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Old 05-22-2007, 12:49 PM   #1
DirtyDog OP
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Ride Report- Coronado Natl. Forest in SE AZ

Coronado Crossing Ride Report

Two KLR 650's (Glenn [green] and JD [me, blue]) and one 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser (Mike) departed from Mesa, AZ and headed South to traverse the Coronado National Forest in the SE corner of AZ. The trip was scheduled for 500 miles and crossed the forest from Sierra Vista to the Buenos Aires NWR.

The bikes were loaded for the 3-day trip with more than we really needed, but we planned for the worst. This was the first trip for my DIY tank panniers and they seemed to work well. If anyone is interested in the details, I can post a separate thread and link it here.

Before we had gone 50 miles, I had to break my rule of "self-support" and off-load my saddlebags into the Cruiser. I was experiencing some serious meltdown due to the weight of my bag on the plastic covering the exhaust. The bag and plastic were melting together, all the contents of the bag were quite hot, and I feared ignition. So I ditched the hot bags. Glenn took the jumbo dry-bag approach and also utilized the largest tank bag on the planet. To each his own. Mike carried lots of water, grub, camp stove, and chairs.

We knew that keeping 2 bikes together with a slow 4x4 was not an option, so we utilized 2-way radios to stay in touch and to troubleshoot navigation issues with dueling GPS units. The Midland 14-mile radios were really only good for about 1-2 miles at best in the rough topography.

Day one was pretty bland. We spent the morning getting from Mesa to Tucson, then Tucson to Sierra Vista. South of Sierra Vista we finally hit the dirt and entered the forest on a nice twisty road up to Montezuma Pass. Twenty miles later, at 1330 hrs, we had reached our first camp at Parker Canyon Lake. The campgrounds and lake were uneventful and minimally adorned. We explored the area a bit, eventually settling into camp chairs for a cold, alcoholic beverage and a nap. We chatted for hours about all things containing combustion engines. Mike made chicken fajitas for dinner and we enjoyed a quiet, cool night for a decent rest.

Here is the view from Montezuma Pass.

Parker Canyon is a quiet lake. Mercury poisoning apparently comes free with any consumed fish!

Day two started with some obligatory coffee and the breaking of camp. We set off to explore the dirt and head West. We soon realized that getting lost and separated was easier than we'd imagined, due to a locked gate on a road passing through a ranch. In the search for roads around the gate, we found some loose terrain in the form of a wash and I logged my first crash. No harm done. Soon afterwards, I buried my rear tire up to the frame and stalled. For an 80/20 tire, the Kenda 761's perform well on rocks, dirt, and pavement, but have an above-average suck rating on sand and fine gravel. When I realized that the bike was standing on it's own, I hopped off to take a pic. As I framed-in the pic, I saw the bike fall over in slow motion and felt like an ass. To make matters worse, it took me >10 minutes to get it started again, as it was locked in gear. Regardless, we were on the wrong road and had to keep looking.

And the bike falls over in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Dammit.

In the meantime, Mike was having similar difficulties and we managed to lose contact for quite a while. We made the critical mistake where 2 parties are looking for each other and we basically did circles around the whole area, neither of us smart enough to stay put. At one point, we thought we were in the same place- true navigational experts in action. On a positive note, we got to explore uncharted roads; which was the goal anyhow.

Here's the necessary "over the shoulder" shot.

Searching for the lost Cruiser... A few hours later we had re-grouped, found our intended route, and were on our way.

Eventually we made it to Patagonia for gas and lunch. We ate at the Home Plate (sports bar, I guess). The Arizona chicken sandwich was quite good. When we were well-supplied, we departed for dirtier roads. We rounded a corner, and came across 2 gentlemen standing by their KLR and DRZ. Oddly, the Suzuki was incognito with BMW stickers. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.

Anyhow, we headed Northwest back into the forest on FR143 up to Mt. Hopkins. This was by far the most challenging and fun section of the whole trip. Lots of tough ascents and boulder-hopping. Narrow mountain curves punctuated by the occasional abandoned vehicle riddled with bullet holes. All the while, I'm wondering, "how the hell did that Tercel get up here?"

We found some well-vandalized adobe ruins of unknown origin.

We took a siesta at the Mt. Hopkins observatory before hitting the slab to our next forest road. Apparently there was a "Star Party" planned for that evening at the observatory, so the lot attendant politely told us to leave. Maybe we were too dusty for an invite.

Then took I-19 South to Nogales and gassed up at the busiest and least efficient service station on the planet before heading West to Pena Blanca Lake to camp. We secured a secluded site for free and enjoyed Manwich for dinner. Throwing all disregard to the high fire danger, we were treated to an aerial fireworks show by the feral humans camped nearby. We mentally planned our escape routes in case of forest ignition. Once darkness had set in, we appreciated the timing of the Star Party afterall, as an unknown planet was clearly visible next to the crescent moon for several hours.

Day three started slowly, as miscommunication and failing radios resulted in navigational blunders right off the bat. Once we regrouped and headed the appropriate direction, sailing was smooth on FR39 for several hours. Next we took another challenging and enjoyable route- Yellow Jacket Road. Lots of off-camber terrain for the Cruiser and some technical riding for the bikes. Glen took his chances staring down a huge brahma bull, while I fled the immediate area. I had recently had a near miss with an irritated burro, so I didn't want to take my chances. What made this road enjoyable for me was that the terrain was an interesting rainbow of colors- pinks, greens, blues, whites, and yellows. I know nothing of geology, but it was unique. Yellow Jacket Road led to various others and we eventually came within 0.5 mile of the international border.

** A side note here: We were collectively amazed at the continuous presence of US Border Patrol agents and Army National Guard. They were basically the only vehicles we saw. I expected to see much more evidence of illegal migration, but it was minimal. We didn't see one migrant during our off-road trek, and saw very little trash (except the vehicles mentioned above). The agents were all jazzed to interact with us and hear about our adventure. Mike was pulled over twice, but they never bothered the bikes. We actually motored up to an Army observation station on a hill (pictured below)and stated our business. They were kind enough to send out a message of our presence via dispatch to all agents in the area. After that, we were greeted by waves and thumbs-up from anyone we passed or encountered. A big kudos goes out to those guys and gals who are keeping our borders safe. I have a new respect for the efforts that are being put forth.***

It's difficult to see in this image, but the watchful eyes of the national guard and border patrol were stationed on many hills like this one.

Continued... as we neared the end of our off-road route we needed to hook up with FR4153 and we hit a snag. At the intersection was an F150 and out stepped 2 oddly-placed individuals. One of the gentlemen was wearing slacks, a white collared shirt, and a badge while the other was wearing shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a ball cap. They tell us that "this is a restricted area" and we "can't go through here because it is a dead end". I whip out the forest map and show him my GPS, saying, "this is a public road and it connects the forest and the refuge". We were persistent and eventually were allowed to pass. These guys really had no clue. Come to find out later, Glenn had noticed that the badge said Pinkerton Security. Apparently they were guarding a fenced-off satellite dish nearby. We had passed hundreds of border agents and army personell only to be stopped by Rent-A-Cops!! We got a good laugh out of that. Of course the road wasn't a dead-end like those DB's claimed, so we proceeded Northwest and left the forest, entering Buenos Aires Natl. Wildlife Refuge. There, we experienced the most irritating washboard road to the refuge HQ. Snapped some photos, aired up the tires, and we rediscovered the pavement to make our way back home, or so we thought.

At a place called Robles Junction, the Cruiser began having fuel/carb issues and we scratched our heads for a bit and had a cold beer. Fortunately, Glenn and Mike are each automotive geniuses so they solved the issue and we headed home. This slight delay did allow us to actually see our first illegals as they were being frisked and loaded onto a prison bus presumably bound for Mexico.

Door to door, we managed to stack on about 630 miles when we planned for 500. Therefore we logged an additional 130 miles of dirt over the 3 days for about 270 dirt miles total. This pleased us all.

Wildlife sightings included deer, cows, mexican wolf(?), various raptors (one carrying a rattlesnake), rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and a pronghorn.

My batteries failed for about 20 miles, so my log is a bit shy of 630 total. Looks like we sat around a bit.
"This place fucking runs on beer, you buy the right person a beer, and you get a job, a blow, a place to sleep, whatever.
You're hot, cold, thirsty, hungry... beer will fix that.
Beer is a god damn miracle, and don't you forget it!"

DirtyDog screwed with this post 11-14-2008 at 02:25 PM
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Old 05-22-2007, 01:11 PM   #2
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A great KLR adventure! Thanks for the pics and report
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Old 05-22-2007, 01:38 PM   #3
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Nice ride. Looks like you nibbled onto some of the many dirt roads down there. How did you like FR143?
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Old 05-22-2007, 02:04 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Snuffy
Nice ride. Looks like you nibbled onto some of the many dirt roads down there. How did you like FR143?
Like I mentioned, FR143 and Yellow Jacket Road were the favorites. I wish I had more images of the actual terrain, but that's how it goes...

I was amazed at how many numbered roads were not on the forest service map.
"This place fucking runs on beer, you buy the right person a beer, and you get a job, a blow, a place to sleep, whatever.
You're hot, cold, thirsty, hungry... beer will fix that.
Beer is a god damn miracle, and don't you forget it!"
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Old 05-22-2007, 03:04 PM   #5
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Nice ride report, looks like you guys had a great time. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-22-2011, 03:51 AM   #6
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Great stuff, nice Cruiser, KLR's and high desert action!
Deserves a bump!
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