Sunday, July 27, 2008

Up in the Sierra Ancha's looking for some space

“We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning to the phrase to live like men.” -Edward Abby

This weekend I am going to go find some empty space. Not the kind where you think you might be out there alone but the kind that you know you are out there alone. Well alone to me is really not totally alone. It seems that Nick who joined me last week wants to head out one more time and this week, another friend from the office also would like to tag along.

Up early, I prep the Mr. G and am excited because he has new bump stops in the back which should make the ride a lot smoother in the back country. We are heading for the Sierra Anchas today which makes me think of a part of Arizona that few even know about. Nestled to the North East of Globe, the area is mostly desert with some Riparian streams that will be running this time of year because of the monsoon season. This will be tricky because storms even 40 miles away could impact the streams we are crossing and thus cause some flash floods. Nothing like a little risk to keep the juices flowing they say

Johny C is waiting for me when I arrive in the parking lot to pick him up. John actually got to play for a few days in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this year. So I am not worried about him taking some risks.

Nick arrives, with breakfast, and we set off down the road to Globe. The conversation is wonderful since John has me laughing at the silliest of things in the car. We decide that since I filled the Mr. G up with gas that John and Nick will pay for the next two stops. But there is dissension already for who will pay for the next tank?

Being grown men, they decide to use a proven method to determine the payer. John wins and in a bold moves, pays for this next tank of gas!

After getting some additional food we head down AZ 288 towards the town of Young Arizona. This road will also be part of the adventure we are going to have in August, so I am taking some time now to scout it out.

The old bridge over the Salt River just above the dam is someplace I love to stop. I will someday explore the area up river from here, but it needs to cool down some before I go hiking up it.

Photo By Nick Purzer
The weather is great and I am loving being outside for while. The new Monopod is turning into a great walking stick and the Mr. G is as usual always happy to get his tires into the dirt.

Remember to always watch children around water. Even ones over 30.

There are a lot of egrets summering here and I may have to spend some more time photographing them when I come back in August

We press on up the road and start to climb out of the desert. About a 4 miles into this, the Mr. G's AT Oil temp light comes up and we can smell fluid. HHMMMMMMMM I just had him in this week to have that checked as well as putting in the new bump stop. We decide to turn back down the hill and no sooner do we roll about a hundred yards, but the light goes off . Now we decide that we will go in the back way and ride a little while to see if there is any issue. I have stop leak and transmission fluid as well as tools so any minor problem can be dealt with. We didn't come all this way to go home. The Mr. G seems to be doing fine and we press on for about 10 miles and then stop to take a look to see if we are leaking still.

The good news is that we can't see any leaking, there is no smell of transmission fluid, and the fluid dipstick shows full. I make the call to move out again and head into the back country and Nick and John agree. I also take note that there is a big storm building, but for now it is downhill and to the South making it now threat.

A little Worthy Universe History Lesson:

Phoenix really took off during World War II. One of the main war training areas for new pilots was Phoenix. Airports like Williams Gateway, Scottsdale, Deer Valley and Mesa's Falcon Field all started out as training bases for the US Army Air Corps (this is pre US Air force remember). Well out in the desert East of Phoenix they built a lot of remote runways to land. They made these using big strips of steel that were full of holes. These same portable runways were used in remote jungles in the Pacific, and in Europe to make airfields capable of handling the planes of that era.

So why do I mention that here? Well after the war when the planes were all gone and training ceased a lot of these fields were abandoned. But the steel for those runways was used by the local ranchers.

Here you can see some of the runway sections used to make a cattle Loading ramp out in the middle of the desert.

Pretty cool stuff even almost 65 years later.

The engineer in Nick takes over. Before long he has John convinced he can automate the whole loading process.

Photo By Nick Purzer
Though I secretly think John is thinking about how many head he would need to be a cattle baron.

This area has these lush oasis in the middle of the desert that are fed by streams from the North. In the middle of summer you still have running water coming through and it is really beautiful. This is Coon Creek

Photo by Nick Purzer
Eventually we reach the goal of the day, Cherry Creek and the water is flowing pretty strongly. This crossing was actually very benign to some that we will face later today.

I need the tires washed anyway.

Photo By Nick Purzer
The Mr G is running like a champ again.

This old house is the last building we will see for a while. We will not see another car for the next 3 hours as we enter the back country. The Storm beyond the house is uphill from us and I will be watching it fully in between driving a road that has some serious obstacles on it.

How can I describe the road or better yet track that we decide to head down. The road in Colorado that I took in the jeeps had some big drop offs, but the road was 100 times better then this one. It also had about 100 times more traffic so if something did go bad, you had someone to help. Here we are on our own and the road has some pretty amazing topography changes.

About 4 miles into it we pass a ranch and have to cross Cherry Creek. This crossing is a lot bigger then the the others and we set off with little hesitation. About 2/3rds across, John mentions that the water is at the bottom of the body of the trooper. I am not watching anything else but the tach and the opposite shore. We get through this OK but I now have my A game on and know that we have to be really conscious of the time and the fact that around any corner the road could be washed out. I decide without saying anything that if we don't make the other side in 2 hours, I am going to turn back since I know I can get out that way. Nick and John also note that I get a little quiet as we drive. John has us smiling though as he calculates how long it will take the Mr. G to fall 500 ft down the mountain

Photo by Nick Purzer

About an hour into the ride Nick asks us to stop for a minute. He needs some air. The road here is in a spot that I felt good enough to stop in.

There are a lot of rock slides and areas where the road is a little narrower then the Trooper. We make it through this with no issues though a few times it is pretty tight. Again the really ugly ones I didn't stop to take pictures.

NEXT 3 Shots by Nick Purzer

Our first real obstruction comes about 14 miles in when we get to an area where the road has been washed away by the stream. You have to think of riding on a side of a mountain like following a series of connected S turns. At the Outer corner, you will find a lot of boulders washed down from the hillside make the road treacherous. On the Inside corners there are usually creeks and streams that have eroded the road. Along with that the road tends to drop down towards the middle of the corner and erosion here can make for some interesting scenarios.

Remember that the Mr. G is a pretty big SUV. In this shot he looks little but you can see how deep the hole is.

The one great thing about Isuzu's is that they have a lot of low end power. He climbs up this hill like he was on level ground.

As we pass through an outside corner, I notice a Sign sitting up the hill a few feet and we decide to stop. The road is getting better and the storms are not as threatening which puts me at ease too. I leave the Mr G running but we get out and discover that the area is full of Cliff dwellings. Nick and John use my scope to try and find some.

This is what they are looking at.

Soon enough we are leaving the valley and the ciff side road and making our way into the forest and are only miles away from AZ 288 and the road into Young. We all are feeling both relief and I am really feeling good about the fact that I can still drive tracks in the back country and that I got the other guys through.

You can see the valley here we came up. Or at least a lot of it. I will go back there again and explore some more in the Fall as I am sure that the leaves turning there will be spectacular

As we get to the top of the road, I offer the guys two choices, we can head back down the hill on 288, have lunch in the pines somewhere or my vote is to go right into Young and have a beer at the bar. Not that my nerves need a beer, it just sounds good right now. The vote is unanimous.

As we ride into Young, I tell the guys about the Range Wars and odd past of this place. I have been here many times and it is really a different world.

Things are never what they seem in Young. It is the closest thing Arizona has to Alaska I bet. Young had no electricity or phones until the early 1960's. And all the roads into town are dirt.

The locals seem friendly enough....

But looks don't always tell the whole story.

The little guy looks pretty well fed.

We decide that even if we were to make it past the carnivorous Equines, there are other issues to deal with. So we decide to just go to the bar. At least we know we will be in our element there.

(EDITORIAL NOTE) To a certain English friend, I did not take any pictures of horses. Only Asses, ponies and a Mule. Therefore the horse photograph embargo still is in effect (End EDITORIAL NOTE)

The boys find the bar and we all head in for a cold one.

The only beer that seems appropriate for these parts.

Sometimes you don't even see it coming....

I don't think there is anything newer then 1973 in the Juke Box which is fine with me

Though some of the things seem a bit well out there for me. I tell the boys we better make tracks back down or we won't get home before midnight.

We drive on down the mountain and stop again at the bridge just as the sun is getting to the magic hour.

The Egrets are still looking for that meal

Photo by Nick Purzer
There may be a sign here saying no Loitering, but is taking pictures really Loitering?

I come back to the car to find the two yahoos looking intently across the river. To their Left...

I am sure I am going to be the guy that finally captures a Darwin Award winner in action. But at the last moment, the kid hangs on and his pals talk him out of it. Oh well.

As we make our way out of the area, the AT Oil light shows up and this time it stays on. The Mr. G, who got us through the harshest of the back country has a cooking tranny again. The Fluid isn't the issue and we are now being forced to wait for the transmission to cool after every big climb on the highway. We are lucky though since traffic is light and there are some big trailers and boats on the highway which allows us to go slow.

I feel like a man with a lame horse. I know he will be good as new, and the bottom line is he got us all back to Phoenix. I will post a short update once I hear from my guys in the shop next week. All in all though a most worthy weekend trip.

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