Monday, June 1, 2020

Montezuma Pass to Parker Canyon Lake

Yep, you read that title right. There's an actual lake out here in southeastern Arizona.

True, it's man-made, but it's still a lake.

But do you remember this photo from the previous post?

Before I can get to the lake I have to get down off Montezuma pass into the San Rafael Valley, around the southern (left) flank of Lone Mountain out there under the arrow, and then travel about 5 more miles and cross two more major washes. And the road from here to there is all gravel.

Unless my (musical) keyboard or stove is on the counter, or the bike-carrier is swung out to the side, The Van is pretty much drive-away ready all the time. Just close the vents and windows and she's good to go.

But if the planned route includes rough roads there's a couple extra steps for prepping The Van.

Before I left this morning I tucked the sink-cover in next to the trashcan with the dish-rag draped over it to keep it from rattling, (For normal roads I just leave it in place over the sink but on rough roads the corian cover bangs a lot - and loudly - against the top edge of the under-mount sink as I go over bumps.)

and I snap the strap-latch on the full-height slide-out pantry. (Again on normal roads I don't bother since the regular latch holds it just fine, but the pantry is big and loaded and heavy so this is just extra insurance.)

View of Montezuma pass from the west side.

Unlike the east side of the pass where the approach is up a narrow canyon, the valley is wide on the west side of the pass so switchbacks aren't necessary as the road drops down the flank of the Huachuca Mountains on one long swoop.

Truck drivers are taught to use the same gear going down a grade as they would going up it. I follow the same adage and put The Van into first and pretty much never touched the brakes all the way down.

(Coming down off Mt. Lemmon outside Tucson several years ago Mom thought I had turned the engine off as we coasted all the way down in 3rd gear.)

At about 1000', the drop/climb on this side of the pass is about 300' less than on the east side, but that first little bit as you come off the pass is still a one-lane road.

Of course the one and only on-coming vehicle I encountered all day, another Sprinter-conversion, was right along here!

Since I was the downbound vehicle in this encounter it was incumbent on me to get out of the way. Fortunately I spotted them from a ways off so had plenty of time to look for a spot where I could put the right-hand tires up against the mountain and give them enough room to get by on the outside.

And by the time I got down to Copper Canyon the road had widened out.

Yes, that's actual water flowing across the road there. Just up-canyon (to the right) is Oak Spring and just to the left is an alluvial plain. I have just passed FR-4781 which tracks across the alluvial plain the 2.4 miles down to the border.

And no, I didn't try driving it, nor did I pull into the trailhead on the other side of the road and take the short hike past Oak Spring up Copper Canyon. It was already after noon and I had all those un-known miles ahead of me yet. But now I know and next time I'll stop

because the road along the edge of the San Rafael Valley is pretty dang good, especially if you are content to travel at 10 or 15 MPH as I was.

The valley floor is gently rolling, comparatively lush,

and wide!

You see that clearing down there in the middle of the photo?

That's a ranch out here in the middle of the National Forest.

And you see that white, flat-bed truck parked there near the house? In a bit that truck is going to come up behind me on the road you see in the upper left and hang back (Not sure if he hung back to be polite or in self-defense against the dust) until I got to a spot where I could pull over to let him pass. This was my only other vehicle encounter of the day.

But before that happens I stand corrected. On my map this place is listed as Sunnyside Ranch, but apparently it is actually the Lone Mountain Ranch.

Not long after passing the ranch I come to an intersection.

FR-227 will take me back to FR-61, (I came down off the pass on FR-61 then switched over to FR-48 some miles back) which will eventually take me to the Patagonia Mountains just beyond Lochiel, but since that's not where I'm headed today, I only have three miles left to go.

And a short time later I can see actual pavement again!

Almost there.

By the way, Sierra Vista is 23 miles from here via Cimarron Rd through Elgin and through the heart of Fort Huachuca via Canelo, Butler, and Allison roads and finally Winrow Av. out to Sierra Vista proper through the East gate. Which I understand is allowed, as long as you first submit to a background check at the East gate and obtain a vehicle pass which allows you to cross through the military base.

Otherwise the route is up to Sonoita then across US-82 then south again on US-90

The "there" I was referring to is the Parker Canyon Lake campground, officially named Lakeview Campground, and it is segregated!

Oh relax. What I mean is that there is a tent loop on the lake-side of the road, with RV's restricted to  a seperate loop on the other side.

There are pit toilets and water spigots on both sides with no hookups anywhere. The cost for either side is the same $10. ($5 with geezer pass) The issue is that the original loop, the tent loop, was not built to accommodate RV's at all with only car-sized parking.

The RV area consists primarily of pull-offs on either side of the road though a few of those pull-offs are actual loops so you aren't parallel parked right up against the road, and it looks like there is one back-in site as well.

Me and The Van fit just fine over there on the tent loop, so that's where we went. And we had it entirely to ourselves.

After 50 or so miles of dirt roads so far

I could have used a little rain to conceal the fact that I've been neglecting the Quad-B on this trip.

This is actually two campsites with side-by-side parking. Typical of the tent loop.

But I wasn't careful enough in what I wished for and those streaky clouds at sunset were hinting that some weather, including rain, was coming this way.

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