Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Arizona Adventures Part II

The week after driving out to the far southwest corner of Arizona to get pics for my travel blog and to scout some territory for possible upcoming scooter rides, I decided to do another ride, just a tad bit closer to home. this route would take me almost due south very near the Mexican border, then east, around the south side of the Huachuca Mountains, east to Bisbee, then north(ish) to Tombstone and then lazily returning home. Like the previous week's trip, I was taking my van.

I had ridden to Parker Canyon Lake almost a year ago as an early training run for the Iron Butt ride. In looking at the map, I had noticed that there was a very minor road that went south of there and looped back to the east and came out near Sierra Vista. I didn't have the time, then, to ride it, but i logged that info for another day. That day had come.

The ride down Scenic Route 83, aka Sonoita Highway, is always beautiful. Sonoita is Arizona wine country. There are rolling hills, which (this time of year) are covered with amber waves of tall brown grass.
How many vineyards have a large yucca in the middle of them?

Once I got to Sonoita, I decided to check out a detour around to Elgin, AZ, which is the center of the wine growing area. I don't drink wine, but having spent some of my early years on a farm, I can appreciate agriculture. The drive around Upper Elgin Road did not disappoint me. I had been here before, but once I got to Elgin's only significant intersection, I turned due south. My Arizona map told me that turning either way would return me to Route 83, so I went the way I had never been before.

I reached 83 and continued south, toward Parker Canyon Lake. Our scooter club in contemplating a camping ride there in the spring, so I wanted to check it out, with that in mind.

Not far from returning to 83, I passed through the quasi-ghost town of Canelo. The road begins to climb along the west wall of Lyle Canyon. I snapped a couple pics looking down into the canyon and drove on.

I approached what is one of my favorite areas. There is a ranch house which these beautiful corrals, which look like they are 100 years old. There are some stone walls around there as well.

The road narrows significantly here and the road begins to climb along a series of tight switchbacks. It would be treacherous here if there were ice on the road. Since it is around 5000 feet elevation, ice would be a real possibility in the winter.

A long straight stretch of dirt.

I drove around the lake, took mental notes and took some pics.
Looks like it will be a good place. Now it was back to the point I had seen on the map; the place where my adventure began.

I knew from Google Maps that the bottom end of route 83 was dirt.

I came across a snake sunbathing in the road.

There is a little community around the lake. After only a couple of miles, I had left most of the signs of civilization (except the road, of course) behind.

I don't know how old the bridge is, but it looked cool.
As I reached the top of a hill, I could see a large expanse of grassland off to the southwest.
As the road continued, the scenery became increasingly amazing.

You can see the road I came in on going down the side of the mountain.

Pics don't do it justice, but as I gained elevation and could see more and more of that grassland area, it was reminding me of Africa. I was imagining elephants, giraffe and lions roaming around down there. It was incredible.

I passed the sign that told me I was gazing down into the San Rafael Valley.

I finally reached the top of what I now know is called Montezuma Pass. The view from this point was astounding!

Scary signs like this are everywhere.

I had a nice conversation with a young Army private who is assigned to an observation post (O.P. as we called them in the Army) at the top of the pass where they can look directly down in to Mexico and watch for illegal activity. I asked how much further it was to asphalt and was told it was less than 10 minutes.

It was more like 15 minutes and the went down a series of wicked switchbacks, but it sure was fun. There was stream trickling down the middle of this little canyon.

Down at the bottom of this is the visitors' center.
Border Patrol agents cruising on their ATV's.

I passed a sign that said something about a trailhead that leads to Coronado Cave, then I arrived at the Coronado National Memorial visitors' center.

Top center of this pic is Geronimo Pass as seen from the east side.
The rangers there were exceedingly kind and helpful. I mentioned the fact that they were kind of off the beaten path and she replied with a smile, "No one EVER comes here by accident." she is very right. You have to make the decision and plot your route to come here, but it is SOOOO worth it. I don't know when I'll get back, but I am sure looking forward to it.

This was only the first half of my adventure that day. Two more ghost towns, sandhill cranes, Chicago come to live in Bisbee and a blowout were in the next part of that day.

Ride on,



  1. That looks like a great area, wonderfully desolate and beautiful. I am itrigued about your scooter club possibly doing an overnight. Our litle infant scooter club here has talked about that a little bit, but the plans never seem to get much beyond the idea stage.
    I also liked the comment that "no one ever gets here by accident". I think places like that are wonderful.
    I suppose we do live in times where you have to watch out for the criminals. Take care about that and
    Ride Safe


  2. Jim,
    The club did an overnight trip last year, too. That time we went to Bisbee and stayed in a hotel. I think only 4 or 5 folks stayed overnight. A few rode back, same day. (I was one of those. Had something going on at home and had to get back.)

    I've been "managing" the club for 2 years now. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help your infant club.


  3. Howard:

    I also like to explore the backroads. I prefer LESS traffic, none would be better. too bad the best backroads are in Oregon but we try to get there as much as possible.

    I like the tranquille solitude of the landscape

    Wet Coast Scootin