Enough of the gear, the fridge, the gps and the overthinking. It was high time for a cooler, full fuel tanks and some roads to nowhere.
So, we loaded up a cooler of ice, the Arizona Atlas/maps filled the Aux and main tanks to the brim and headed out into the night. It was Friday just before sunset so the dirt roads that are teeming with recreational shooters, UTV’s and tourists on a weekend were silent. We were thankful for that.
The short wheelbase, old school heavy duty Rancho Springs and blown shocks make for a harsh ride. Airing down was the savior in this truck.
Once we were 50 or so miles out the dirt road we felt a calm. Knowing we were past the “high use” areas around Phoenix.
We locked the hubs and put it into low range to see if we could get to the top of a 45 degree incline hill with a great campsite for 1.
I walked the hill to see how bad it was. The step up might be rough. Manual transmission makes everything more... interesting. I appreciate that, but sometimes you just know it makes things more difficult. I asked K to spot for me and make sure I didn’t go off the desired line. Either way and I was guessing we’d stall at best and roll at worst. Well, no point in trying to explain it any further, but we made it. Little Tonto slipped a few times and I was concentrating like my life depended on it left foot braking and feathering the throttle the whole way up. We made it to our little campsite. After a 12 point turn and remembering why power steering was a great invention we made camp.
I always tend to do the stupid stuff alone. Somehow when I’m with a group I try to keep the stupidity in check and take care of everyone. I guess knowing I’ll be the one to fix things or get someone unstuck encourages me to prevent issues. The downside is that I let go and try things I otherwise wouldn’t when we’re alone. Oh well, we made it and that’s what matters. It’s the next 150 miles on trails with no one else around in an old unproven truck that really worried me. Heck, I’d only not made it to work 2 out of the last 10 times I drove it! What could go wrong!
The next morning we awoke to a perfectly still and quiet view of the surrounding country. Time to navigate down that steep hill. I decided to have some extra coffee before attempting it. I asked K to spot me down a line which should avoid the worst of it.
We made it without issue. I love this little truck. We kept putt putting along until we got to some old cattle scales. They were still technically working, but apparently our meat isn't worth much because we could barely get it to register.
We putted along for a couple hours and then we made the turn onto the lesser known trails. It was time for low range again and we didn’t go back to high range until we were back to this point on the way home. Miles and miles of slow going, but we weren't in a rush. I noticed side trails that we decided to finally explore. It's funny how slowing down makes you see and do more.
It was unseasonably warm so any chance we got to stop and put our feet in the water, we did. Thankfully it had been the wettest winter I can remember so the creeks and streams were all running strong
After many hours of putting along we got to our destination. An old ranch and a hot springs.
There was once a large hot springs resort built in the 1920's here. Hard to imagine with how hard it is to get to now. It was a grand retreat, but what's left it still pretty impressive by our standards.
The ranch not far from the resort was active until about a decade ago. It’s sad to see it abandoned, but it was a rare treat to visit it before it is looted or decomposes to far. Signs of people doing more with less are everywhere. You didn't simply run to the hardware store when you needed something.
After exploring the ranch we decided that a quieter spot to camp was in order. The hot springs attracts some... interesting folks. We followed some old roads and got to a spot along the river a ways away from any signs of humans. It's my favorite thing, to find a spot with no signs of others. A spot that in uniquely "yours" to sit and stay a while. The fact that it had a river next to it to jump in and enjoy was a bonus.
It was time to cook some steaks and eat too much food.
It had been a perfect day. Since about 10 AM we had been on trails with no tire tracks. It feels refreshing, and admittedly a bit worrisome, to be making fresh tracks. You were alone, finally alone, but with each other. It’s a great recharge. No matter that the old truck had not made the commute to work 2 out of the last 10 times. What could go wrong tomorrow.
We enjoyed our fire and jumped in the river a few more times for good measure before it was dark
Time to hit the road. Slowly. We refilled our Air Conditioning (A spray bottle from the dollar store. It works amazingly well) and headed out.
Spring has sprung or similar clever flower comment.
Just bouncing along, stopping at every bit of water we see. Temps were in the high 80's heading up so we made sure to enjoy any chance to stop and cool down. We were carrying a cheap spray bottle that acted as our air conditioning. It was amazingly effective.
Ever see an inordinate amount of signs along a road. Clearly, this one was once in higher use and better condition
Next stop Horse Camp. I’d always wanted to stop and take the side trail to check it out. Cowboy Bill Helm has had books written about him, once showed Zane Grey around and seems to have been an all around respected feller around the Verde Valley.
He passed on recently so I was glad to be able to see some messages form the man himself regarding this horse camp which was built before the road even made it out this far. The camp is still in use and looked to have enough feed to take on a group of riders at any moment.
We kept putting along enjoying the sites. We were now back onto more well traveled roads, but still, we hadn’t seen another vehicle since we hit dirt. Happiness looks a lot like this to me.
Once we got to Bloody Basin and then Cave Creek/7Springs the traffic started. It was solid. Dirt bikes, UTV’s sliding around corners on the wrong side of the road, some mountain bikers out for a ride. It’s all wonderful, but to go from 0 to traffic is quite the adjustment. We weaved around tourists in rental cars and generally frustrated ourselves with re-entering civilization. I turned on a little known side track up a wash and we unplugged one last time.
We decided it was time to use our backup compressor to make sure it actually works. I carry one of these cheapos in each vehicle as a last resort, but this one had never left it’s package. It was slow, but that’s okay. We sat in the creek and tried to pretend that the weekend wasn’t coming to a close.
Eventually, we hit the pavement and went back to normal life, until next weekend anyway...
Thanks for coming along.
Tim and Kelsey www.hu-bar.com
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