Crown King Chili Cook Off: None As Good As Ralph’s 4-16-11

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First, I want to say that Ralph’s chili is the absolute best chili I’ve ever had. Yes, I am his head cheerleader and that’s how it should be. But honestly, his chili is the best!

As I mentioned in my story about the muggled geocache trip on 4-17, that was our first trip without helmets since we bought them in December. Well, this trip was our last one wearing them. The chili tasting was to begin at around noon in Crown King. So we got to our truck parking location north of Lake Pleasant by 8am. It was already so warm that we considered going helmetless but decided to wear them anyway. We have a really nice intercom system and we just weren’t quite ready to give up the easy communication and dust protection features. It was a bit unsettling for me to see that there were a bunch of other RZRs, quads, jeeps and other 4wheeling vehicles ready to set out on our road to Crown King. I’ve also mentioned in past blogs that the fewer people I see, the happier I am. Well, let’s just say I could have been happier. So off we went.

The road from the parking lot to Crown King is about 30 miles long. Somewhere in the first 5 miles we headed east on a side road that goes to a geocache that we placed on a trip in Aug 2010 called “A Beautiful Thing”. By the time we got back on the main road there were so many people that I just had to accept that this trip was on a popular road on an event weekend. One thing that puzzled me: Why, especially on a busy weekend such as this, would anyone stop their vehicles right smack dab in the middle of the road? To just chat? A curious side note: all of these groups were men. And there were a bunch of them!! (Kind of like the shopping-cart-in-the-middle-of-the-aisle thing at the grocery store. Ladies, you know what I mean!) I noticed that the few groups that pulled OFF the road had at least one woman with them. Hmm. Men are such a wonderful mystery! Anyhow, I decided to just go with it as part of the community off-road experience and have a great time.

I remembered the road being fairly rough and rocky pretty much the whole way but we were pleased to find the last maybe 10 miles had been widened and graded. On our trip in August ‘10, it rained the entire time. This may have made the road especially difficult to navigate and I definitely remember doing some road-building. Ralph and I agreed that the road improvements were probably mine related. We asked the shopkeeper in the Crown King General Store about the grading and he said the US Forest Service wanted better access for safety vehicles to get into the area.

Crown King was crowded even with our early arrival of 11am. We walked around a bit, checking out a little museum with old photos and relics, before heading to the Saloon where the event was set up outdoors. The cost was $15 per person for chili tasting and unlimited beer. There were about 12 entries. Big pots of chili, keeping warm on stoves, were set up on folding tables. Most people brought small paper cups and spoons to serve up their secret recipes. Some of the entrants even offered crackers or chopped onions and shredded cheese. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and everyone was having a great time. We stayed about an hour and then decided to head on back.

The plan was a circle trip, (which I love- new sites the whole time!) so we took Senator’s Highway north out of town. I love the Bradshaw Mountains for their beauty but also for their history. The mountain range is littered with very interesting rock formations and lots of mine sites. We were headed for a turn off that takes you by an old resort called Castle Hot Springs. Opening in 1896, many famous people vacationed there and some often enough to have their own bungalows built, including:  The Wrigleys, Vanderbilts, Weinberg’s, Rockefellers and even Zane Grey. I have heard that President John F. Kennedy was also a resort guest. Reportedly, sometime during the 20’s or 30’s the resort installed the first telephone in Arizona. The phone number was “1”. A fire in 1976 shut down the resort. Now only a caretaker lives there, maintaining the several still standing original buildings. The Hot Springs area is a really cool sight to see just smack in the middle of the desert. The hundreds of palm trees and the huge manicured green lawn look oddly out of place.

There were a couple of geocaches we hunted for before we got back to the truck. It was a great trip. Rides like this make me feel blessed to live in Arizona where we have so much incredible scenery and exciting history within our reach. And I am honored and lucky to be with someone who wants to see it all and take me with him. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing what I love with who I love.

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About Ellen

A native Arizonan, who grew up camping and backpacking all over Arizona. My husband and I share a love for the spectacular Arizona landscape and rich history. We are passionate about spending our weekends exploring in our RZR. Backcountry driving combines my love of the outdoors with the thrill of experiencing my husband's expert four-wheeling skills on challenging terrain!
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