The Selected Quirks of Madjag

The Madjag Chronicles were compiled as memoirs and mental snapshots of my experiences during the 1978-1982 guerrilla growing years in Madjag Canyon and beyond. Importing weed from Mexico, lining up connections with the Colombians, and living for months in Jamaica to set up a 1/2 ton Ganja flight were some of my subsequent adventures. In recent years I have been a medical marijuana grower, a pollen chucker, and an Admin/Moderator for several online cannabis forums.

Arizona’s Emerald Triangle

During the mid 1970’s a number of enterprising young Arizona lads decided to grow their own weed. They were tired of the typical mid-grade Mexican brickweed and were moved to action because of the difficulty of finding a reliable connection for higher quality sativa. The hit or miss quality typical for the times just didn’t fly for those who liked to get high.

A close Tempe dealer friend of mine, Roberto, had a contact he called “The Postman”. This guy was an actual retired US postman and would go down to the Mexican lake district below Douglas in the Agua Prieta (AP) area on fishing trips. He towed a trailer with a small outboard motorboat, the type most simple fishermen used back then; it was aluminum, 15-22 feet long, with a trusty Evinrude outboard motor strapped on the back end and a red-padded seat for the captain. The Postman had a bit fancier version in that it sported a hard aluminum covered front end, maybe only 3-4 feet of coverage, that was open to the inside of the boat yet offered a convenient stash area for extra gas, a cooler, and perhaps a trolling motor and battery. Typically if you looked in a boat like this you’d see some life vests and maybe a spare gas tank under this covered yet open prow.

Every so often, in addition to his catch, the Postman would have roughly 40-80 pounds of primo herb, lightly pressed, stashed at the front of this compartment. He didn’t hide it except to put his usual items in front of this cargo. He would drive through customs like he hadn’t a care in the world. Back then the AP crossing and the American Douglas side had customs agents and border guards that knew the guy and were familiar with his bi-weekly fishing trips. For at least 6-7 years he was my friend’s secret weapon, a totally reliable source of top-tier Sinaloan, Michoacan, Guerreran, and Oaxacan herb.

Most Mexican weed was trending toward seedless over the advancing years. The smuggler/transporters from south to north in Mexico learned that it made a lot more money to move less quantity of higher quality. Later they’d do both, move more hi-quality and more quantity, and make a double-killing! Local Mexican growers with old-time knowledge, techniques like cultivating only seedless female weed, known in Mexico as sinsemilla, were operating in remote areas on densely-green mountain slopes, far from neighboring grower’s plots. Their cannabis genetics offered predictable potency, taste, and production being heirlooms or landraces. These unique strains became the basis for many of the first generation, southwestern growers’ seed stock in the 1960’s through the 1970’s. The postman specialized in this kind of stash, my friend sold it in Tempe, and later I grew it in a remote canyon along the southern edge of Mogollon Rim: Madjag Canyon.

Roberto, my dealer friend, collected a magnificent selection of his favorite weed seeds from the many shipments he handled over a 3-4 year period. A genetic collection like this today, if still viable, would be worth millions. His dream was to eventually grow it himself and let go of the need to deal with the uncertainty of relying upon such a dangerous and fragile import scheme, even though his fisherman friend seemed bulletproof. The border was just starting to gear up over the immense amount of weed hitting the fence from the exponential numbers of gringos involved in the smuggling business. It took the border protectors by surprise and for awhile it seemed that the gates were still open. Time was good to the Postman, as well, and he ultimately retired without a single bust or problem, probably a relatively rich man. Lucky for me that I was blessed to obtain some of the strains Roberto collected and that these initial seeds were top-tier. Luckier still was the fact that the resulting smoke we grew kicked ass and no amount we could provide would ever meet the demand. Ya mon…..

California’s Emerald Triangle, north of the S.F. Bay, encompasses deep redwood forests, rolling green hills, year-round streams, lots of remote land with few towns, and a blessed year-round climate. Abundant hippies with time on their hands helped create the plantation boom as many long hairs moved away from big cities and homesteaded those hills. In 1973, coastal towns like Mendocino, Garberville, Redway, Honeydew and other hamlets boomed with this influx. Guerrilla growing in this new Emerald Triangle of northern Cali coastal counties like Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt became a lifestyle for many and inspired others across the US to do the same. Articles on growing techniques, camouflage grow sites, water sourcing, and other related topics filled the pages of High Times magazine and reached tens of thousands of hungry teens, dropouts, and entrepreneurial spirits in the finest fashion of traditional capitalism.

I was one of these young homesteaders. I chose Arizona instead of Cali. At the time I really didn’t know what I wanted to do as a “career” and was totally drawn to the adventure of being a mountain-canyon bandito, growing knock-out weed in the hidden realms of the labyrinthine canyons of Arizona’s Mogollon Rim country. I had spent several years prior exploring the state, hiking and camping in dozens of remote wilderness canyons that were accessible by foot only, places that even very few hunters ever traveled in those days. I was mesmerized by the austere, rugged beauty that filled these places and the endless possibilities for exploration that were present as one canyon tied into another and then another. If you practiced Sawanabori, the Japanese traditional art of following a stream to its source, you’d be busy for years in the Rim Country landscape. I had found my new home, my new profession, and my new love all in one big package. Little did I know that I would become one of the first few to begin a strange, exciting tradition in an area that became known as Arizona’s Emerald Triangle.

I had heard stories that there were a few hippies growing in rough-cut patches, mostly on remote private land, throughout the state. More still were planting in tucked-away properties in the rural areas of Cottonwood, Prescott, Arivaca, Aravaipa, Jerome, Payson, Centerville, Camp Verde, Sedona, Leupp, and Young. I didn’t yet have land of my own and even if I had, it seemed like a bad idea to grow where you lived. No, for me it was National Forest, difficult to reach areas with little if any public land ranching involved. I had done my homework and researched areas that might fit the bill.

One special canyon stood out. A long, long hike would be involved with every visit to the proposed growing site, however its remoteness and inaccessibility made it ideal. Could I really put in the effort and sustain the weekly energy required to make it happen? How could I fashion a home lifestyle friendly to such an endeavor? Would my wife call me an idiot and tell me to split? At 24 years old I was full of determination and had plenty of time on my unemployed hands. Keeping enough cash to keep going and see me through daily life would become the most difficult part of my plan and not the actual guerrilla work program I had embarked upon. Paying everyday bills required a steady job and I had just signed up for a brand new one that only paid 8 months later at harvest…and then some!

Somehow my partner and I made it happen. We both worked funky jobs and were weekend ganja men. The plan was to quit our jobs at harvest so we would have dedicated time to bring in the goods and reap the benefits. Balancing a daily job just wouldn’t fly so we had to get ready for the chance of success.

    The signature of Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon, the 36th Spanish governor of New Mexico, 1712 – 1715

Northern Arizona has an outrageous number of canyons that are suitable for guerrilla growing. Names like Red Metal Canyon, Wet Bottom Creek, Haigler Creek, Black River, Fossil Creek, Sycamore Canyon (there’s at least 5 named so on the state map), Gordon Canyon, East Verde River, Houston Creek, Canyon Creek, and dozens more pepper the map along the Mogollon Rim, the huge 200 mile-wide escarpment that runs northwest to southeast across the middle of the state and delineates the southernmost edge of the massive Colorado Plateau. With an average elevation of 4500-6500 feet above sea level, the Colorado plateau’s southern edge, this Rim, drops off into a myriad of canyons creating a place perfect for getting lost, being hidden, or for providing the remoteness and safety for growing weed.

The Emerald Triangle of Arizona comprises a rough area that ranges from Sycamore Canyon on the western edge of the Verde Valley, then east to Payson and its many stream-filled canyonettes, then south to include the areas near the East Verde River at the north end of the Mazatzal Wilderness, and then west following the Verde River. This acreage spans across several counties and sums up an area roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. If you include the Mingus Mountain range, Jerome, and the Prescott area you could add Delaware to the Arizona Emerald Triangle’s combined total acreage.

Few growers knew each other even though they might be working in an adjacent canyon, and in some cases growers were discovered to be planting patches in the same canyon many miles apart with entirely different access points. Busts eventually ensued because of loose lips and big egos, but our canyon and several more never had a hitch. One grower I knew had a small group from a Sedona hiking club pass right through his weed garden high up in a Mingus Mountain canyonette. Though taken by surprise, he sat the elder hikers down and told them what he was doing and why. They promised not to spill the beans and he continued to finish his season and bring in the harvest, a feat that totally amazed the rest of the guerrilla growers that knew about his odd experience. What can you say? Man, he had some serious Mojo and was crazy to boot. Hats off to him!