Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Skull Valley -- a Quick View from the Road

Getting to Skull Valley is easy. Just turn left onto Iron Springs Road and keep driving. After a few mountains, the highway leaves PNF forest land, the road narrows and downhill on the left is a valley that's green and lush, compared to the sere roadside. The outskirts. Important fact about this ranching community -- it has possibly the best water availability in the whole county.

Ahead on your right looms a dark, rounded mountain. Volcanic, obviously; mountains built of other kinds of stone (granite, schist or even limestone) display their rocky origins in a muscular way. Do take note of the two dimpled blowout spots. Busy mountain at one time. Very busy.

Downtown Skull Valley ahead -- the gas station. The only place to gas up between Yarnell and Prescott, by the way. And not on SR89. This is the county road that semi drivers travel to avoid the many "curves and mountain grades" of the White Spar coming up from Wickenburg.

Downtown includes the cafe, currently closed and on the market. Will someone please buy the cafe; I miss it. When my husband and I first moved to Wilhoit, we almost always breakfasted here. Dick's chili was a great way to start a day of exploration; Helen handled the cowboys, ranchers and outlanders with a fine rural finesse. It was at the cafe that we learned when there would be roping or a gymkhana down at the Kirkland arena. Occasionally a miner from the Copper Basin would drop in with a vial of gold flakes. Oh, yes, bikers from the big, hot valley down south would show up, as well. Not only that, but railroad crews would radio ahead with their orders-to-go and then park their trains to pick up lunch.

After the disappointment of the closed cafe, heading back into town -- except that a train is coming. Giving me time for a good shot of general store -- #3 of downtown Skull Valley's three buildings. All kinds of special goodies sold here for ranch living and operation.

I am reminded that, in Prescott, I really miss the trains!

Admittedly, the modern train, consisting almost entirely of piggy-back trailers, is not nearly as interesting as the old-time mix of box cars, tankers, gondolas, and refrigerator cars, punctuated by the all-important caboose. (Anybody know where all those old cabooses went to retire? Maybe you can buy one on e-Bay...)

Once the train is gone, we can leave Skull Valley for the drive uphill back to Prescott. There's certainly a lot more to be said about Skull Valley, but not on this short visit. If you are curious, the Sharlot Hall Museum site has some background reading.


Avus said...

I was going to ask how Skull Valley got its name - but your link made all clear and I got immersed in it for quite a while - good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Enjoyed it.

Linda G. said...

As a asthmatic kid of nine, I was unhappy to be moving (yet again) in search of a environment where I could breath, but then my clever Mom pointed out the proximity of Prescott to Skull Valley and made some vague mention of a skull collection.
The idea of rambling about the Wild, Wild West picking up skulls appealed to my bizarre, mystery loving little heart, and I could hardly wait to get here.

Granny J said...

Mr. Avus-- the SH museum site is a great place to read many details of local history. The Skull Valley Historical Society is housed in an old depot just like these.

Mr. g -- good to have you with us, as always!

Dear Linda G -- did you ever find a skull when you were out horseback riding? I recall that there was a waitress at the Skull Valley Cafe who had the magic touch for finding arrow heads around and about Skull Valley.

My own take on Skull Valley (which has a post office) is that if I were a mail order business lines such as western wear or gun gear or historic books or ???, I'd fast get me a PO Box in Skull Valley Arizona. I didn't so I didn't. Too bad!

catalyst said...

Another interesting site is the Skull Valley cemetery. Toward the rear of it can be found the grave of artist George Phippen, with a bronze saddle acting as tombstone.

Granny J said...

I didn't realize that Phippen was a Skull Valley person, though I shouldn't be surprised. I've never been into cemeteries, tho there are some old (and forgotten) ones in these parts, such as the Cedar Glade cemetery up near Hell Canyon. I do recall that in good years, there were always brilliant orange mariposa lilies on the road embankment next the Skull Valley cemetery.

linda g said...

Never found a skull. Lots of arrowheads. The best thing I ever found was a small turquoise bead on an ant hill.

Granny J said...

Linda-- my neighbor, who is an archeologist says that he always inspects ant hills for the beads and similar tiny artifacts that they sometimes bring up.

And apropos Phippen, a long-time resident told me last night that she visited Mrs. Phippen, the widow, in Skull Valley and reminded me that the Phippen Museum was formerly housed there.

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