Deer Creek And The Adventurous Life Of David Gowan
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Burned in the Willow fire of 2004, Deer Creek is making a comeback. Though evidence of fire damage lingers, the trail contains interesting history, and offers excellent views of Deer Creek and areas of the Mazatzal Wilderness. The trailhead (see pic and waypoint) is easily accessed by any vehicle from State Route 87. The trail climbs at first before flattening out and dipping down along the creek where it continues creekside to the cache. Along the creek, there are some short and steep gains in elevation, but overall the trail is generally level. While on the trail, you'll pass through 3 different unlocked gates and an interesting old windmill (see pic and waypoint). Some portions of the trail that involved creek crossings have been washed out and altered after the winter storms of January 2010. Though there are cairns along the way, they are intermittent, and some route finding may be necessary. Approximately 3 miles along the trail you'll find the grave of David D. Gowan (see pic and waypoint).
To say David Gowan's life was adventurous is an understatement. David was born in Scotland in 1843 to a fishing family. He served in the British Navy until jumping ship in Africa. From there he moved to the USA during the Civil War and joined the US Navy. After serving in the Navy, he returned to his roots as a fisherman, but during a storm he became the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the West Coast. Gowan then moved with a friend to the Arizona Territory where he worked as rancher and gold prospector. Additionally, Gowan aided Mormon scouts looking to settle in Arizona. During that time, Arizona was still the setting of violence stemming from the Indian wars and, under the threat of violence, Gowan once spent 3 days hiding in a cave under the Tonto Natural Bridge. Afterward, Gowan offered a claim of the site to his nephew, who accepted, and began to turn the bridge into the tourist spot we know today.
At the turn of the century, David Gowan began the Gowan mine near Payson, which he eventually sold for $10,000. Near the end of his life, Gowan lived in a cabin along Deer Creek and mined in what is now the Mazatzal Wilderness. Weekly he rode to a ranch to get his mail, but in December 1925, Gowan had not arrived for consecutive weeks and the ranch owner rode to Deer Creek to check on him. When he arrived, he found that Gowan had died. Days later, a coffin was prepared and Gowan was laid to rest in the spot where he passed away, right along the creek. Gowan's nephew had a headstone made, but unknowingly listed the death year as 1926 instead of 1925.
Despite the Willow fire, David Gowan's grave and headstone are well preserved and easily seen along the trail. You can't miss it. The cache is a 30 cal. ammo can located within 75 feet of the grave at the base of a burned tree and alongside a boulder covered with rocks and leaves.
Visiting Deer Creek and the grave of David D. Gowan has been a great experience for me. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have.
Click Here For A More Detailed Biography of David D. Gowan From The Payson Roundup
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