As we walked through the slight depression in the ground, my feet were tired. We had climbed over 700 feet in elevation, from the high desert into the cool comforts of an island of pine trees surrounded by scorching desert. The soft grass and pleasant breeze were nice but hadn’t relieved the small aches and pains that plagued my body. Looking at the divot in the ground in which we were climbing out of, it struck me that this could be the remnant of the pond. I had seen it in pictures, full of life giving water next to the main house. I stepped up on the other bank and my aches and pains disappeared when I realized, we were at Reavis Ranch!
This was my very first impression of the beautiful valley that lies deep within the unforgiving Superstition Wilderness. It is a place that is met with incredible skepticism when you describe it to those who have never been.
“There are no pine trees in the Superstitions!” The naysayers roll their eyes while they speak.
“Over 120 apple trees, with apples!? Yeah, right,” they say, shaking their heads.
“A cool mountain creek feeding the whole place! Whatever,” the know-it-all hands you back your phone, leaving the pictures of the green valley, chest high grass and rustic farm implements still open.
Reavis Ranch is a gem. Resting deep within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area, this small haven is an incredible, rare combination of nature’s best work and man’s incredible efforts. The only access is one of the miles long trails, leaving the vehicle bound masses behind. This incredible valley is made so quaint by the remnants of work done there, generations ago by men like Elisha Reavis.
Reavis, who prospected for gold with men like Pauline Weaver (Weavers Needle) and Jacob Waltz (the German of Lost Dutchman fame) gave up hard rock mining to pursue the life of a farmer. He found and settled this valley in the 1860’s with a small 60 acre homestead. From high on his perch he watched the world change around him. As the battery, denim jeans, basketball, and Coca-Cola were changing the landscape of America, Reavis Ranch remained much the same, but for a small farm and home.
This incredible man, who favored solitude over hygiene, grew amazingly coveted vegetables that were hard to grow and transport in the desert climate of the late 19th century. He would walk his crop off the top of the Superstitions with a wheelbarrow, into the desert valley of the modern-day U.S. 60 and to whatever market was available. It has been rumored that Reavis sold vegetables as far as Florence, Globe and Phoenix. With a pocket full of money and a wheelbarrow full of supplies, he would climb back up the mountain until the next crop came in, when he would make the trip again.
It was on one of these trips in 1897 when Reavis didn’t show up to his usual market. As the party began the monumental climb, just west of Iron Mountain, they found the remains of the rugged pioneer on his trail to town. Due to the condition of his body, the search party opted to bury him where they found him.
He left behind an amazing testament to his will and determination in the beautiful valley that still bears his name and his work. In it, there is an incredible apple orchard, which still produces fruit. Farm implements and fences show the physical labor that Reavis and those like him put into the little desert oasis. The final destination of the hike in is well worth the climb. But . . . There is a laundry list of sights to see on the way to Reavis Ranch. Depending on which way you go, there is Reavis falls, Circlestone ruin, a juniper tree that takes 4-5 people holding hands to reach all the way around it, the ruins inside the cave near Angel Basin and, of course, Reavis grave. None of these attractions are laid out or well-marked along the typical paths to Reavis Ranch. Each has its own quirk or spur trail that leads to it, which is why a guide that knows the area is so important. Hiking to Reavis Ranch is a great experience. Seeing the final resting place of Reavis, the 140 foot Reavis Falls (not named after Elisha!) or the Salado ruins inside the cave, which has protected the wooden roof for over 700 years, takes knowledge that only an experienced guide can offer.
In my book “The Search”, the guide is a con artist. Unfortunately, he was modeled after a few real (for lack of a better word) people. The spellbinding history and beauty of the Superstition Wilderness is not something that needs embellished, and shouldn’t be the source of a con, which is why the guides at Arizona Hiking Adventures are perfect for a trip to one of a kind places, like Reavis Ranch.
Guest Blogger Bio:
John Henderson is a speaker, blogger, author and Lost Dutchman aficionado. He has the unique distinctions of becoming a college professor as a high school dropout, transitioning from living in the back seat of a car to living in beautiful homes on three of the Hawaiian Islands and riding to and from work every day for six months while hanging from a rope attached to the bottom of a helicopter. His unique perspective on life gives voice to the person in all of us who isn’t sure, but tries anyway. He is the author of The Search, runs lifewisefuture.com.