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Old 02-18-2012, 10:14 PM   #46
kobukan OP
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2/15/12

Chiricahua National Monument via Wilcox Playa and Fort Bowie


Last month when I rode thru the Chiricahuaís I was hoping to return thru the Wilcox Playa, but I ran out of time. I also didnít have time last trip to stop at the Chiricahua National Monument, so I planned another visit to the beautiful Chiricahua Mountains.

I started out in Sierra Vista, as usual, and headed over to Tombstone then up to St. David where I picked up some dirt roads. When I left Sierra Vista at 7:30 it was a chilly 29F - not much warmer than Maine, but at least here it warms up during the day.

I took Sibyl Rd. off 80 and was soon riding some beautiful country.




Five or six miles later Sibyl Rd. crossed the Southern Pacific railroad tracks where I turned off onto the road that runs alongside the tracks. I was hoping this would get me about halfway to Wilcox. When I reached the railroad tracks I had a bit of a dilemma. I wasnít certain the road along the tracks was actually passable all the way thru, and now I had a choice - there was a dirt road running along both sides of the tracks - which one to take? I took the one on the left. Why? Well, because thatís the one I happened to stop at and it was a 50/50 chance so what the heck.


Shortly after heading down the tracks I stopped to take a pic, and along came a train. I gave a wave, they gave me a couple toots of the whistle, and then I had a great idea. Wouldnít it be cool to ride along beside the train! Onto the bike and off I go! I soon determined that the train was moving along at a nice steady 35 mph. Although that might not seem like much, it wasnít easy keeping up considering they were rolling along on their nice smooth track and I was dodging holes and frequently detoured off to the side thru sand washes and up over hills. I managed to pull the camera out of my jacket pocket and snapped a few pics the best I could, but it wasnít easy. Every time I came to a wash or a hill I stuck the camera on the seat between my legs and hoped it wouldnít bounce off onto a rock somewhere. I was having a little adventure.






Believe it or not, I managed to ride along beside the train like this for at least five miles before I finally came to a wash followed by a pretty good sized hill that I knew was going to prevent me from staying with the train any longer.


And so I stopped atop the hill and managed to get a couple last pics of the train as it continued steadily down the tracks . . . boy that was fun while it lasted. This was going to be a good day, I just knew it!

If you look very closely you may be able to see the tail end of the train disappearing around the corner in the distance.




A little further down the tracks I came to this. Oh no!


A short walk down the tracks showed me the road picked up again about 50 yards down and I was easily able to skirt the track and be on my way again. That was close!

Another mile of tracks and then I picked up Dragoon Rd. and continued on my way to Wilcox. I didnít realize what a scenic area this would turn out to be. Very flat, but good land with cattle and farms with acres and acres of rows of trees growing nuts - pecans or pistachios I think.


A little further along on 191 nearing Wilcox I found out how they power things around here.


And finally . . . the Wilcox Playa - a dry lake bed about ten miles across that has been used by the military as a bombing range.


I followed Railroad Ave across the Playa beside the railroad tracks. It was fun riding across the Playa because itís such an unusual landscape. Itís what I imagine being on the moon would be like.




It was a day for trains for sure. As I was taking pics on the Playa another train came along. When they saw me standing out by the Playa they blew the whistle several times. Those train guys are really friendly!


After the Playa run I fueled up in Wilcox and took a couple pics in town.




Then it was onward down 186 toward Fort Bowie. Just a couple miles down the road I realized I could see the power plant about ten miles away across the wide open plain. Itís that tiny little puff of white in front of the mountains.


Save a cow!


After a few miles the road became more scenic.


I was starting to see the Chiricahuaís in the distance and it was becoming apparent that I would have to ďPlan BĒ it today. I had an optimistic ďPlan AĒ that would have been a long ride on a good day in good conditions. I had hoped to go to Fort Bowie, follow the Gas Line Rd to San Simon then head south about 25 five miles to Cave Creek (the other Cave Creek - not the one near Phoenix). This was all doable, but it would mean Iíd have to cross thru the Chiricahuaís at high elevation on Pinery Canyon Rd. When I rode thru there a month ago I ran into patches of snow and ice above 6,000 feet and it was obvious that there is a lot more snow up there now - I can see all the snow cover even from here. It didnít look like that a month ago. I wasnít really surprised because a big storm system moved thru AZ yesterday dropping snow on places that rarely get snow. This is why I always try to have a Plan B. In this case, Plan B was going to be a great day too . . . so onward to Fort Bowie. Iíd have to skip Cave Creek, but this would mean Iíd have time to ride into Chiricahua National Monument, which turned out to be spectacular. I love the Chiricahua Mountains - itís a very beautiful and special place. It also meant Iíd have a little more time to enjoy the places I would see today.

Next stop . . . Fort Bowie


Fort Bowie was an interesting area, and although it was nestled in a beautiful mountain scene, there was little evidence remaining of any actual fort.


I found this to be interesting. I also find it interesting that after everything was taken from the Native Americans, much of it was then named after them.


Getting to the actual fort site required a short hike. I had to leave my bike at this gate in the middle of nowhere. I hate leaving my bike anywhere. I locked things up the best I could and hoped nobody would be so cruel as to steal my belongings, or take my bike and leave me here so far from anything. I considered it an unlikely possibility, and off I went.


This old mine was probably the most interesting thing I saw, aside from the fighter jet playing in the sky, and the Border Patrol helicopter that flew by.




A closer view of the snowcapped Chiricahuaís as I made my way further south on 186 told me I had made the right decision about skipping Cave Creek. And the ranger at the gate to Chiricahua National Monument confirmed that yesterdayís storm hit hard in the Chiricahuaís and had dropped several inches of snow at higher elevations.


Another day . . . another winding road cut into the side of a mountain.




Massai Point . . . stunning views!




This is another area that had been ravaged by fire recently.


There seems to be more trees here than most other places Iíve been in southeast AZ.


Rock formations


Today was also a day for deer . . . fortunately, none were jumping out at me! This one was just munching on the tree beside the road.


With the Chiricahuaís behind me I was headed home, but there was still a short stop in Pearce and a ride thru the Dragoon Mountains between here and home.

Gold & Silver mining activity in Pearce


I decided to stop in Pearce at the little shop called Old Pearce Pottery on my way thru this time. Itís the only thing in Pearce, aside from the Mercantile across the street.


The sign said Open, and there was a big bell outside the door next to a sign that said ďHonk Horn or Ring Bell for Shopping.Ē My bike doesnít have much of a horn, so I clanged the bell, then opened the door and looked around. Hello? . . . Hello, anybody home? . . . waited a couple minutes . . . hmmm, maybe I should ring the bell again. Clang, clang, clang . . . Hello? The shop actually looked very nice inside, old, but nice. There was a light on and it looked like someone should be around so I browsed around the shop for five minutes or so and eventually a nice lady named Patty came in thru another door and greeted me. Ghost town shopping at its finest.

Actually, Patty turned out to be a very nice lady. A longtime resident of Pearce, she had grown up in the area and was full of interesting information. She told me she remembered when she was a little girl and her daddy was building their house, she stood on the foundation and looked around in every direction and there was absolutely nothing for as far as she could see. Sheís been running the pottery shop since 1985. She and her husband, whom I didnít get to meet as he is currently suffering from pneumonia, drive an hour and a half to Tucson once a month to buy groceries. Patty also told me that Pearce met its demise long ago when the mine flooded killing most of the miners. Their families left shortly thereafter, leaving behind all but their basic necessities. Pearce has remained a ghost town ever since. However, Patty also informed me that the hill behind the shop that was currently being mined had been purchased by a Canadian company and was soon to become an open pit mine. The hill will become a giant hole. So, after having been a ghost town for nearly as long as anyone can remember, it looks like Pearce is about to get busy again. I donít know for sure, but Iíve been told that the rising price of gold has prompted an increase in mining activity.

It was a short ride from Pearce to the base of the mountains where I saw a group of about twenty-five deer grazing in a fenced pasture. At first I thought someone was raising them, until I saw them jumping over the fence - some jumping in, some jumping out. Apparently they just liked grazing there.


Onward into the Dragoons . . . Middlemarch Rd would get me through to Tombstone and one more mountain range closer to home.










Ahhh . . . at last, I can see the Huachuca Mountains in the distance. My brotherís house is at the base of the Huachuca Mountains . . . Iím almost home.
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:38 PM   #47
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I've got family that homesteaded a small ranch 29 miles NE of Douglas just on the edge of the Chiricahua's wilderness area. They say the stuff that happens out there with the illegals and the drug runners is unbelievable.
Fantastic pictures as always!
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Old 02-19-2012, 10:25 PM   #48
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Just little trivia... Fort Bowie was originally called tevistown. My cousin had quite the adventurous life and had the original name sake for fort Bowie. He traveled out west with kitt Carson's brother (Mose) as a teen. There is a book called Arizona in the 50's (1850's) and was a Disney movie about him. He was also the first Arizona ranger. Captain James Tevis.


Great write up!
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:16 PM   #49
BlueSkyGuy
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just great

thanks
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:42 PM   #50
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Great pics. I always wondered how the air cooled DR would handle the dessert heat... It appears that it is not a problem.
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:53 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by BeerIsGood View Post
Great pics. I always wondered how the air cooled DR would handle the dessert heat... It appears that it is not a problem.
well, the desert heat is in the 70's for a high lately. but i think it does just fine in the summer months, too.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:53 PM   #52
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well, the desert heat is in the 70's for a high lately. but i think it does just fine in the summer months, too.
'Zactly. Give it another 4-5 months and we'll be another 40-50 degrees warmer than that. Most of you guys park your bikes for the winter. Down here, I park mine for the summer!
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Old 02-20-2012, 06:36 PM   #53
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'Zactly. Give it another 4-5 months and we'll be another 40-50 degrees warmer than that. Most of you guys park your bikes for the winter. Down here, I park mine for the summer!
yep. once it gets over 110, i don't ride. it just feels like riding in front of a giant blow drier!
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Old 02-23-2012, 09:45 PM   #54
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I haven't ridden the DR in the summer desert heat, but they handle the high 90F's riding through the woods of ME all day in the summertime just fine. I'm not likely to spend any time in AZ in the summer.

Just got back from a few days in Baja and the DR was right at home there. Still have a great AZ ride from a week ago to post up, then I'll try to put together a little Baja RR. Hopefully, I'll get caught up soon.
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Old 02-24-2012, 07:49 AM   #55
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Love Arizona!

Such an incredibly diverse environment, all crammed into one state.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:37 AM   #56
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2/16/12

An afternoon ride Northeast of Sonoita, followed by an evening run through Montezuma Pass


I met up with a local ADV member for an afternoon ride that started about ten miles East of Sonoita on Rte. 82. We met in Sonoita at about 1:30 then headed out after briefly getting acquainted. I had a track that ran north from 82 all the way to I-10, a little over thirty miles. We planned to ride this track and possibly some tracks I had for the area west of 83, then take the scenic route home thru Parker Canyon and Montezuma Pass, time permitting.

I was fairly confident we could make it thru to I-10 on the first track, but other than that I wasnít really sure what to expect in terms of terrain, difficulty level or how long it would take.

It started out with some nice dirt roads and open rolling fields, which seems fairly typical for the Sonoita area based on my limited experience so far.




The road followed along some power lines at times and the terrain varied considerably. We passed a number of other dirt roads and it seemed like there was plenty to explore in this area.






We even hit a couple small water crossings


At times the trail wound tightly thru small trees and brush where we couldnít see far at all. It was a distinct contrast to all the open fields.


A little further along the track got a little more challenging and we began to experience a lot of turns, dips and hills, including some significant hill climbs.


At one point we entered an area of thick growth where the path became single track and crossed water again. I wasnít sure weíd get thru this section as it got pretty tight and we couldnít see very far ahead at all. When the track reached the water it was a fairly significant crossing, but the track turned and went along the water a short distance to an easier crossing, then a little further thru the thicket before opening up into open fields again. Unfortunately, I didnít get a pic of this area - we had come quite a ways at this point and I was just focused on getting thru this section - didnít want to have to turn back now.

After that it was pretty smooth going for the remainder of the ride north to I-10. The pics really donít do this ride justice, the terrain was continually changing - one of the most diverse thirty-mile rides Iíve experienced in AZ so far. A little bit of everything; lots of rocks, a little sand, a couple little water crossings, some hill climbs, and even some stretches of smooth dirt road. This is an area I would definitely like to explore more of.




It had taken quite a while to cover the thirty miles from 82 to I-10 and we wouldnít have time to ride any of the track west of 83 so we took 83 back to Sonoita and stopped there briefly to add some layers and discuss riding back thru the Huachuca Mountains. It was after 5:00 oíclock and the temp was starting to drop. I was a little concerned about riding thru the mountains since we might not get thru before dark, but my riding partner knew the area well, had ridden thru there many times and really wanted to go thru that way, so we bundled up and headed off toward Parker Canyon. I had ridden some of that area previously so was somewhat familiar with it and knew it would be a great ride. In fact, any other time this would have been a great ride by itself, and worthy of a lot of picture taking. But, there would be no pics on this run.

We kept moving at a somewhat spirited pace knowing that the sun was setting and darkness was not far off. We wound our way thru Parker Canyon as the sun set off to the west, then wound our way up thru the mountains at dusk on windy dirt roads. By the time we began to near Montezuma Pass we had lost most of the daylight and we were traveling by the light of our headlights. We reached the top of Montezuma Pass about 6:30 and had a great view of the lights of the border towns not far in the distance. Down the switchbacks off the pass we went and by the time we reached the base of the mountains they were just a black outline in the background. We made it! An evening run through Montezuma Pass - woohoo!

It was another great ride in Southeastern AZ, but this would be my last for a while. In a couple days I would be headed to Baja for several days of riding, then flying back to Maine where, hopefully, winter would be ending soon.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:05 PM   #57
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6/29/12

Back in the Southwest

Today was my first full day back in AZ after four months away. I arrived back in town about mid-day yesterday and replaced the chain and sprockets on the DR650 last night. Thought Iíd try to beat the heat and head out around sunrise for a few hours to make sure everything is good with the bike after sitting for four months. My last ride in AZ before returning to ME back in February was an evening run through Montezuma Pass, and it seemed like that would be a good place for a little shake-down run to start this visit.

Sunrise just as I hit the road.


Heading up Montezuma Pass.




From the top, a nice view of Mexico in the background.




I continued on a little further.


Border Patrol road dragging tool. They don't use those on the US-CAN border back in Maine.


I got a couple hours of riding in and itís great to be back in the Southwest again Ė much different than Maine. The bike ran perfectly after sitting all that time and Iím looking forward to exploring more of the area while I have the chance again.
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Old 07-03-2012, 07:18 AM   #58
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Spent a bit of time in SV/Ft. H in the 90s & early 00's. Miss being out there.

Thanks for the ride reports. You're doing it right.
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:11 AM   #59
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Looks awesome. How's the heat? It must be like 1100 degrees in the shade right?

Seriously, though, is it bearable at the higher elevations?
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Old 07-03-2012, 04:54 PM   #60
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I get a lot of questions about how hot it is here, but to be honest, it really hasnít been that bad.

Iím staying in Sierra Vista, which is at an elevation of 5,000í so its cooler here than Phoenix - seems like about 10į cooler. It still gets up into the upper 90's regularly, but it's in the 70ís in the morning, and low humidity compared to New England. A lot of my riding is in the mountains and it's a little cooler there too. There are 9,000' peaks across the street from where I'm staying - I'm looking at them as I type this. Around here there are trees at upper elevations so there is also shade in the mountains in some places. Early afternoon thunderstorms are the biggest problem - they can be pretty bad and there's nowhere to hide. They do add a little moisture to the ground and keep the dust down though. I've been heading out very early in the mornings when it's cool and I can get a couple hundred miles in before it gets too hot or the thunderstorms roll in.
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