Amazing Places: Charcoal Kiln: impressive, nearby
The amazing place for this fortnight is the Charcoal Kiln. (Yes, I grew up in the UK so I’m bilingual — I speak both English and American!) Not many people have heard of the Charcoal Kiln, despite it being on an official forest trail. However, because it is on an official trail, I can give you directions on how to get there — no need for sending an email, as was done for the Cowboy Prayer.
The photo shows this impressive structure, an early piece of Prescott’s mining history. It’s about 25 feet high. It’s almost 140 years old but still in great condition. Its conical shape gives it strength — the weight of its walls press in, like how an arch presses down. Just granite blocks, no mortar, though it may originally have had mud chinking.
Yes, you may walk inside. It’s rather dark so watch your footing, and look up through the hole in the top where smoke once escaped but now light pours in. The information sign by the kiln tells you it was constructed in about 1880 by the Carmichael bothers, Jake and Joe. Walk all around the kiln, and go up on the far side to see a “window” into the kiln. This was probably a door for loading more wood, and would have had a wooden bridge from the path. Wood was stacked tightly inside the kiln so it burned very slowly (for days), with the combustion air being carefully controlled.
Charcoal was an important fuel back then, both for domestic cooking and for the smelting of ore. When charcoal is later burned, the heat is more intense and more controllable. A mile north, off Walker Road on the east side, was Smelter Hill and Howells — more info in a later article. By the mid-1900s, the forest around the community of Walker was gone — cut down for pit props, log cabins, winter heat, charcoal. The current ponderosas are relatively small and
young, most a century old or less.
The kiln today is surrounded by private property as the result of a land swap with the National Forest. The old trail went across what is now someone’s back yard.
DIRECTIONS TO THE KILN: Go south on Walker Road from Highway 69 (at milepost 293 by Costco). Drive for 6.9 miles to Big Bug Mesa Road. Turn left (east) at the junction onto the dirt road — it’s in good condition. Big Bug Mesa Road climbs up and curves to the right. After 0.6 miles you’ll reach Charcoal Kiln Road on your right. Park just past the junction, beside the road. Hike down Charcoal Kiln Road for 0.2 miles to the signed Trail Head (trail #303) on the right. On the way, this road bends to the left at the bottom of the hill, then climbs up past a mansion on the right, before reaching the TH. (You could drive to the TH but the road can be rutted and rough, and minimal parking.) Hike along this short trail, which winds down to the kiln in about 150 yards — take the steps down on right as you approach the kiln.
The next amazing place will be the “Cherry Crusher” — an Amazing Place unknown to almost every one of you!
Nigel Reynolds was born in England and has lived in Arizona for nearly 30 years and Prescott for 20 years. “Exploring is in my blood,” he says.