Mount Lemmon: Pima County Highpoint

After climbing Browns Peak, I treated myself to dinner in Globe before driving up Pinal Peak to spend the night. The road had a little bit of snow in places but was easily driveable all the way to the summit. (Thanks to Scott Surgent for the inspiration to go!). We slept excellently listening to the wind and enjoying the stillness. In the morning, we took in the views and then headed down the mountain. I decided not to hike the spur road to nearby Signal Peak but the summit of Pinal was the high point of the Pinal Mountains! Descending from Pinal we had a chance to take in all the views that we’d missed going up in the dark. It was really gorgeous.

After we returned to the highway in Globe, it was time to cruise south towards Mount Lemmon. I had studied maps and it appeared that we could drive up to the peak on Old Mount Lemmon Road approaching from the east near San Manuel instead of from the south near Tucson. Sprocket and I definitely have a penchant for taking the dirt route whenever possible.

The road was in remarkably good shape as we climbed out of the desert (except for that one time I took a random side road and ended up on a steep quad trail; thanks for saving my butt Ruth the XJ). The views kept getting better and better as we continued upwards and I admit to stopping to ogle the Galiuro Mountains to the east (Bassett Peak climb anyone?).

The road to the summit was gated at the ski area to my immense (Coloradan) annoyance. There was only a tiny amount of snow and since I hoped to make it out to Rice Peak that day as well the extra time for the hike to the summit was really frustrating but there was no helping it so off we went up the road. Sprocket was clearly ready for the walk:

We got a little tired of the road and decided to take our chances scrambling more directly to the summit. I had a pretty good laugh that this was our third day in Arizona and we’d played in the snow on all of them but there was no denying that Sprocket was a fan.

We tromped around the summit for a bit before heading back down to the car. I had another Arizona county highpoint, my fourth, under my belt and all was well. Sprocket, although he seemed happy to be out of the car, was moving a little slower than he had the previous day so I decided to leave him behind for the Rice Peak adventure since moving quickly was going to be key to making it out to the peak (and it’s county highpoint northern slopes) and back before dark but more on that soon!

Arizona: Southward Bound!

One of the bonuses of being a teacher is that a lot of school districts seem to have gone to week long Thanksgiving Breaks! This actually makes a lot of sense considering the number of families that travel for the holiday and missed some school anyway. Last year I took advantage of the break by spending some time in Denver and then flying to Connecticut to celebrate Lucy and Franz’s wedding. This year, I decided to return to an infant holiday tradition and go to Arizona to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with a dear friend from high school who had been kind enough to invite me to Thanksgiving in 2012 and 2013. I think she’s stuck with me now. 🙂

Thursday after school, Sprocket and I hopped in Ruth, made a quick stop at the gas station and headed out of town. I decided to take advantage of the long stretch of driving to run a fuel mileage test at about 55 mph so we weren’t making great time but I wasn’t worried about it at all; we were cruising down the highway listening to podcasts and simply enjoying the freedom of the open road.

I’d hoped to make it all the way down to Kayenta that night but I’d gotten a start about an hour later than I’d hoped plus it’s amazing what a difference driving 55mph for 200 miles compared to 70mph makes. (I think I drove about 40 from Monticello to Blanding…holy deer everywhere on the side of the road!) We made camp along the San Juan River knowing that it would be more difficult to find a good place to camp once we crossed the bridge onto the Navajo Reservation.

In the morning, we got our start just before the sun crested over the buttes to the east. It was lovely to cruise along watching the desert become fully light.

Originally, I’d planned to take the standard route to Flagstaff via Kayenta but, seizing the luxury of traveling alone with no real schedule, I decided to take US-191 south to Chinle and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. I’d passed right by the monument in 2013 but it just so happened to be during the government shutdown so even though the park is run as a partnership with the Navajo Nation it was no dice on visiting.

Roadtrips are my absolute favorite. I almost didn’t take this one to try and save some money but I am so glad I did and I’m excited to share stories of the adventure with you all.

Douglas Pass, Upper 4A Mountain, and East Douglas Creek

Last Friday was a bit of a wash for Sprocket and I. He needed to spend the day at the vet trying to find the answer to his chubby cheek and I spent it anxiously waiting around for news about my fuzzy child. Although Friday night was a bit of a struggle, by Saturday, Sprocket was wondering just why we were not out doing our usual Saturday hike. Since he’s on instructions to take it easy for two weeks, I knew we couldn’t go for a hike but I figured that a Jeep ride wasn’t out of the question.

We headed west on I-70 to Loma, Colorado where we picked up the southern end of Colorado 139. This highway leads north to Rangely and I’ve never explored it! My hope was to resume my attempt to reach a highpoint that was foiled by a gate low in De Beque canyon.

Sprocket looks unsure about wearing his cone but he was mostly happy to be out and about. He never really did understand why he couldn’t go out and get his sniffs.

Douglas Pass was pretty neat. For a numbered state highway, it was definitely narrow in places, had some fairly worn asphalt, and climbed pretty steeply. Ruth took it in stride and we paused near the top of the pass to take in the view back to the south.

At the top of the pass, we turned on to Upper 4A Mountain road. This road climbed gently up and down small knolls and was occasionally punctuated by a mud puddle or two (Saturday was a gorgeous bright spot in the middle of about of week of Pacific Northwest reminiscent grey).

It took Sprocket a few minutes to figure out how to maneuver his cone out the window but he got the hang of it and spent most of the ride like this:

Sadly, we ran into private land just three miles shy of my goal for the day. Reluctantly, we turned around, half heartedly explored Kimball Mountain Road (and also ran into private land), and headed back to the highway.

Impulsively, at the top of the pass, I decided to head north to Rio Blanco County Road 27 for a long shot access to the peak I was looking for. Alas, barely out of the canyon bottom of East Douglas Creek, I ran into a private gate.

Back at home, I did what I probably should have done originally and went to the Rio Blanco County website. County webpages can be really useful because a lot of time their GIS personnel have access to more updated information about access, road closures, gates, ect. than maps that haven’t been updated for a long time and found that it appears that the only access by road is actually from the northeast (towards Meeker and Rifle). Looks like SP lucked out and gets another ride.

De Beque Canyon Project: Garfield County Road 204

After our goal was foiled on County Road 207, Sprocket and I returned to Roan Creek and headed further west. We were greeted by a herd of cows walking down the road which Sprocket found both exciting and a little terrifying. They’d snort and he would run to the back of the Jeep until curiosity would get the best of him and his head would be sticking out the window again!

As I drove up the canyon, I poked around up all the open and non-posted spur roads. I always love to see what’s just around the corner, up the hill, or in the canyon. Our explorations on Roan Creek were a perfect easy Saturday afternoon adventure:

Most of the spur roads lead to less than scenic oil and gas wells. At least there is usually a lot of room to turn around when you reach one!

Eventually, we reached a gate at the end of the county road and traced our steps back to Carr Creek and further east to the entrance of Kessler Canyon.

Phew. Weekend Regroup.

Last weekend did not go exactly as planned…

I did give my Ignite talk at the Sherbino and it went fantastic! I hung out at Cimarron Books and Coffee grading on Friday morning.

And then the XJ I’d been looking for popped up in Denver so I canned my plan for a hike of Whitehouse on Saturday and jetted for Denver.

Saturday I bought the new Cherokee, rented a Uhaul tow dolly and began the drive home. Sunday I zoned out working on my quilt and then returned the tow dolly. I stopped for coffee and spilled the ENTIRE LARGE THING in my bag of papers.

So how was your weekend? I need a weekend from my weekend.

More from me soon. <3