No, Robbers Roost near Sedona, Arizona was not Black Bart's Hideout. But looking out from this notorious cave carved into a mesa high above the desert plains, you can imagine him being there - waiting for the tell tale plume of dust from a Wells Fargo wagon loaded with gold.
By the mid - 1850's, stagecoaches and Wells Fargo wagons were transporting much of the gold from the California Gold Rush of 1849. Often traveling in isolated areas, they were easy targets for bandits. In 1875 the Wells Fargo Company reported they lost $415,000 in gold to outlaws and robbers.
One of the more famous stagecoach robbers was Charles E. Boles, know as "Black Bart". From 1875 to 1883 he robbed 28 stagecoaches and became one of the most wanted men in the west.
Black Bart was not one of your average ruthless villains. This is a description of Black Bart on one the Most Wanted Posters: "He cunningly conceals himself in a long linen duster - artfully using a flour sack with eyeholes over his head. He carries a firearm and according to his unfortunate victims is a man of gentle birth with the manners of a perfect gentleman. He fancies himself to be a poet, leaving a poem in the empty boxes he has just robbed". Here is one of his poems:
I've laboured long and hard for bread.
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine - haired sons - of - bitches.
Black Bart - 1877
So how did Robbers Roost and Black Bart come into this travel blog. Well it started with a conversation at an Irish Pub in Sedona, Arizona. Lindsey (my daughter) and I were having a drink before when went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. There sat Jim, a local guy, into maybe his fourth or fifth rum and coke. Pretty chatty, but good natured. When asked about hiking in the area he said, you need to make it out to Robbers Roost. He said you won't find it in the guide books, its not even marked by any kind of signage. That was just the kind of challenge we were looking for. So we decided to make it our first hike the next day.
For those people who have not been to Sedona, Arizona, it's a hikers paradise. Great hiking everywhere. You just have to follow the guide books unless your looking for Robbers Roost. Lindsey and I hiked an extra 2/3 miles just looking for the start of the unmarked trailhead. Eventually we figured out where the start must be.
The hike is described as short with great views - but not for those with a fear of heights. There are portions of the trail that are right on the edge of the cliff with a hundred or more foot drop on one side. That aside this is an amazing hike. The views, spectacular...
Quietly sitting in the cave does conjure up visions of stagecoaches traveling past on the desert floor below. You can imagine yourself as a robber waiting for another payday. Maybe not Black Bart, but someone else with the same intentions...
It took a while to find the Robbers Roost, but well worth the effort. Probably our favourite hike while in Sedona. Check it out and see if you can imagine Black Bart in the cave with you...