WHAT’S IN A NAME?

PahaQue is not just a name, and although rooted in lore, it is something even more than just the meaning of the words.  It is a way of life, or at the very least, a way of looking at life. It is about experiencing and enjoying the great outdoors with family and friends.  It is about understanding the history of the land, and it is about the peace and solitude that can only be found in the places less affected by modern humankind.

No matter where you live and where you camp, history can be found everywhere.  From the Native Americans who once roamed every square foot of this land, to pre-historic animals, and even further back in time, the natural history of our land is all around.  But nowhere is it more visible than in nature.  To find it however, you must know where to look, and what you are looking for.

One easy way to begin to understand the history of the land is to learn about the plant and animals that inhabit the areas in which you camp.  Learn how the previous inhabitants found usefulness in everything, and you will learn how a certain type of tree was once critical to a certain tribe’s existence, perhaps for medicinal or spiritual purposes, or how that tree may have aided in the existence of certain bird or other plant species.

Aside from living examples of history, another way to understand the history of the land is to find more tangible relics.  Arrowheads usually come to mind first.  Almost anyone who has ever camped has found an arrowhead or knows someone who has.  Learning more about arrowhead types specific to your favorite camping area can provide much information about what types of game were hunted, how they were hunted, and even the time period of their use.  Cave drawings or other forms of pictographs are another exciting example of tangible evidence left by pre-historic inhabitants, thus providing yet another excellent learning opportunity.  Historic structures from our forefathers, particularly when preserved as a museum, provide still another source of information about the land, from yet another group of previous inhabitants who struggled to carve out an existence in a once harsh land.

Whether you camp in campgrounds or backcountry wilderness, the opportunities to learn more, and therefore further your appreciation of the land and its history, are all around you.  It may be just a short hike, or a day trip away from camp, but seeking out  opportunities to learn more about the natural history of the area you camp in is not only a great experience for kids and adults alike, but it also makes for great after dinner conversation around the camp fire.

Kids especially seem fascinated with the tales of frontier life and struggles, of Indian fights, of the trappers, hunters and other pioneer frontier folk that settled the land.  The stories come to life even more when they happened in the vicinity of your camp.  At night it is easy to imagine yourself in another time, and history makes great material for fire-side stories.  And perhaps with this understanding of natural history comes a deeper appreciation of the outdoors.

This is just one aspect of the meaning of PahaQue – the camping lifestyle.  Whatever you choose to call it, it all adds up to one thing – WE LOVE CAMPING!  It’s our way of life.

Oh, and for the ‘official’ definition of our name click here

Hope to see you ’round the campfire soon!

Happy Trails,

Jeff

Arizona Backcountry Trip Wrap-Up

Whenever we guide a group of campers into the backcountry on one of our guided trips, its always good thing if we never have to touch the first-aid kit.  Not knowing what the skill and experience level of our guests may be, there is always that chance that someone could get hurt.  Especially on the desert, where pretty much everything from rocks, to cactus, to rattlesnakes, are going to put a hurt on if you encounter them in the wrong way.  This was a good trip.  I dont recall using even a band-aid this time around!

Our campsite was ideal – just far enough back in the mountains to be hidden away and provide a feeling of complete isolation.  It was flat enough for everyone to park their trailers and set their tents on level desert pavement, as it is called.  We had a spectacular view of the mountains, and the evening sunsets were everything I had hoped they would be.  On the desert the sunsets are almost always spectacular, and this trip was no disappointment. 

A few highlights from the trip:

Probably the moment everyone will remember the most is when a 6′ Western Diamondback rattlesnake wandered into camp and right between the legs of Mary, one of our guests. 

Rattler in Camp

Good thing he wasnt hungry I guess.  If it had been up to me, it would have been dinner and a hatband, but ultimately we agreed to just move him a few hundred yards from camp.  He must’ve read my mind because he stayed away the rest of the trip!

Another highlight were the 4WD trail-rides that we took on the old mining roads, winding our way up, over and around the mountains to view some great old ghost gold mines, the old stone cabins of 19th century French miners, and a beautiful looking Big Horn Sheep was watched us pass by from a ridge high above the road.

Saturday nights Potluck dinner was fantastic, with everyone providing delicious food prepared in camp.  My favorite was the dutch-oven stew with biscuits cooked right on top of the stew.  We also had brats, salad, even pies, all served in camp right around sunset.  It was a perfect way to cap off a great trip.

My favorite memory is always the smiles and great comments we recieve from our guest.  Our goal is to design backcountry trips that are unique and unlike the regular camping rally’s in crowded campgrounds.  We want to show our guests how vast the west really is, how much open land there is to explore, and how much history there is to discover by simply getting off the beaten path.

One comment from a guest who came from Michigan really stuck with me.  He said that, to him, the trip was “like one of life’s little nuggets, that if you don’t bend over to pick it up, you’ll never know what you missed.”  Thats what I’m talking about.  I love the outdoors, I love the desert, and I love sharing my passion for history with our guests, with the hope of adding a new dimension to their experience.

Desert weather is always unpredictable, with heat and wind being just a part of the experience.  This time the temperature jumped from the lo-80’s of the previous week, to

ca. 1900 Mining Ruins

the mid-90’s for the 4 days we were there, and then of course dropping back down into the lo-80’s on the day we left.  But no one seemed to mind the daytime heat too much – we kept busy during the days and that really helped.  But the evenings – they were spectacular!  Perfect temps, light gentle breezes, and no moon which made for some really great star-gazing.  Being that far out the night sky is usually brilliant, and the Milky Way was like a streak of white across the sky.

We really couldnt have asked for better weather or nicer folks this time.  It is always great to meet, and get to know new folks on every trip, and after sharing such an experience folks seem to develop a special bond.  Thanks to all our guests who joined in and help make the experience enjoyable for everyone.  Sharing all of this with you is the little nugget that I pick up on every trip we take.

If you would like to read more about our backcountry trip, watch the August and September issues of Camping Life Magazine.  We were privledged to have one of their writers along on this trip, and he has written a story about it that will appear in the publication very soon.

Twenty Five Years Too Late

Gila Trail Stage Stop ca. 1880's

It was sometime during the summer of 1986 that the idea of exploring old west ghost towns first entered my mind.  I was visiting the store of a friend who sold old west and other historical memorabilia.  It was like a museum with everything for sale, although I never could afford to buy the kind of things he sold in those days. 

As we were talking about our common interests in history and the outdoors, he mentioned that occasionally he would take a trip over to Arizona or Nevada to explore and photograph ghost towns.  I was instantly intrigued, it had never really occurred to me that there may still be old, abandoned towns that hark back to the pioneer days.  How fascinating, I thought.  He showed me a photo album full of images of various abandoned towns and I knew I was going ghost town hunting.

Jump forward to 1990.  After a few years of locating, exploring and camping in some of the more accessible ghost towns, a friend and I are starting to search a little deeper into the backcountry for the more hidden, and less vandalized sites.  There really are some amazing sites out there if you are willing to push your skills, and your vehicle beyond your comfort zone.  I’ve repaired many flat tires, and hiked out for assistance on more than one occasion.  For me that is half the fun.  I enjoy the challenge and the risk.  As with most things, being prepared is the key.

While passing through the remote mountain town of Crown King, AZ., nestled atop the Bradshaw Mountains west of the Verde River, we stopped to talk with a Forest Ranger who was parked next to the General Store.  He looked like a veteran, someone who might know this range and some of its history.  We talked about mining, railroads, ghost towns and history.  He had been a ranger in the Crown King district for over 40 years.  I think he could tell we were genuinely interested in the history of these sites, and not just artifact collectors or worse, vandals.

After awhile he just kinda shook his head and said “sorry fellas, but I think you’re 25 years too late to find what you’re looking for.”  He then proceeded to tell us a story about how in 1976 they caught two vandals using their truck winch to pull down the top story of the old hotel in the ghost town of Oro Belle, just to see how strong their winch was.  At that time there were no laws against such actions, and so there was nothing they could do.

So what time and weather hadn’t destroyed. people had.  But still I thought, there had to be something left to show what had happened in these pioneer boom towns.  So we persisted in looking anyhow, and oftentimes were rewarded with more than we expected.

Most of whats left are the scars on the land from the mining and railroads that brought these towns into existence in the first place.  Usually some “jackass” prospector (miners who carried their gear on a donkey and walked the hills in search of gold) would locate a placer deposit or a vein of gold, silver, lead, copper or a combination thereof.  If the claim proved valuable, it didn’t talk long before the rush was on.  Soon the hills were crawling with prospectors.  Next came the promoters, hopefully the investors, and before anyone knew it they had a booming town growing up around the mines.  When the mine deliveries became large enough, some enterprising railroad promoter would build a line to the mines or mill, and then the boom was really on.

But as often was the case, as soon as the veins pinched out, or the mines flooded, or the value of gold or silver dropped, the mines shut down, and the town slowly died.  Oftentimes in the desert, where milled wood was scarce, buildings would be dismantled, and re-built in the next boom town.  Once the buildings were gone, all that was left were the glory holes, railroad grades, and eroding adobe buildings and foundations.  But there is more.  Find the old trash dumps, and you can find wonderful old lead-glass bottles that have turned aqua or blue over the years.  Broken tools, dishes, even old boots.  All garbage to be sure, but an interesting glimpse at the life and times of that area.   Find the old cemetery – every old town had one, oftentimes referred to Boot Hill – and you find a very human connection to the struggles of life on the frontier. 

Nevada Pioneer Grave

When you see the grave of a little girl who only lived for 1 month, you realize how difficult life really was back then, in that very spot.

Arizona Infant Grave

Nowadays there isn’t much left to see of the really old pioneer towns.  But they are still there, or at least the scars still are.  And when you do stumble across some reminder of the old days, the pioneer days, and if you can imagine in your minds-eye the events that may have occurred there, you can, for a moment, leave the modern world behind and feel the silence telling a story of a time gone by.