Three pieces of Central Arizona history collide with fantastic views of the Bradshaw Mountains along a fun little trail in the Prescott National Forest. Leaving the small hamlet of Mayer, the trail works slightly upward across the rolling desert chaparral to the Blue Bell Mine. In the 1870s, prospectors discovered an outcropping of schist bearing gold, silver, and copper. The Blue Bell was a successful mine and operated intermittently until recently. Following the trail a mile more to the south brings the traveler to the second bit of Arizona history, the railbed of the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad, often called Murphy's Impossible Railroad. Mr. Murphy engineered the seemingly impossible by connecting Prescott with Crown King through the rugged and inhospitable Bradshaw Mountains. Supplies went up the mountain, and ore came down. The Blue Bell was connected to the railroad by a mile-long aerial tramway to dump the ore carts into the railroad cars. The railroad operated for a decade before the mines in Crown King became unprofitable. Following the obvious railbed downward, the trail ends at the ghost town of Cleator, the final portion of the historic trifecta. The small town was established in 1864 to support the mines and prospects of the Turkey Creek Mining District and was a stop on the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad. James P. Cleator bought the town in 1925, renamed it for himself, and established a post office, appointing himself postmaster. The post office closed in 1954. Today, Cleator remains a stop for thirsty travelers. While appreciating the history, don't forget to admire the seemingly endless views of the southeastern slopes of the Bradshaws. Stop to enjoy the abundant trailside wildflowers in late spring. But keep your eyes on the trail along the shelf roads. Saying things collide on the Blue Bell was meant to be metaphorical, not literal.
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