The following monthly reports excerpts were written by Charlie Steen during his year as "Ranger in Charge" at Tonto National Monument.
July 1934: Here I am, trying to rate a little space in the monthly report, with less than 48 hours to my credit. During the only full day I spent at Tonto, four autos carrying 23 passengers stopped to look us over. In the following day while I was wondering how many visitors would break the solitude, Walt Attwell came along, told me to pack my extra pair of socks and toothbrush, that he was taking me to Montezuma Castle. Well, here I am for a few weeks.
January 1935: The skies finally cleared.... then three days of freezing weather set in but now everything is balmy again on the Apache Trail. For 15 minutes tremendous claps of thunder reverberated throughout the canyons, and immediately after snow began to fall.
February 1935: To begin with, 599 visitors made an appearance, and of these 383 made the trip to the lower ruins and 25 to the upper. Two of these visitors deserve special mention: one was stone deaf and pedaling a bicycle from Los Angeles to Chicago, and the other was a hitchhiker--- I haven't yet figured out how either of them happened to come up here.
The signs arrived in good shape. I will receive some posts from the State Highway Department either tomorrow or the next day and will erect them immediately thereafter.
March 1935: Traffic on the highway has been very heavy- more cars are going through now than ever before. The new signs seem to be doing their part in enticing a proper percentage of the travelers to the ruins.
The abundant rains since January have caused a profusion of flowers in the mountains- the monument is alive with color.
One the 13th the engineers almost walked on the first rattlesnake of the season. On the 15th I found the first Gila Monster and two days later a wild honey bee backed up to me and stung me on the upper lip.
April 1935: The weather for this month has been perfect with the exception of three days during which a large portion of the top soil of Colorado and New Mexico hung suspended in the air.
May 1935: On May 3rd snow fell for about 10 minutes, and yesterday, the 24th, the mercury climbed to above 100 degrees for the first time this year.
My pets are hybrid honey bees who have a number of combs in the cliffs above the lower ruin. Since warm weather began the bees have become blood-thirsty. I have been stung so often that I hardly bat an eye when some playful brute feels the urge to fill me full of formic acid... The bees seems to recognize me... If any of you men at headquarters think that wild honey bee doesn't pack a wallop, come on up and I'll convince you to the contrary.
A family of Canyon Wrens was hatched just above the lower ruin this month and for three days the mother had her four youngsters hopping all over the walls. They were too young to be fearful of humans and altho [sic] the mother bird would sit on a wall and anxiously call her brood, one could get within a very few feet of the little fellows before they would fly away.... Our big saguaro is acting as foster mother to two families: a red-shafted flickr and a Gila woodpecker have both built nesters in it.
June 1935: Who turned on the heat? The weather has been an unfailing source of conversation since the last week in May. Despite the weather man's efforts to discourage half mile walks on a very sunny hillside, 447 people visited this Monument during June and of these 282 walked to the lower and 19 to the upper ruin.
Lately I noticed javelina tracks in the lower dwelling on several occasions. A visitor here told me, after being shown the tracks, that his brother was in the desert southwest of Phoenix several years ago and a small herd of javelina chased him. He was on foot and to escape the pigs he climbed a saguaro and stayed there for three hours!
July 1935: A rather dull month has passed. The weather factor seems to be principle deterrent to Monument traffic. July days have been either quite hot or high winds with heavy clouds threaten rain.
As I write this, which is probably my last report from Tonto, I realize that history is about to repeat itself. Another invasion of the Lower Gila from the upper reaches of the Salt River is about to take place.
References:(1996). Southwestern Monuments Superintendent's Monthly Reports, 1935-1949 for Tonto National Monument, Gila County, Arizona. Unpublished.
Last updated: June 26, 2017