Explore Arizona I
November 19-27, 2011
By Mal Roode
Three of us met in Indio and the rest joined at Ehrenburg, Arizona. In attendance were Neal and Marian Johns, Emmett Harder, Glenn Shaw. Charles and Mary Hughes, Mal Roode and Scott Roode. Saturday evening we camped in a beautiful wash near a lot of very nice petroglyphs. Sunday we started out looking at the petroglyphs and then crossed the Gillespie Bridge.
We meandered over to the Oatman Massacre site, and Neal showed us about 5 or 6 “go-ups” where, in the 1800’s, the U.S. Army and other pioneers constructed roads to climb up out of the Gila River. As one road became impassable, they built another. We could see ruts made by the wagon wheels in the rock beds of some of these go-ups. We hiked to the Oatman grave site and then drove a short distance for lunch. After lunch we took a short hike to a tinaja with more petroglyphs. It was very hard to hike over boulders here but on the way back we found a nice trail. I think it might have been the same trail the Indians made and used hundreds of years ago. Sunday night we camped in a nice dry lake spot near the Fourr family cemetery.
On Monday morning we went to Painted Rock which is a large isolated rock pile with hundreds of inscriptions and petroglyphs. This is a fee area and for $2 you can camp or visit. Then we proceeded to Eloy, Arizona for the cheapest gas of the trip, $3.09. We then headed north for a stop at Casa Grande Ruins. This is a Federal site (a national monument) and for $5.00 it was pretty interesting. We headed out near Superior, Arizona, went south on Perlite Road where Neal showed us deep, impressive wagon ruts from the 1800’s. These were wagons loaded with mine ore and you could see where they stuck a pole in holes in the center of the ruts and leveraged the wagons up the hill. Then we climbed a challenging hill, then down and back up to where there was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet. We could look down on tall cottonwoods that looked like they were 2 inches tall because they were so far down below. Next stop were Indian rock shelters that were still partially intact. After that, we went across the highway to find the grave of Mattie Earp at Pinal City Cemetery. We had trouble finding it but came upon a local that Emmett made a deal with to show us the cemetery in exchange for some beer. The sun was getting pretty low so we set up camp only about a 1/4 mile or so north of the cemetery.
Tuesday we headed into Box Canyon with plans of seeing the Coke Ovens. Box Canyon had lots of big rocks that we had to try to get over or around. It was pretty narrow and difficult at times, but at the same time beautiful! Then we started up Martinez Spring Trail. I have some advice for you - DON'T TRY THIS TRAIL! After a mile or so there was a call on the CB from Mary Hughes. She says, ”We're in trouble and we need assistance!” So I parked and walked back. They were still in their camper, mostly on the road, but both right wheels were off the road by about two feet. There was nothing stopping them from going right down a steep drop-off. When everyone got there we started building the area under their right tires up with large rocks and trenching out a "path" for the wheels on the left side so they could get back up on the hard road. It was very hard to work on the right side as it was a very steep hill where we had to stack the large rocks. It was also difficult to stay on your feet without sliding down the hill! After an hour or so we saw a vehicle coming in the distance. At first it was so far away it looked like a quad but after looking through my 300mm telephoto lens I could see it was a Jeep! And it had a WINCH on the front! He was not coming up the trail we were on but I started flashing SOS on my flashlight, not knowing if he could see it in the daylight. But he did see us and helped us out with his winch that worked beautifully. In no time, Charles and Mary were back on hard ground.
Well, from here it got worse and some of us decided not to go any further. Neal, Marian and Glenn shortly decided to turn around too. It was 1:00 p.m. and we were hungry as well, and several of us had some frazzled nerves. It was at this point I captured a video where it looks like Marian was close to tipping over. I posted this video to YouTube and it’s called “Marian Descending” and you can find it by searching that title or going to my YouTube page “KF6GZH.” Although it took us 4 hours to get to this point, after a 30-minute lunch break we were back out of Box Canyon by 2:30 p.m. We then met Emmett at the museum in Florence. (He did not try Box Canyon with us.) He arranged a guided tour of this museum which is very large with lots of exhibits including the gallows trap door from Florence Penitentiary and the framed nooses that hung prisoners with their photo in the center of the noose. Then we headed for camp which was right next to Queen Creek Wash near Hewitt Canyon.
Wednesday morning Marian and Emmett headed back to California so only five vehicles were left. Neal said that the route we were taking was one I suggested! It started out so beautiful - gorgeous mountain peaks with saguaro cactus on the slopes. We stopped several times for pictures. The trail was a loop and we climbed higher and higher until we were near the top around 5400 feet. Some spots were very steep with medium size rocks to get over. Then we hear on the CB our fearless leader say, "OH CRAP!" (not something I want to hear after our winch session yesterday). I say, “Crap what”? and Neal responds with “Oh nothing - just looking at where this road goes.” Well, I get up there and the road ahead was just a little ribbon of road cut into the mountain side, very narrow and kind of sloping towards the 5400 ft drop off with washouts (to the drop off side of course). I was real glad to finally get off that loop trail, but it took us most of the day. Next we headed over to Apache Junction for gas and after that we started out on Apache Trail (Highway 88); that night we camped right off Apache Trail just past Tortilla Flats. The highway was noisy but I heard no vehicles while I slept.
Thanksgiving morning we continued east on Apache Trail and pretty soon the pavement ended. This is a very beautiful drive, and you don't need 4-wheel drive. You can see for miles and the trail goes over old one lane bridges. The views are many and varied with so many colors and lots of lake views off to the left. We finally ended up at Roosevelt Dam, and then continued north on 188 over a beautiful suspension bridge. We were looking for our next trail back to the west, but accidently passed it up and were doing a U-turn when Scott's Jeep died, never to be restarted again. So, we had it towed to a repair shop in Payson and the remaining three vehicles continued on without us. Since it was Thanksgiving, no parts stores were open; we had to wait until Saturday when the part finally arrived. The problem had something to do with the "camshaft position sensor circuit.”
This was an awesome trip and a HUGE Thank You goes to Neal Johns for putting this together. The Arizona desert is so beautiful, it was my first time there but I am sure I will go back!
Addendum to Explore Arizona
By Neal Johns
After we left Mal and Scott to die, we returned to the trailhead and found our way to Carefree. It was nearing dark so your fearful leader started looking for a camping spot several miles out of town on Camp Creek Road. Eureka! I saw a bare spot on the right and we all set up camp there. Some wise guy asked why we didn’t camp on the other side of the road where there was a pooper in a primitive campground I hadn’t seen. I won’t take him on any more trips! Cutting over to the Table Mesa Trail, we traveled along the New River (dry) for several miles (very scenic!) and ended up on pavement for the end of the trip. Anyone that says I got lost on the way home is dead.
Check out the photos taken by Mal Roode