What's in a name: General Crook's Trail

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Gen. General Crook, Mogollon Rim. 8 Jan 2018 (Source: Crook-National Archives; Coconino Nat. Forest) Gen. General Crook, Mogollon Rim. 8 Jan 2018 (Source: Crook-National Archives; Coconino Nat. Forest)
Left: Old map of Crooks Trail; Right: FR 300. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona, Tonto Nat. Forest) Left: Old map of Crooks Trail; Right: FR 300. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona, Tonto Nat. Forest)
Camp Apache. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: National Archives) Camp Apache. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: National Archives)
Martha Summerhayes, author of "Vanished Arizona"  8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona) Martha Summerhayes, author of "Vanished Arizona" 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona)
General George Crook and two of his Apache scouts. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona) General George Crook and two of his Apache scouts. 8 Jan. 2018 (Source: Vanished Arizona)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

If living on the edge is something you enjoy, perhaps a drive along the edge would give you a thrill, and views that an eagle would envy!

More than just a day trip, FR 300 traces the path of one of Arizona's first major trails that grew into a road that is still in use today.

Built for strategic needs, the Crook Trail is one of the earliest roads laid out in the state.

General George Crook was sent to the Arizona territory in 1871 to take command of the Department of Arizona during the Apache Indian Campaign.

One of the first things Crook did was order the building of a road to move troops swiftly through hostile territory to access remote areas and move supplies between military posts.

The trail was planned between Camp Whipple near Prescott and Camp Apache, about 200 miles away in the eastern part of the state.

The two men chosen to cut the trail , C.E. Cooley and Henry Dodd, left from Camp Apache along with accompanying troops in 1871 and headed north then east across the middle of the state towards Prescott. 

On a side note, along the way to Camp Whipple as Cooley and Dodd were cutting the trail, the pair set up camp in a meadow next to a stream in the area in the White Mountains where they played a card game to decide who would wash the evening dishes.

The game was Seven-Up, the winner, Cooley, played the deuce of clubs to, "show low," and win the game. From then on the two men referred to the area as Show Low Ranch. The town of Show Low grew up in that same area and was named after that card game in that spot.

After the trail was marked, the actual construction began in the spring of 1872. It was hacked through the terrain by man, mule and horse power. 

By 1873 pack trains were moving along the trail between Camp Whipple and Camp Apache. By 1874, the trail was wide enough for wagons to make the trek. 

That year, the first wagon supply train left Camp Whipple headed for Camp Apache. Along with the troopers was the wife of an officer, Martha Summerhayes. She was not only the first woman to travel over Crooks Trail, but she wrote a book about that and other adventures she experienced, "Vanished Arizona".  

In the book, Summerhayes writes about the trip to Camp Apache, "It did not surprise us to learn that ours was the first wagon train to pass over Crook's Trail. For miles...the so-called road was nothing but a clearing, and we pitched and jerked from side to side... as we struck large rocks or tree -stumps."

In 1928 the completion of the Rim Road, FR 300, finally brought an end to the old Crook Trail as it was cut. But parts of the old trail still can be traveled, or at least can be traveled in the same path it took.

The old Crook Trail is closely followed by FR300. The service road provides access to fishing lakes, and remote areas popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

You can even see some of the original trail mark blazes hacked into the pine trees along the trail. The trail is multi-use and popular with equestrians and mountain bikers as well as hikers.

Access to FR 300 from SR 87 north of the town of Strawberry. The dirt road is maintained and easily traveled. The road takes you along the edge of the Mogollon Rim, east to to the Forest Lakes area where you can pick up SR 260.

Along the way, look to the south and the forest opens up to offer expansive views of the Tonto basin. Multiple pull off areas make it tempting to pull over and take pictures. 

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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