Arizona ATV Outlaw Trail & History

In 1964 the American Motion Picture Icon, John Wayne bought the Milky Way along with nine hundred thirty acres of Fred Colter's Cross Bar Ranch adjacent to the Milky Way, and formed the 26 bar Hereford Ranch.  With his partners Louis Johnson, a Stanfield, Arizona cotton farmer and Ken Reafsnyder, a partner in the Knott's Berry Farm Amusement Park, their goal was to "develop the best herd of Herefords they possibly could and operate it on a sound and profitable basis."  They added additional acres from the Cross Bar and other area ranches, and purchased bulls and cows from registered herds in California, Wyoming, and Arizona.  The "Duke" enjoyed visiting the ranch, riding the mountain to see his cattle, and assisting at the bull sales.  For eighteen years their annual sales set record after record.  Cattlemen from across the country thought they were doing something right!


The Last Grizzly Bear

It’s hard to determine the exact date the last grizzly bear was killed in Arizona…1933, 1935 or 1939.  Much has been written about the subject, the grizzly, Clay Thompson writing for the Arizona Republic states “many years ago, I read that the last grizzly bear in Arizona was killed by a government tracker in 1933. The bear was said to have been tracked more than 1,000 miles through Arizona, New Mexico and two Mexican states before it was shot."
Thompson goes on to say that he also read that in 1935, a hunter named Richard Miller killed the last grizzly in Greenlee County.  Still in 1939, B.B. Ford is reported to have killed the last grizzly on the slopes of Mount Baldy.

Due to his not being able to substantiate any of these claims he is not certain who killed the last grizzly.  Grizzly bears once roamed the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean.  The present range of grizzlies is now primarily in the area of Yellowstone National Park and parts of Montana, Idaho & Washington.
My own reading of the Ben Lilly Legend confirms the 1933 story as Ben Lilly tells of his adventure tracking this big grizzly from New Mexico, into Mexico, back into New Mexico and into Arizona.  Online comments from Richard Miller's grandson confirms the statement that Richard Miller did indeed kill a grizzly in 1935.
No matter who or when, the grizzly is no longer a part of the Arizona big game species.
Fred Hamblin's Fight with a Grizzly Bear

Fred Hamblin was the youngest brother of Jacob Hamblin Sr. and a son of Isaiah Hamblin who was 6’ 6” tall. Fred was 6’ 3” tall and weighed well over 200 pounds without an ounce of fat on his body. He was all muscle and well-coordinated and had great strength. He was a giant of a man, but kind and gentle as a lamb.  His handshake was like putting your hand in a big catcher's mitt.  He lived in Alpine, Arizona at the foot of the Escudilla Mountain, which rises to a height of well over 10,000 feet in elevation.  It was November 1890 and there was about 12 inches of new fallen snow, Fred was out hunting for game to take home to eat as he had a large family to feed.  Here is the story in his own words:

"As I was riding along, gun in scabbard, my rifle was a single shot that had to be reloaded after every shot.  I noticed the tracks, the largest I have ever seen in this country.  I was curious and decided to follow them, I tied up my horse and started up the hill, I took my gun in hand to follow them.  These tracks led into the timber and i found a bed recently left.  I supposed my approach had startled him and I had about decided to give up the hunt and return to my horse.  I heard a terrible growl and whirling around; I saw this huge beast coming at me from behind a large log which was shielded by a low-hanging fir tree which was bent to the ground with a foot of new fallen snow.  I could feel his hot breath on my face as he was so close.  As he charged me, he looked much larger than I supposed him to be.
He rose up on his hind legs and was so close that I didn't have time to cock my gun.  He came at me with extended paws and open mouth uttering a continuous growl.  I could do nothing more than thrust my gun barrel down his throat, which I did with all my might.  I pried with all my strength and I think I broke his jaw, which I believe saved my life.  The bear struck the gun with such tremendous force as to break the breach and knocked the gun out of my hands.  I quickly recovered the barrel and began to club him in the face and mouth, I knocked out all of his teeth and blood was running in a large stream from his mouth.
All of this time, the bear was continuing to struggle.  With his paws on my shoulders, he was tearing my shirt off and clawing my flesh, but he seemed powerless to use his mouth.  He placed his claws on my hips and knocked the gun barrel a few yards away, grabbed my wrist in his mouth and shut down with all of his power and my wrist was crushed badly.  By this time I was all out of breath and strength.  The bear backed off a few yards and then looked at me, turned around and headed into the thicket.  I paused for awhile to catch my breath and to make sure he didn't attack me again.  I could hear him moving deeper into the woods.  I left in the direction where I had left my horse, which was quite some distance.  When I arrived there, I had to rest for a while before I had the energy to mount my horse."
The next spring a bear was killed in the area that only had one tooth left in his mouth and was thought to be the one that Fred fought to a draw.  It took Fred quite a long time to recover from his wounds.  He died of old age on November 8, 1922 at the age of 81 and was buried in Alpine, AZ on the slopes of Escudilla Mountain.

Clay Hunter, the Trapper

The early years in Arizona saw a time of many predator animals, some causing trouble for ranchers and residents.  Bears, lions and wolves could do a lot of damage in a short time.  Many men found a way to make a living as hunters and trappers.  One such man was Clay Hunter, who was well-known in the area and more specifically down on the Blue River....

Clay Hunter was born on September 26, 1871 along the Red River in Greer County.  This county was later divided between Texas and Oklahoma so he said he really didn't know which state he was born in.  Running away from home at the old age of eleven, he came on a 3,500 head of cattle drive to Montana;  that drive took 3 1/2 months.  He moved between Calgary, Canada to Mexico and said that he knew of a time there wasn't a fence anywhere between.....Trapping for about 60 years, including the south side of the Superstitious Mountains near Phoenix for lion; he trapped wolves around the Springerville area and even panned for gold and said he found some near Springerville.

The early settlers on the Blue knew him well and he was a common sight up and down the river hunting and trapping.  He stayed on the Blue a lot, so much that we was considered a permanent resident, as permanent as anywhere else for him.  He had many friends, but no family.  He never married and no one knew of any relatives anywhere.  
Making a living as a trapper and working as a government trapper, he earned a small pension from the State of Arizona. Clay died in Phoenix in 1965 at the age of ninety four.  He is buried in the Springerville Cemetery.

Lee came to the Blue area in 1922

Clell Lee came to the Blue area in 1922 as a guide for a hunting party.  He returned many times and in 1955 he was called to come to hunt predators.  Born in Texas in 1905, the Lee family of eight children and the parents moved to Hidalgo County, New Mexico when Clell was four years old.  They homesteaded a place near Rodeo.  In 1916, they moved to Paradise, Arizona as his father contracted to run a stage line and mail route from Rodeo to Paradise.  In 1955, the Blue would be where he made his home when he married Katharine Cosper, a young widow who owned the VM Ranch.  His oldest brother, Ernest was a hunter, so his first experiences were with him.  When Clell was 17 he killed his first lion alone.  He had become separated from Ernest when they were hunting a lion and when he came upon the prey he killed it, not waiting for his big brother’s help.  This launched his lifetime career.  At age 21 he started working for the U.S. Biological Survey and continued to work for them for four years in New Mexico where he caught and killed lions and bears that were destroying livestock.  Katharine, his wife tells this story as told to her by Clell.  “One often wonders if being a lion and bear hunter wouldn’t put a little fear into a person."  Clell told about a time not too long before his death, that he had been hunting with his dogs and got home after dark.  As he was riding his horse along the trail, the coyotes began to set up and howl and they followed him.  That made the dogs mighty nervous.  Mind you they weren’t afraid of the lions, bears or the tigers, but then of course they were the hunters.  Now that the coyotes were following them, the tables were turned and the dogs were being hunted.  That scared them and they stayed so close to Clell and the horse that they almost caused the horse to trip a few times.  Clell said "that was an eerie feeling.”  Clell and his youngest brother, Dale guided hunts in the area as well as in the western states, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America.  They were a well-known twosome.  Dale worked for the Army as a civilian Game Geologist until his retirement in 1970.  Naturally a hunter of Clell’s sort needed dogs.  The Blue tick breed seemed to be the favorite.  He was an active member of the Blue tick Breeders Association.  He owned and bred many famous and very good hounds.  Clell kept his dogs across the creek from the family cabin.  All over the mountainside were little dog houses.  Clell was good to his dogs and guarded his bloodlines very carefully.  If you went on a hunt with Clell Lee, you knew you had been somewhere.  The rough country of the Blue to the thick pines on top of the mountain would have stopped many a man, but not Clell Lee.  It was not uncommon to see Clell and Katharine out on top with their horses and dogs moving cattle as Clell was as good a rancher as he was a hunter.  One time some sheep ranchers were having trouble with an “unknown varmint” in Burke’s Garden, Virginia.  They had tried a variety of methods to catch the culprit, but to no avail.  Finally they sent for
Clell.  When he finally got the varmint, it turned out to be a coyote.  That coyote had killed $25,000 worth of registered sheep.  He received $2,500 for killing the coyote.  The sheep weren’t bothered anymore, so that must have been the “unknown varmint.”  Well-known and well-liked, Clell Lee passed away on August 7, 1981.  The area lost a good hunter who said “there are more bears and lions in Arizona now than ever before."  Hard to believe?  Perhaps, but he should know; because he was out there amongst them, reading the signs others might miss.  He knew!  Believe it, he knew!   Taken from “Down on the Blue.”

Hank Sharp Ropes a Bear

The life of Charles Henry Sharp, affectionately known as "Hank" by all who knew and loved him, parallels much of the folk, fiction, and fantasy of the Old West. Whispers fly that Hank was once a member of the Butch Cassidy gang before settling down in Nutrioso where he raised 5 daughters and 2 sons after the early death of his wife.  Newspaper articles read, "Hank Sharp starts UTE Indian War" or books tell of Hank roping a grizzly bear at Sheep Cinega while his ranch hand compadres hoot & holler with laughter, or stories about Hank hanging by a rope around his neck in Colorado only to be saved by a passing cowboy who cut him down!  However, you sift out the truth from the folklore, Hank was a legend in his time!


Oscar Schultz the robber

Oscar Shultz was born in 1896 in Germany and migrated to America where he settled in Arizona. When Oscar's mother, still residing in Germany, needed money, Oscar decided that the best and easiest way to obtain some for her was to become an outlaw and take what was needed from others. On his first attempt at the easy money, he rode his horse onto the highway near Springerville, Arizona and stopped a car. After taking the fellow's wallet, Oscar was so disgusted that the man had less than $5.00, he put the money back. In the excitement of being robbed, the man did not realize he still had his money and reported the robbery to the sheriff of St. Johns, Arizona and a posse was soon hot after Oscar. When the posse got close, Oscar jumped off his horse and hid in a tree. In an effort to cover more ground, the posse scattered out and the sheriff happened to ride under the tree where Oscar was hiding. Oscar jumped out of the tree and took the sheriff's horse at gunpoint and made his escape. After hiding out for the night near Nutrioso, Arizona, a friend hid Oscar in a wagon, drove him out of town, and gave him a horse. Oscar fled to the small town of McNary, Arizona and at that point decided to rob the bank. Getting just over a hundred dollars he made his escape down into the Big Lake area. Now there was a large posse looking for Oscar and he was running as fast as he could. Deep into the forest he hid out for the night with a ranger in his lookout station. Two members of the posse, having followed Oscar's trail, arrived at the station before Oscar could leave the next morning and ordered Oscar to come out. Oscar was such a dangerous criminal, that even though he came out unarmed they shot and killed him. The posse members strapped Oscar's body on the back of his horse and started back to town. After about two days they realized they had some distance to cover, the weather in mid-May was getting warm, and the body was beginning to deteriorate. So they buried Oscar in an isolated grave in a remote area. And yes, the mother was still in need of money.


Outlaw Trail Descriptions           

As you look at some of our trail descriptions, please keep in mind that these are descriptive in terms of area and distance to and from the rodeo grounds in Eagar.  All areas of the mountain are constantly being evaluated for possible trails and access and we strive to keep these descriptions accurate so that as you start planning your rides each evening you will be able to do so with the best information available.  We meet with Forest Service officials prior to the Jamboree and get from them the most accurate updates in terms of access and closures.  You may notice that some of the trails that were open in the past are not at this time due to fire damage from the Wallow Fire.  You may see some new trail descriptions and it will be worthwhile to visit the new areas.
We try to note the difficulty of trail areas, whether or not you would need a trailer to get to some areas, whether or not gas and/or food would be available along the way.  Plan and prepare for the unexpected. 

Please note that we have the description for one overnight trail – The Coronado Trail Marathon.  Due to the distance of this trail from the rodeo grounds in Eagar to Hannagan’s Meadow, south of Alpine this would entail spending the night along the trail, but most likely at Hannagan Meadow.  The lodge would require prior reservations for an overnight stay.  If this is a trail you think you would like to explore, please keep this in mind and make your reservations early.  There is space available at Hannagan Meadow for dry camping too.  This is always an option.  Gas is not always available at Hannagan Meadow but it is always available in Alpine.  Plan your trip accordingly.

Most importantly plan on going on some awesome rides and seeing some of the most beautiful country anywhere.  Watch out for the outlaws! 


Posse Stew – A Round Valley Favorite

3 lbs. ground beef,  1 large can tomatoes, 1 large onion chopped, 2 cans Ranch Style beans, 2 cans hominy, 2 cans whole kernel corn, 2 cans diced green chili (or use your own roasted/frozen), garlic salt, salt and pepper to taste.  Brown hamburger with onion in large pot; add beans, hominy, corn and chili.  Mix well and simmer until well heated (about 30 minutes).    This recipe makes a huge amount – you can cut it in half or freeze half of the posse stew.    Better yet – this is an awesome campfire dutch oven meal.  Serve with biscuits or cornbread. 
We still have cook books – make plans to get yours when you come to the Jamboree.  

     Mel's Ice Cream On The Trail

Instructions:  Pour all your ice cream ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until smooth.  Transfer the mixture into the 1 qt (small) container and seal it tightly.  Place the small container inside the 1 gallon (large) container and add ice and 4 TBL of rock salt (in layers) in the space between the small and large containers until the space is 3/4 full.  Seal tightly and place into the insulated bag.  Strap bag to your ATV, UTV, Boat, Jet Ski, Jeep or anything that moves and go for a ride (the bumpier the better).  Check the mix every 30-40 minutes.  In approximately 60-90 minutes enjoy your own Ice Cream on the Trail!!

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream:  2 1/2 cups half and half, 1/2 cup sugar; 1/2 tsp vanilla.  For extra rich ice cream substitute 1 cup whipped cream for one of the cups of half and half.  Add your favorite fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or anything else you might like in your ice cream.  Enjoy eating out of small cups.

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