21 July 2012

Chimney Spring

[NOTE: This post has been revised and retracted. Sorry about that...]

I visited what's left of whatever once occupied the site labeled on the regional topo maps as Chimney Spring on my ride through the woods today.  I've visited this place before, walked around it some, but never to stop and take pictures, which is what I did today.  Chimney Spring is not a place I pass by too often, since it isn't located near any major trails.  But FS Road 9002 goes right past it, and 9002 is an easy, mellow climb on a singlespeed... and that's just what I needed after yesterday's all-too punishing singlespeed ride and four hours of Saturday-morning homework today.

I've looked through all my favorite local history books, Cline's They Came To The Mountain, Ashworth's Biography Of A Small Mountain, and even Barnes' Arizona Place Names, as well as the NAU Cline Library online archives in an effort to shed a little light on what this place might have once been, all to no avail.  Chimney Spring, whatever it was, seems never to have rated much for the retelling. 

My best guess is that it was probably a watering-hole for the sheepherding industry that once dominated the hillsides of the San Francisco Peaks.

Nevertheless, once upon a time, there was obviously some significant activity here, the site includes a few leveled areas that perhaps held small buildings or corrals, the footings of a substantial concrete structure that probably held and/or distributed water, and tons of rusted and crushed wood, tin, steel, and ceramic artifacts, too.  It's a fun place to walk around with your head down, which is something I always enjoy.

I walked all over the site today looking for the source of the spring, something I'd never taken the time to do before.  Just above the footings there is a small rocky depression that strikes me as a place that might once have held water, though, being located in the midst of an otherwise broad plain of open woodland, it would be a strange place to find a seep in this area. 

The small natural drainage about 100 yards to due east showed no signs of any source of water either.

However, after I got back on my bike and began to ride up 9002 again, about 150-200 yards to the north of the footings I caught a glimpse of this shrubby tree, perched on the side of the same small drainage, along with some blooming bergamot (monarda menthafoliawild oregano).  I believe the shrub may be some kind of willow (It's not. My native plant-expert's tree-expert says it's  Sambucus glauca; elderberry), but whatever it is, it's the only one of its kind in the whole area.  

Even if it's not a willow, it's quite unusual to find a deciduous tree of any kind other than aspen or oak in our woods unless you're near water.  Bebb willow, for instance, love the bottomlands of many of our intermittent streams like Schultz Creek and the Rio. but grow nowhere else.  Likewise, any other time I've seen bergamot it has been growing in wet ground near a water source, such as this example, which I found growing near Orion Spring just a few weeks ago.  Is this small wet hillside all that remains of the source of Chimney Spring?   (No. it's not) Perhaps.  Whether it really is or not, nowadays, I think this is the closest you're going to get to it.  Like everything else at the site of Chimney Spring, whatever it once was, it all appears to be long gone now.

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