Boulder Bob’s Cabin We dig into the mind of Boulder Bob and re-discover his madness

The Proper Function

Living Amongst Boulders

Robert DuPuy, aka “Boulder Bob” had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and was admitted to the Kankakee State Hospital in Illinois sometime during 1912. The Asylum reported 192 pathological autopsy reports on patients with chronic mania, senile dementia and organic brain disease. It remains operational today as a developmental center and in 2008 had a census of 587 residents.

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While it is unknown when Boulder Bob was discharged from this facility, his appearance in Arizona was documented in 1935 when he filed for a mining claim near Boulder Pass, which is a saddle located between Crabtree Butte and Boulder Mountain. Described by many as a hermit, he was occasionally seen marching down the Beeline Highway in what appeared to be a mobile barnyard.  “A rooster rode on the back of one burro and a dog on another” reported Stan Brown. Boulder Bob would occasionally stop at the Sunflower General Store where George Fredricks was able capture his face long enough to produce this charcoal drawing – note the burros in the background? Apparently the rooster and the dog were not invited to the general store!

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In 1928, another man from Illinois, Forest Ranger Jessie Bushnell (for whom Bushnell tanks was named) was assigned to the Verde station district. After several interactions with the lone hermit, Bushnell eventually became a point of fixation with Boulder Bob’s paranoia.This is evident when in 1938 when he had written to complain that Bushnell had not been cooperating with him. In turn, Bushnell had expressed a concern with Boulder Bob when he reportedly started a fire on Boulder Mountain and felt that his mood was aggressively unpredictable.

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In response,  Ranger Lee Kirby wrote to Bushnell informing him of Boulder Bob’s statement that “He (DuPuy) could not be responsible for his actions, which might result in someone getting hurt” and “If you come around my claim you are taking a big chance. I will commit cold-blooded murder”.

Many have written Boulder Bob off as being mad, but you can clearly see that he occupied some genius that unfortunately was constantly being wrestled to the mat by mental illness. He passed away in 1956 and is buried in the Arizona State Hospital Cemetery, which served as The Arizona Insane Asylum until it was destroyed by fire.

“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

Rockhouse Adventure

As you park your vehicle near the gate located on FR 22, you will hike down the road which is now closed to all motorized vehicles. On your right is Kitty Joe Canyon (33.86532, -111.46542), who was a prospector and one of the charcoal faces that didn’t make it onto the Sunflower Store Wall. When you hike past Colcord Canyon you will come across an interesting site that was established by the Skunk Bros. Their Mantra is “Live to Ride. Ride to Live” which is demonstrated by the BMX frame secured to a tree on your right. A piece of wood is inscribed with “Birth of the Skunk Bros 1990. Thanks Devin Lau 12-6-2010“.

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The Skunk Bros. had annual celebrations in this area which consisted of building BMX trails, camping and socializing amongst friends. This friend to many passed away on October 21, 2001 at the age of 30. In Proper Function, you should take this moment to appreciate your friends and family.

Please remember, this is a memorial site and should be treated with the sensitivity it deserves. Please be respectful!

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Continue down the path that intersects with the Arizona Trail. Ahead on the horizon, you will see Boulder Pass which will take you in between Crabtree Butte and Boulder Mountain.  As a reminder, be sure to glance over your shoulder as you begin your ascent, the views of Mount Ord are stunning! Once atop Boulder Pass, you will come across a barbwire fence with a gate, travel through this gate and be sure to close it behind you. If at anytime you start to lose the trail, attempt to locate the pink ribbons or cairns along the way.

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The trail will start to plateau after a short descent and you’ll come across the first cabin structure created by Boulder Bob himself (33.82634, -111.44455). The rock chimney-like structure is what remains of one of the original cabins built by Boulder Bob. As weeds entangle one another, it almost represents the inner workings of a man that appeared to be in constant conflict with himself and the surrounding environment. Rusty metal is sprawled about the area which once served as a protective roof from the elements.

About 35 yards South, a large boulder sits which served as a wall to another structure. I suspect this structure was built later as the rocks are woven with glass bottles, unlike the initial structure and has since been vandalized. These bottles are a product that represents the progression of Boulder Bob’s mental illness. Perhaps they were utilized to defend himself against the internal threats that could send him back to the asylum.

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Another 50 yards down the wash, a structure described by Bob Mason as a “Crude and non-functional attempt to build a grinding mill for grinding ore”. My assessment, I feel this was rather functional and served to allow Boulder Bob to pulverize rock in order to make concrete, which is evident in many of the structures. The rock was placed within the hub and the large concrete ball was utilized to pulverize the rock into a sediment. It was built close to the water source so that water could be added while the rotary rods created the mixture.The tunnel below would then allow excess water to drain, which sediment exists within the soil to support this theory.

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Travel further down the creek bed and you will come across a marvelous structure which is simply a mystery. Boulder Bob constructed a wall that on average is approximately 5 feet high and 155 feet in length. The wall travels along the west bank of the creek bed and terminates at a rock window. With boulders so large you wonder how one person could’ve engineered such a structure. It remains completely intact which provides some insight into the intelligence that was held captive by mental anguish. It’s unimaginable to think about the amount of work and time it must’ve taken Boulder Bob to architect such a structure – it was his Proper Function in life.

“It’s not schizophrenia, it’s creativity, there is a difference. My voices go away after I let them tell their stories” – Ashley Newell

 

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Arizona
82°
clear sky
humidity: 13%
H 82 • L 48
73°
Tue
71°
Wed
70°
Thu
71°
Fri
65°
Sat
Weather from OpenWeatherMap
F
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
LocationSunflower
State, RegionArizona,Central
Coordinates33.8624057°, -111.4773°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
DifficultyModerate
WaterBring
DogsNo
HistoricYes
Time5 Hours

TPF

Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.

  • Marcy Roth

    This hike was one of those special days where I knew I was getting to see something few people ever get to discover….it was the perfect “Proper Function” type of day for me! It was fun to meet you, Dan…another serendipitous event that makes life so interesting. Your blog entry of Boulder Bob and this hike will help me keep this special memory…(that and my bruised knee from falling!)

    • TPF

      It was a very special Proper Function for me as well. I learned so much from all of you, simply more than you know! I hope your knee is better!

  • Kathy Pommerening

    Thanks for joining us on the Boulder Bob adventure. I enjoyed the day immensely because of your insights into BB, your generosity in sharing apps and willingness to instruct along the way. Last week I made 2 batches of your granola recipe to take along on our Prescott overnight – it got rave reviews. Thanks for posting it.

    • TPF

      Kathy, thanks for having me along for the adventure! I’m glad the granola recipe turned out well. It really serves as a base where you can substitute various fruits & nuts – so get creative!

  • Wonderful post and thank-you for sharing the historical details of the Boulder Bob hike. I enjoyed meeting you and appreciated your medical/engineering/historical insights into our hike. I added many of the apps you recommended to my phone and look forward to learning to use them.

    • TPF

      It was really fantastic meeting all of you! I really enjoyed our adventure and if I can help you out with any of the app’s we spoke about, please let me know!