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Davus402

Arizona Trip

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 Hopefully I'm not putting a jinx on myself, but only one week until I head out to Arizona. My work may put a hold on plans, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This will be only a week long adventure and I plan to stay mostly in the southeast part of the state, but it will give me a chance to get the Xterra broken in. I have a few places in mind such as exploring and camping in the Chiricahua mountains. I also would like to go on the Black Hills Backcountry Byway and head up to Alpine ( I want to try Blue Crossing campground). Anyway, if anyone has any suggestions on other places to go (or avoid) let me know. 

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I have not been down to the Chiricahuas since the big fire a few years ago. It is my understanding that large portions of the high country were pretty much devastated. The 1st photo taken by a friend of mine is of one of the campgrounds that have re-opened. Down that way, I think that I would take the time to visit Camp Rucker, an 1800’s era Army camp that is in the process of being restored. I would also suggest at least a drive through Chiricahua National Monument with its spectacular rock formations. Off the beaten track and involving a hike of 2 ½ miles would be a trek to an old marble mine at the northern end of the range.

The Black Hills Backcountry Byway is the old road from Safford to Morenci. The historical highlights of that area are the miles of linear rock formations installed by the CCC boys for erosion control. You will also cross the roadbed of the old Morenci Southern Railroad. A  4 x 4/walking side trip off the Byway would be down to Gillard Hot Springs and an old water wheel(3rd and 4th photos). The springs on the bank of the Gila River are Arizona’s hottest at 180 degrees.

Off of Highway 191 north of Morenci, I would suggest a drive down the Juan Miller Road to the site of the old Fritz Ranch on the banks of the Blue River(photo5). When I was there a few years ago, the ranch buildings were still in excellent condition. The scenery on the short 4 x 4 road to the ranch is spectacular(photo 6).

Once up on the rim, there are quite a few hiking possibilities to old fire towers etc. One longer hike of about 3.5 miles is down to an old homestead  Saunders Cabin (photo 7). As far as the drive down to the Blue River Campground, I would suggest driving down the “Red Hill Road” from Highway 191 from west to east. That way the great views are ahead of you instead of being at your back. The last time that I was by that campground area several years ago, it seems that the sites were very muddy. Do not remember if it was from the rain or a recent flooding of the river. You may hear/see the transplanted Grey Wolves in this area!

Until the recent fires in the Alpine area, I would have suggested a drive up onto Escudilla Mountain and a hike to the fire tower up that way. It is my understanding that area was devastated by the fire…… I will be up in the area northwest of Alpine next weekend. Am expecting very cool temps and a lot of rain!  Have a great trip!

 

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Thanks. The water wheel looks interesting. I'll put that down as a possible. I visited the Chiricahuas the year of the fire. The fire was only about 10 miles away. I climbed Sugarloaf mountain that year.

I went back the next year and did the same climb.

 I camped at the Upper Juan Miller last year. I think I will do it again, I didn't know about the ranch, I'll give that a shot as well. I also will try your suggestion for road to the Blue campground. I may head into New Mexico from Blue, just not sure yet. Thanks again for the tips. If I don't get to them this trip I have another one next spring.

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The water wheel in the photo is not the one shown on topo maps or the Delorme Gazetteer. The one in the photo is much closer to Gillard Hot Springs. I do not know if it is typo error on the maps or whether there may be another wheel......As far as your exit into New Mexico from Blue, I would recommend the drive out through Blue Vista etc to south of Reserve rather than heading north up to Alpine. Although it is normally a good graded road, it can be very slippery when wet!

 

If you are not familiar with that section of New Mexico, a nice loop trip on back roads is one from Reserve east to Snow Lake and back down through the old town of Mogollon. At Glenwood, there is the catwalk to be seen on Whitewater Creek. An alternate routing from Reserve is on the highway northeast past the VLA Radiotelescope Array on Highway 60.

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 We were discussing the catwalk yesterday at work. I have never been, but plan to stop on the way back. I am a little worried about muddy roads. The Xterra has satilite weather with radar so that will be a help. I think just being careful overall will help more. A friend of mine father was born in Mogollon, I am thinking of stopping by. 

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Even if you are able to get to only a few of the sites on your list, it should still be a great trip! I have really enjoyed the times that I have spent in the country to either side of Highway 191 north of Morenci! BTW, are you carrying any extra fuel with you? Having a few gallons to pour in could sure extend your range....On the Arizona side north of Morenci there may be gas at Hannagan Meadow. Alpine would be the surest source, but may not be on your route. In New Mexico, there may be gas in Reserve. A few years ago, there was a convenience store with fuel at Alma. It was also available in Glenwood. I think that was about it............

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It appears that the area around Mogollon was severely damaged in flooding that occurred last year. Highway 159 which was the paved road into the town seems to have only partially re-opened to high clearance 4 x 4 vehicles. The catwalk structures may still be closed due to the damage that they sustained. It may be  worthwhile to do more research before heading that way...........

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 I won't be taking any extra gas this trip, I haven't had the time (or money) to outfit the Xterra. I plan to do that this winter. I did check the Gila Forest site and right now only the picnic area is open. The catwalk itself is still closed. The forecast for the Alpine area is calling for an 80% chance of rain on the day I plan to be there. I will keep my plans flexible. I may go up to the VLA and cut down through the town of Lincoln (been through several times never stopped) on my way home. The real trick it to get home and avoid the oilfield traffic. South east New Mexico is bad with it as is the area of Texas I live in. So far work hasn't said anything about me having to cancel...... as of 2 pm tomorrow they are out of luck. 

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 Ok, finally off for vacation.... at least a short one. Tomorrow it is wash the Xterra, get everything loaded, and Sunday it is off to Arizona. Lots of pictures (two cameras), no arguments ( I rarely argue with myself ), and best of all lots of relaxation ( I need it for they have me doing three jobs at work). 

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  I made it back safely. I didn't get to make all the stops I planned, the rain put a stop to that. Here are some pictures of the trip.

 The ghost town of Granite Gap. Was a tourist stop till 2006 when sold to new owner. Now off limits.

 

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Monday I headed out from Bisbee to look for Fort Rucker. 

 I took forest road 74 from Hwy 191. At the first bridge I got out to get some pictures and was circled by a border patrol copter. After a couple of passes they went on to better things.

Lots of recent rain greened up the forest nicely.

Just before the second Rucker Camp I found this waterfall.

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After not finding the fort I backed tracked on 74 to hwy 181 and went north to forest road 42 to go over the Chiricahuas to Portal. 

 The scenery was beautiful even with the fire damage.

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 After reaching Portal I drove back to Bisbee and called it a day.

 Tuesday called for an 80% chance of rain, I decided to chance it and take Middlemarch road from Tombstone to Pierce.

Again awesome scenery.

 Call me chicken but I didn't want to be caught in a monsoon in an unfamiliar area so I made a rather quick trip over the Dragoons. 

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After getting to Pierce I decided to head down to Courtland and Gleeson.

 

Looks to be some new mining going on at Pierce

Courtland jail

Courtland sidewalk.

Walking up towards the mines I found more foundations.

Ventilation pipe for mine?

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I spent an couple of hours walking around Courtland.

More foundations.

 Anyone know why the ground here is discolored?

Foundations.

Nasty pond.

Rock store. 

After Courtland I headed back to Bisbee just in time for a good storm to hit.

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Wednesday I decided to head back to Rucker camp to spend the night. This time I took 74 from the east because I now knew where to look for Fort Rucker.

The road in started out nice. The first water crossing was the only spot that I needed 4WD. It was badly washed out. Sorry no pictures of it.

Most of the forest roads were rather nice, however a few spots were high clearance.

I know I'm close.

The grass was very tall and no sign of a trail.

I know I'm on the right track, but can't find a trail.

I can see some ruins, but behind a fence.

So close. I still can't find a way to them.

I finally gave up and went on to the camp site.

 

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I finally sat up camp. I'm the only one here.

I chose a high spot because again 80% chance of rain.

Stream just behind camp.

Quiet and peaceful.

After I had set up camp a game warden stopped by. We talked for a while and he told me how to get back to the buildings at the fort. In the morning I will make a third attempt.

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During the night it rained, but Thursday started out with blue sky.

The blue sky did not last. Clouds and rain were moving in.

The streams were running as well.

I knew I did not have much time till the heavy stuff hit.

I found my way in, but with the rain I cut the visit short.

Ranch house.

Hospital sign.

Trying to get closer.

Rain getting worse.

I finally decided I was getting soaked and it was time to go.

More streams.

Raining good now, I made it out though.

Since the forecast was not getting better I decided to head for home. I plan to hit the areas I missed next year. It was a good trip and the new X Terra did very well.

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That looks like a nice trip, how are you liking the new ride? I don't blame you, I wouldn't chance a monsoon either. That campground looked nice, how many spots do they have available there? I am not sure about the discolored ground, could it have been a previous fire pit? Awesome photos, thanks for sharing your trip with us. :)

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 Thanks. The Xterra is a great vehicle, I'm liking it more every day. I need to get some rock sliders for it. The rockerpanels got pretty chipped up. Camp Rucker has 13 sites.... actually there are two Camp Rucker sites. The first one is a group site about 5 miles west of the site I was at. There is also another campground, Cypress Park between the two. All three sites were empty except for me. Talk about isolation, it was great. I wish I was a better photographer I just snap pictures as I go. They never do the subjects justice. The trip was great I had a great time, the best part now is I get to plan next springs vacation.

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I think you took some fantastic photos David! That sounds like a nice place to camp. I need to make it down to Arizona.

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