Box Canyon

"We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us." C. Bukowski

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ironwood's Silverbell Cemetery: A Few Pages Out of The Old and New West

Once described as the "Hell-hole of Arizona," the copper mining town of Silverbell was a place that attracted outlaws and misfits like flies to turds ... the kind of place where "the wild, wild west" was an understatement. In the days before Sam McEvan was sworn in as the new Deputy Sheriff, three murders were committed. Good luck, Sam, you're going to need it.

Miners began scratching around in the soil near Ragged Top Mountain back in the1860's. They discovered rich loads of copper ore, which blossomed the little town of Silverbell. Western mining towns are notorious for attracting "the good, the bad, and the ugly," anyone in need of a buck, a beer, and a brothel. No mining town would be complete without at least a couple saloons; sometimes a guy needs a little hooch to get up his nerve. Therein lies the problem. Hooch makes men feel a whole lot bigger, tougher, faster on the draw, and even better lookin' than reality warrants. Too bad those lessons must be relearned by each and every generation. Just drop by any beer-joint after midnight and look twice at a feller who's been drinking or his lady friend and see what happens. I can speak from experience, unfortunately. Oh boy, some things never change.

Speaking of "change," one thing I pray will change ... needs to change ... is taking back control of our remote National Monuments like Organ Pipe and Ironwood. Not to re-beat this drum, but I could't help drooling over Ironwood as a potential boondocking paradise. That we saw only one pickup truck camper brave enough (or ignorant of the situation) to take advantage speaks volumes.

We all know why. When a Ranger is gunned down by AK 47 toting drug runners in Organ Pipe, and every wash is littered with obvious "articles" left by "traffic," and innocent people as far north as Phoenix are plucked from the streets for ransom, or murdered because they were in the right place at the wrong time... how safe would it be to camp?

As Wiseone's Susan and Maikel and Bobbie and I wandered up the side of Ragged Top, I made the comment that I would give anything to be able to fearlessly boondock in Ironwood. But dare we? 

Look, we have waited long enough, endured more than a decade of closings, warning signs, "Keep Out" signs ... and this in spite of ramping up numbers of Border Patrolman such that they seem to be everywhere. But backroads? the very place that the people they seek wander through in broad daylight? few if any. 

I want these lands returned to us for their intended use, not as some pipeline for drugs, hoodlums and illegal immigrants! It pisses me off to feel like I need to keep looking over my shoulder in a National Monument... that I am advised to "Take Precautions," use good judgment, and so on. Hell, I might as well live in Obama's home town!

We saw not one single Park Ranger or Border Patrolman after leaving the pavement to wander Ironwood's backroads. Why? It's not like there isn't "work" to do in the boonies of Ironwood. Maybe we could start by securing one section and build from there ... a place where the public could camp, bring their kids and let them wander around and play in washes, a place where RVers could boondock and not worry about every sound outside the rig after dark, wondering if it's trouble, or just a cow or wild burro. 

The Wiseone's and Johnsons ignored warnings and "Keep Out" signs in Organ Pipe. To me it was an act of Civil Disobedience, a protest/statement that Organ Pipe belongs to us and we intend to use it as such. You would think that when a Park Ranger is gunned down in cold blood it would stir an effective response. But no, we retreat and close off 70 percent of the Park instead... basically give it back to Mexico to use as a Pipeline. 

I would like to tell you I'm going to quit beating this "drum." But I make no promises I can't keep. Someone needs to start taking action to stem the tide... maybe even consider legalizing drugs here in the U. S.,  then use tax monies to educate our children about the horrors of "using," and fight the "enemy" with what's left over. We need to demand more attention to this matter from elected Govie bureaucrats, lest Cartels rule border states and we submit to fear and lock ourselves indoors.

Off the "stump," now... a few photos of our wanderings in Ironwood, including Silverbell's cemetery.      

Just a small amount of some of the traffic "paraphernalia" we found while hiking washes.

We had to commit yet another act of "Civil Disobedience" in order to get this photo of a crested saguaro at the Silverbell Mining Headquarters. How dare they put up "No Trespassing" signs. 
Susan thinks saguaro deformities like the ones below are as a result of mining pollution... either water or air.

Copper mine backdrops an old west scene

You will find lots of abandoned cars and bicycles in the desert. Draw your own conclusions.

Silverbell's Cemetery. Most of the grave markers are gone, and only a pile of rocks are left of someone's life and hard times. Someone went to the trouble to put up some lath crosses a while back... but they were pretty sun-rotted and falling apart.


This was only one of three marked graves.

Unmarked graves... one after another. Who were these people? Where were their descendants?

A more recent burial showed loving attention.

Note the small jar with the lid off in the above photo. It was crammed with notes from loved ones and strangers. Below is one of the sweet notes I pulled out to read... a poem written by a granddaughter. Maikel tried to read it out loud but choked on the words and had to pass it to Susan. It watered our eyes for a moment...

Ragged Top Mountain begged exploration...

Bobbie spotted this crested saguaro... odd because it was one of the arms and not the main trunk that was affected. Very rare and cool.


  1. These photos really show how much impact humans have had in that region. Makes me sad. Lovely note you found in the cemetary. -scamp

  2. Well, although you chide the gun-packin' guy in a past post, perhaps he's onto something? You asked "What's he afraid of?" and I am reminded of a joke with a similar punchline of "Not a damn thing." Remember what I told you in the past about when we hike? They don't call them the great equalizers for nothing.
    Be careful out there.

  3. Not glad you risked yourselves but thanks for taking us to these forbidden lands.

    Those two saguaro definitely had an unusual growth problem going on. So interesting!

    A crested arm! I have been searching for one. I know they are out there but I didn't find one before we left AZ. Great find.

    What a beautiful note! Thanks for sharing.

    On another note...we just made a month reservation at Virgin River Resort for March. It looks so nice. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I felt just fine back in there. I'm ready to go back for more. We still have Sasco. And the RARE and EXQUISITE Queen of the Night Cactus. There's also a saguaro with a prickly pear growing out of the top. More mines. Hikes. Bike riding. Ah yea gads. Let's just boon-dock back in there. What the hell. -Susan

  5. Hey, is that lizard on a cow turd? It was a nice day in the desert. We had fun.- Maikel

  6. Keep up the rants, you are right on the money where this is concerned. Bring our troops home from around the world and secure OUR borders for a change.

    Thanks for posting and please be careful on the road and while exploring.


  7. Some amazing pictures, Mark, it was like opening presents as I scrolled down!

  8. Scamp,
    The jar was full of such notes. thanks guys... warming up down here now.

    Pen Pal Claudia,
    I guess, but he wasn't exactly way out by his lonesome... next to the Santa Rita Lodge... in front of a dozen birdwatchers... a gift shop... telephones... park ranger... and so on.

    John and Pam,
    You guys will love the Virgin River RV Resort. The staff is very friendly and involved. Thanks, enjoy your comments.

    Suzie Q. Wiseone,
    Ahem, I distinctly remember asking Wiseones if they would solo boondock in Ironwood... What? did you change you mind? Prove it :))

    Yes... a cow turd. I think his feet were stuck because he didn't move :))

    that would let us ease a hundred thousand people back into the workforce too. thanks

    Pam and Wayne,
    Merry Christmas :))

  9. Mark and Bobby et all, we boondocked in Ironwood Forest National Monument for about 3 weeks total in 3 years. We drove up a two track and camped overlooking a wash with a mountain to our backs - it was a sweet spot on the east side just inside the boundary. Hard to get to because we had to cross the darned river after exiting Highway 10 at milepost 226 heading westbound on Sasco rd. Sometimes that river was 2 feet deep and moving, so we turned back a few times. Unlike Organ Pipe, I felt much safer in Ironwood Forest. We hiked, found azurite rocks, sampled barrel cactus fruit, found geocaches and all kinds of fun - had a great time there. Of course the illegal immigrant/mexican trash, clothes, personal hygiene stuff, shoes, backpacks were in all the washes, it was all labeled in Spanish. Last I heard, the beautiful Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge is also completely closed to all entry now for our safety, we camped there in 2008 and it was off the charts pretty. Seems like Mexico and our government are considering sharing the Gadsden Purchase.

  10. Michael and Louise,
    Thanks for contributing your experience... it shows a different perspective from someone brave enough to go int there and use the land as it should be. Perhaps your "arsenal" of ammo and weapons contributed to your comfort :)) Maybe I just need more and bigger guns!!! Maybe a couple of smoke grandees and such.
    If all our southern border lands go the way of Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge it will be a shame.
    Thanks for commenting!

  11. The Wiseone's and Johnsons ignored warnings and "Keep Out" signs in Organ Pipe. To me it was an act of Civil Disobedience, a protest/statement that Organ Pipe belongs to us and we intend to use it as such.

    -You were actually on private property in many of those photographs above. I agree that public property should not be closed to the public but private property should be respected.


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