)
Mike would go out to check on her about once a month, but a BLM Ranger from Kingman would make weekly trips in there to check on her. Mike told a story about the BLM Ranger coming to check on Venice. One time when he rounded the corner, she was working on the roof with no clothes on. He said it wasn't a pretty sight. From that time on he would honk when he started down toward the house.
My friend, Esther Tucker, inquired of Mike about the "sheep tank" that sits below the bluff. He wasn't sure who had put the tank in there whether it was Arizona Wildlife or someone else. She told him the tanks we have been to have a metal collecting surface that channels water into a tank which then is dispersed to a smaller area on demand. He said this tank collected water as it came across that rocky bluff. It made perfect sense when we watched one of the men that came with us climb up out of that wash by hanging onto a pipe. With all of us watching him ascend, none of us took a picture, but we could see that the pipe went into the natural basin which is now filled with little rocks & sand.
After Venice moved out of the cabin, a motorcycle gang took over the house until the Kingman 4-wheeler group ran them out. Mike said that BLM has talked of razing the place before it becomes a hazard but he said they (volunteers) have ignored that. A group of bikers tore down the old outhouse, with intentions of building a new one. They never did, so we lost a valuable asset to the site.
Venice died in October of 1983 in Wickenburg, Arizona.
We have contacted a local minister who knew the family and had often visited Venice, to possibly get a bit more history of the cabin and of the family who lived there. I am still awaiting his return call, so I may have an informative postscript to this fascinating piece of Arizona history.
Following are pictures of the interior of the cabin as it appears today. Note the interior walls are constructed of the "skeletons" of saguaro cacti. These were sometimes used as a base for coats of plaster. It is doubtful the TV set is original, although I suppose it may have been possible to receive a signal out of Phoenix.
We spent some time eating our sack lunches, then some sat and enjoyed the quiet while others walked a ways down the wash toward the lake. Soon it was time to head back. Mr. H and I hitched a ride up the hill with Jim "Bigfoot". The first rock fall we had to ascend was pretty rough, it took some of the vehicles several tries before they made it. I'll let you judge the second one for yourselves....this is the one Mr. H opted not to navigate. At least the men got wise and tossed some large rock into the deepest holes, so the ascent wasn't as bad as the trip down.
As it was nearing dusk, we again crossed the river.
We did find a rest area on the trip back.
The 97 mile trip took six hours of driving and two hours of picnicking/sightseeing. We were dirty, dusty, sweaty and tired, but happy that we are still able to undertake such a crazy adventure at our ages. My daughter says we are too old to be doing it, but I say it keeps us young. I'm gonna keep right on doing it!