Part 34: Show Low, AZ to San Diego, CA


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The Trip

This was the last leg of our extended road trip and we were happy to be returning to our home in San Diego.  We spent the night in the Forest Service campground that was right in the center of Show Low, AZ.  It was rather odd to be camping with pit toilets when right across the street were normal buildings.  But, the camp was clean and the temperatures were pleasantly cool so we were content.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed toward Chino Valley, AZ to check on a rental property for a friend.

The photos below are what we saw.

As we left the campground, we came upon a reasonably bad multi-car accident.  The air bags had deployed on at least one of the cars and the EMS team was transporting the passengers off to the hospital.  The accident scene had the entire highway blocked for miles.

We decided to travel south of Show Low and take one of the forest roads that parallels the Mogollon Rim.  The "Rim Road" is dirt and follows the crest of the rim for the better part of 100 miles.  As we were rolling along, I spotted this snake in the road.  I nearly hit him but decided to stop the truck and get a photograph.  I am not sure which species of snake this is, but I am sure what it is not.  It is not a rattlesnake and it this area of the country, determining that fact is usually the most important issue.  We took several photos and then rolled on.

From the crest of the Mogollon Rim, we could see a large wind farm to the north.  These large windmills were spread over a substantial area.

The Rim Road was very pleasant and was in generally good shape.  The route took us along the crest of the Mogollon Rim through the tall pines westerly from Show Low toward Payson, AZ.

We traveled for many hours without seeing another vehicle, on-coming or parked, and then came upon what appeared to be a forest fire.

The fire turned out to be a controlled burn set by the U.S.F.S to clean up debris left over from a huge fire some years back.  In the photo above, you can see a bulldozer piling logs into the fire to keep the limit of the fire constrained.

When the dozer driver saw the mog, he stopped what he was doing and came over to check out the 1300 (look at the expression on his face!).  Then, he told us a story about towing an abandoned 404 out of the nearby forest and getting title for the vehicle because the owner was unwilling to pay the tow fees.  A 404 Unimog for only $800 is a pretty good deal, even if it had issues.  We chatted about mogs in general and our trip, then continued on to the west on the Rim Road.

We saw his handy work a number of places to the west of where we met the dozer driver.  He was managing several burns at once.  The bare trees in the photo above show the effect of the previous fire.

Occasionally, the Rim Road passed through areas where the brush was thin enough to allow us views of the cliffs of the Mogollon Rim.  Note the volcanic cinder cone in the center of the photo above as well as the areas that the forest fire impacted.

We traveled on to the Chino Valley area to check on a friend's rental property.  Near Prescott, we spotted another Frankencycle made from a butchered VW chassis.

From Prescott, we traveled to Phoenix to meet with friends.  Then we headed south to Oracle, AZ to see more friends.  From Oracle, we decided to head south over the backside of Mount Lemmon and then into Tucson.  This area has had a reasonable amount of rain and the hills were nice and green.  The road in the center of the photo was our route of travel and would take us over the 9,000 foot Santa Catalina mountain range.

The hills got more rugged as we went higher into the range.

From the higher hills, we had nice views of the San Pedro Valley.  But, for some reason, the air quality was poor this day.  Most of the peaks in the distance were obscured by the haze.

The terrain was getting steeper and the road more narrow.  The quality of the road was never bad, but the ruts and rocks made for slow, rough travel.

There were a number of mines in the upper reaches of the hills of Oracle Ridge.  We passed mining infrastructure along the road.

Our objective was just below Mt. Bigelow, the highest point in the range.  Like most mountains in the west, there is some sort of communication infrastructure on the peak.  In this case, there were TV transmitters, standard radio transmitters, a cell tower and a U.S.F.S. fire lookout tower on the peak.  Note that the north side of the peak had been recently burned in a large fire.

Once we crested the Santa Catalina range, we hit the paved road and we turned south toward Tucson.  The Catalina Highway has been greatly improved since my last trip on it many years ago.  The road is much wider and the turns are not as tight.  And, in many locations large turnouts have been added.  Above is a photo of a hoodoo near Windy Point.

There were a number of interesting rock formations visible from the highway.  Note the jug handle arch in this formation.

The General Hitchcock monument at Windy Point.  Note the thunder clouds building in the distance.  We would get rain later in the day.

From Windy Point, we had a great view of the Tucson valley.  At the right of the photo above, in the distance, is Thimble Peak.

Thimble Peak is a volcanic plug and is bounded by daunting cliffs.  There is no easy way up Thimble Peak.

The mog still looked pretty good after nearly 20,000 miles of travel.

There were substantial cliffs visible from the highway.

Looking to the north we could see the hoodoos on the cliff faces as well as the "parking lot in the sky".  The parking area at Windy Point has been expanded and since there was not sufficient room, they built a bridge over the edge of the cliff to allow cars to park. This structure is at the top left of the photo above.

Our final destination for the day was the parents house near Pusch Ridge.  The thunder clouds continued to build in the east and provided a nice contrast to the front-lit cliffs of Pusch Ridge.

We spent a few nights in Tucson and saw some old friends.  Then, we headed west on the interstate back to San Diego.  Somehow, we were lucky: our travel day was one of the hottest days in the recent past.  But, knowing that it was coming, we left early and missed the worst part.  Our return trip was uneventful, except for the heat.

Our conclusion to this 6 month trip was a bit anti-climactic; we have traveled this segment of road many dozens of times over the years.  But, it went without event.  We were happy to be home despite the issues we faced upon our return.  The action list is nearly infinite, but over time we will get a handle on things.

We enjoyed the east coast and would happily do it again if we had air conditioning in the camper.  Sleeping and hot, humid nights are mutually exclusive, so some changes are going to have to occur to address that issue.

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