I Shall Call My Masterpiece…Rock. Rawhide Canyon 1-15-12

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There aren’t very many places that I will agree to go riding during the winter. Even with my helmet, sitting in a moving vehicle with no windshield, doors or roof, is pretty chilly. We won’t venture too far north and even though some of the southern mountains are low enough, they are a good drive away. Luckily, nearby and spectacular, are the mountains  around Superior and Globe. The scenery and history of this area, to me, is the best Arizona has to offer. It’s really  exciting to go down roads that are new to us and explore new areas. But there is a feeling I get, a comfortable familiarity, when we go back to a place we have been before, and in this case, many times before.

A couple of miles past the Magma Mine road just as you come out of Queen Creek Canyon, there is an unmarked road to the right. We park the truck just off the highway to the side of the road. It’s steep and not a great place to park, but it works! This road has lots of short side branches that usually end at a miner’s test sites. On our last trip, people were actively mining. Gear was here and there, trucks, guys and water tanks strewn over this area. This time the area was deserted. It’s interesting to revisit places and see how things have changed. As much as I love a dirt road in the wilderness giving me a path into the Arizona outback, I hate seeing what I consider unnecessary road cutting. I guess in order to transport huge mining equipment through the mountains to the site they need wide and level roads. I get it but I don’t like it.

As we drove deeper into the mountains, the improved road turned back into the rough and rocky stuff that is typical in that area. The rocks that line the canyons in the Superior/Globe area are so unusual. They are huge chunky blobs stacked precariously on top of each other. Balancing boulders are everywhere. And they aren’t just large rocks sitting by the side of the road. They are house-sized chunks stacked on top of each other, towering hundreds of feet skyward. It’s truly amazing to me that they exist. I am in awe and wonder as we drive past them. I can’t take my eyes off of them. It truly is unbelievable that they are there! Our pictures don’t do them justice. Unless you are there, you can’t grasp the size of these rocks. As we drove by them, Ralph and I discussed how we thought they were created and why they stand as they do. All I know for sure is that God made them and put them there. He is The Ultimate Artist. Incredible!

Past the rock towers we continued on our loop. South of Superior is a huge pit mine. We drove towards it on this trip and were hoping to get to a vantage point where we could see it before our path took us to the east and then north back to the highway. We took a couple of side roads off to our right that took us into really pretty country, but disappointedly they both ended with no views of the mine. Our last trip on this road was March 13, 2011, the day after our wedding. We placed a geocache on that trip, called “Two become One”. Awwwww that’s so sweet! Yeah. So anyway, we were now nearing the location of that cache. It is an absolutely beautiful canyon area with rock spires and structures nearby.

After confirming our geocache “Link To Geocache” was still there and snapping our traditional “couples shot” with our camera, we continued east for a bit then north towards a rock gulch that is the site of some awesome petroglyphs. There are two ways to get up to it, one goes around the side of a hill and I remembered that last time we were there a part of the road was washed out.  It was one of those spots where I decide that I need to get out of the car and let him drive over it by himself (so I’m still alive to call for rescue!) or I am completely against our attempting it. I can remember every one of the areas on past trips where I was scared enough to say “nope, I’m not doing that.” When we came to that particular spot this time we crossed over it just fine (but we did lean a bit). This time we were going the other direction and Ralph was on the downhill side. For some reason, I’m quite a bit more nervous if I am on the downhill side. Anyhow, onward to the petroglyphs!  Last time we were there, we stayed in the quad and just peered down at them. I don’t remember why we didn’t get out. But this time we parked, snatched up the camera and made our way down to the drawings. This gully is a gigantic solid rock. Water has carved a path leaving smooth walls on both sides that is the perfect canvas for native Arizonans to draw their pictures. There were a few maybe 3ft deep pools with clear water, the kind of pools I would have wanted to swim in as a child hiking in Arizona with my dad. Today I wasn’t too interested in swimming being that it was pretty darn cold and starting to rain but we took lots of pictures and enjoyed the area immensely.

The rest of the ride was a pretty smooth road back to the highway, a very familiar road that we had been on several times. Even though it was late afternoon by then, it was quite a bit colder than when we started out and it was raining. Not hard enough for us to put on our rain gear but increasingly uncomfortable. About this time was ready to be back at our truck. Arriving at the highway meant the last leg of the trip driving the RZR on the highway for about 5 miles, with cars and trucks that were supposed to be driving there. Luckily, I was pretty cold and concentrating on that so I wasn’t as concerned as I normally would be driving in a small open vehicle at 50mph on a winding and steep highway with crazies barreling around and past us at 65+. Last time we drove this highway portion in March of last year, the quad hood panel flew off twice. There is pretty much no shoulder on that road so we couldn’t stop immediately and even when we did we weren’t too far off the road. That meant speeding vehicles zipping close by and Ralph walking a ways back to retrieve the hood from the middle of the road. Twice this happened. Scary. After that incident the hood was secured with some special gadgets.

Back at the truck safe and sound, we packed up and took off towards home. Another amazing trip into our Arizona. This trip was more special than some. Not only are these trips a cool way to spend our weekends together, they are our thing. Some couples go dancing and some go to the symphony. We go for rides. These adventures are our connection. Our connection to Arizona and to God.  But most of all these rides are our connection to each other.

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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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