Questions, Answers And Surprises: The Mineral Mountains Revisited 5-8-11

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This trip we had a mission. Our last ride in this area left us with a couple of unanswered questions. First, was there a way around the roughest stretch I’ve ever experienced; where the road is a cascade of boulders? Maybe. And second, could Ralph have continued on a side road that turned into an almost vertical massive rock? I say no, he says yes. We just had to find out.

We parked the truck just south of Hwy 60 at the Magma Mine Road, about 5 miles east of Superior.  There is active mining in this area. The Resolution Copper project is a few miles to the west at the site of the old Magma Mine. A gate and guard station prevents access to the operation. There are many branches off the main road. Most of these are used by either miners or ranchers. We came upon two or three sites where there was actually drilling in progress. Guys were there working on a Sunday! Several other sites had seen recent activity noted by the capped off pipes used for core samples and ground water testing. We passed the side road that would take us to the giant rock that stopped us last time. On the way back we would go check it out.

After the last trip, Ralph took a look at the map and concluded there should be a turnoff somewhere before the really bad stretch that would be a way around it. We decided to take the one that was right at the base. It was a fairly good road with a couple of “gates” that were dead fallen Century Plants. We were able to push one up over us as we drove under it but I needed to get out to move another one out of our path. Our detour connected us to the main road as we thought it would, near the top of the rough stuff. First question answered.

There was more excitement in store for us on this ride. At one point the road went from kind of well-traveled to not so well-traveled. I started to get concerned when we were leaning pretty badly. I’m pretty sure we were close to tipping over.  And I was on the downhill side, which is scarier for me than the uphill side. I’m not sure why. The one time we actually did tip over, I was on the uphill side. I think it has to do with the thought of being close to the ground and possibly pinned. I assessed the situation. In this case if we were to roll, we’d probably go over three or four times and end up in the ravine as bruised human pin cushions. This was a category 3 level of concern for me (on my scale of 1-3) this is when I get out! We walked up ahead and surveyed the road. We decided not to continue. Hmm. The RZR was leaning badly. How do we turn it around on the side of a hill? Then Ralph looked at me and said casually “Ok, you need to drive.” “HUH??” I have to admit I was a bit shaky, really! But this kind of stuff excites me. It’s the risk part of the 4wd experience. And I have the utmost confidence in Ralph’s skill and experience in these situations; I just don’t have that much confidence in mine! But apparently he does, so there you go. I got behind the wheel, put on my seat belt, clipped on the side safety net, stepped on the brake and started her up. He told me exactly what to do and I did it. He pushed and held and sort of helped me stay upright while I did the turn-around thing. I was awesome if I do say so myself!

Our route back took us down a different road than we had used as our detour. This one took us through a canyon that had spectacular stacked and balancing rocks for walls. We drove by some really big chunks that I know had fallen off from up above and rolled down. I couldn’t help thinking about what I would do if a boulder decided to tip from its perch and come my way. It would be incredible to see one fall. I hope I do someday! I decided they probably get dislodged when it storms. Wind and rain might do the trick. Maybe the earth shakes a tiny bit every now and then. Some are so precariously balanced I don’t think it would take much. I hoped the RZR noise and vibration wouldn’t be all one of them needed to relocate. Then we saw something really amazing! Ralph pointed to the road ahead where a  big blue lizard scurried across right in front of us. Ralph switched off the engine and I hopped out fumbling to turn on the camera. I hate snakes and I don’t really like lizards, but the Gila Monster in the Goldfields and this blue one here, were pretty darn cool. He was absolutely gorgeous! A blue-green spotted body and gold head with two black stripes on his neck. He was probably 18” in length including his very long tail. He proudly displayed himself on a rock at the side of the road and watched me as I slowly inched closer snapping a picture after each step. He let me get within about four feet before having enough of me and disappearing into the brush. I’ve never seen a lizard like that in all my years camping, hiking and backpacking. My brother, Harry, told me it was a Collared Lizard. He is an avid outdoorsman and said he’s only seen one in all his time spent in the Arizona wilderness- at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! Amazing!

Another side road took us to a capped off drilling site where we parked and took a short hike to a beautiful viewpoint above Devil’s Canyon. On our last trip we saw a couple who said they were on their way to do some rock climbing. Devil’s Canyon is a spectacular canyon with incredible towering rock pillars. I would never even think of climbing them. Anyhow, there was one more question that needed an answer.

Ralph recently installed a spare tire and extra roll bar mount on the rear of the quad. This rock was so steep and the extra weight on the back made it feel like we might flip vertically. He said we wouldn’t. As much as I like being right, there are times when it’s ok if I’m wrong. I decided to stay inside this time while we crawled up the rock. This was only a category 2 level of concern because there was no canyon to roll down into. We’d probably only go over once. And there was nothing around that would poke me. Scary but fun! I leaned forward and held on to my handle. We made it of course. Ralph smirked a little and I let him. The road continued as switchbacks that would end up on top of a ridge. We passed by a rusty pick-up that evidently got terminally stuck. When you get stuck out there…good luck. Second question answered.

The rest of the trip back to our truck was exploration on some side roads. At one point we were riding on part of the old US60. I’m especially fond of that old highway. Someday I’d like to follow it where it still exists and where we can get to it. After we loaded the quad up on the trailer and headed out we cruised through some old hilly neighborhoods of Globe and browsed a couple of Miami antique stores. This trip had everything. I consider it nothing other than a privilege to be experiencing Arizona with my husband, my companion, my best friend. I get to do it and then I get to write about it. How cool is that? I thank God for this gift. I am truly blessed and truly happy.

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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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