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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Four Corners: A Mystery RoadTrip

    (Update, many years later)
    There were four Mystery Trips in total. The other three can be found here:
    Mystery Trip II Vancouver-Island
    Mystery Trip III: Québec
    Mystery Trip IV: Colorado

    My wife and I recently got back from taking our daughter and two grandsons on a RoadTrip through the Four Corners area, concentrating mainly on northeastern Arizona and southwestern Colorado. Contrary to my usual advice of getting input from all participants on such a trip, we kept the destinations secret from the two younger generations. Partly this was out of necessity. The boys spent most of the summer with their other grandparents and were not available for consultation, and their mom had spent a good portion of the summer doing outreach work in Russia. They all got home just a few days before our departure. But partly this was also to build suspense and anticipation.

    In any event we simply packed up on a Sunday morning and followed the GPS. First stop was a picnic lunch at the Salt River Canyon in east central Arizona.

    As part of out state legislature's twisted logic, they have de-funded many of the roadside rest areas, including the one in the canyon, making travel more difficult for those who are still financially able to hit the road and not participating in a boycott of the state. But we did manage to find a small area in the adjacent Fort Apache Indian Reservation before continuing on to the first major destination of the trip, the town of Greer. AZ. Greer is at the southern terminus of route AZ-373 which dead ends in town. This is actually a selling point of the town which bills the route as the "Road to Nowhere", and indeed Greer is a tranquil setting in the White Mountains, about as far from the typical image of Arizona as one can imagine.

    We spent a couple of days here, often in the rain, fly-fishing (a particular passion of my older grandson), hiking, biking, and generally relaxing. Upon leaving Greer we headed up through the Petrified Forest National Park

    for what would prove to be the first of 4 Junior Ranger badges earned by the boys. I've mentioned these previously, but they really are a great incentive to get kids interested in the parks they're visiting, in the history and meaning - not just the pretty vistas. and away from their little digital game devices. This was especially true at the next quick stop, the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. although little known, both the boys and the adults learned quite a lot through the program and had a very interesting visit, including a demonstration of Indian rug weaving, at a place most people would not even get close enough to ignore as they drove by.

    In the late afternoon, we pulled up to our next stopping spot, Chinle, AZ at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly National Monument.We stayed at one of the three motels in town, but before bedding down went into the park for a tour of the south rim. The rain continued and during the night I got a call from the front desk that one of three dams above the canyon had collapsed and that if one of the other two breached we'd have about 45 minutes to evacuate to a relief center being set up in town. There being not much else to do I simply let my wife know what was going on and went back to sleep. Fortunately, the two remaining dams held, but we did wake up to a 'new' river beside the motel. We called in to check on a jeep tour that we had arranged into the canyon and found out that all such tours were canceled and would probably not resume for a week or so since the river was now running deep enough to prevent fording, even by high clearance four wheel drive vehicles. So we spent the day driving the rim roads and hiking down when and where we were able.

    By way of compensation, we did run into a Navajo artist at one of the viewpoints. He had just hiked out of the canyon where he lived with his grandmother. He got to talking about his life in the canyon which we all found fascinating and we ended up giving him a ride in our overly packed mini van out to the park entrance and bought a small carving as a souvenir for the boys. Over a final meal before leaving we let the kids play 20 questions to try to figure out the next destination, which caused considerable consternation before they finally got it: Durango, CO. On the way up, the plan was to stop at the Four Corners Monument so that the boys could add Utah to their list of states visited. But when we got there, the monument was closed for repairs. There was something quite sad about seeing the half dozen or so RVs pulled up at the locked gate with people posing in front of a sign saying that they couldn't get to the one place where they could be in 4 states at the same time.

    Durango would be our final major stop, but not necessarily for any major "must see". We settled in a bit north of town on US-550, the Million Dollar Highway, across from Durango Mountain Resort. This is the former Purgatory Ski Village which now operates as a year round outdoor venue. The boys and their mom spent a day there riding the Alpine Slide, taking mountain bike rides from the tops of chair lifts, doing some bujee-cord trampoline jumping and wall climbing while the grandparents had a well deserved rest. Then the next day we drove to Silverton and beyond on a dirt (rutted rock) road to a former gold and silver mine which had conducted tours through the old workings and even beyond that to the ghost town of Animas Forks.

    Although we made it in a standard mini van, the road calls for (and all the other vehicles we saw on it were) high clearance 4WD vehicles or motorcycles.

    We had slowly worked our way north over about 6 days, but now we were going to make the run back to home (Tucson) in only two days. On day 1 we had a major stop at Mesa Verde National Park

    where the boys earned the last of their Junior Ranger Badges. There are ranger guided tours into a couple of the more remote ruins, but these were already booked up through the morning even though we had arrived at the entrance to the park just a few minutes after scheduled opening. We therefore went on to the southern end of the park and the accessible Spruce Tree site. We were early enough that it was not yet crowded and had ample time to explore and talk to the Rangers on duty. We had a picnic lunch on the way out and then spent the afternoon driving to Pinetop, our last night out of the trip. The following morning, Sunday, we stopped at the Fort Apache Historic Park.

    I suspect that this would have been a very worthwhile stop except for two factors. Sunday is the only day of the week the park buildings are closed, and so one can only make a self-guided walking tour of the grounds, and one of our group had a small mishap. After some application of first aid, we packed it in and made the final drive home, arriving in the afternoon with enough time to relax a bit and get unpacked.

    All in all, we had a great time. I think the kids learned something about the geology of the region and the history of the Anasazi. And we have another family memory tucked away.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-20-2018 at 06:16 PM. Reason: Added Links and Photos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Love that one photo!

    I love that shot of the twp boys, one with the cowboy hat, looking at the pond. That was so cool!


  3. #3


    Agreed -- that photo by the pond is beautiful, and hopefully has already been framed and given a place of prominence in your home! The light & shadows are lovely, and the colors are so vibrant. Great shot!

  4. #4

    Default Perfect day in AZ


    Just wanted to add my own congratulations on the quite wonderful fishin' photo ... and let you know that not quite everyone is boycotting AZ. We've just spent the morning exploring the eastern section of Saguaro N.P., early afternoon on the tour of the Boneyard, the last couple of hours beside our hotel pool here in Tucson and later this evening we're going out for pizza.

    It'd be hard to imagine a better way of spending a Friday!

    Last edited by Peter Thody; 08-20-2010 at 06:48 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Thanks

    One thing I've learned from taking pictures of my grandsons is that some of my favorite shots are taken from behind. There is a certain timelessness to such images that pictures of their full faces (which show their age) lack. I've added a couple of additional pictures and a lot of links to my report to make it a bit more useful.

    Peter - you should have told me you were coming! I was out today doing a little RoadTrip of the area southeast of town, making a circuit of the Wilcox Playa through cotton and pistachio growing areas. If you're going to be in town for a bit, I recommend the San Xavier Mission and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum as part of any tour of the Old Pueblo


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default I hope you can get together

    I didn't realize that Peter and Carole would be in Tucson -- my goof -- and I hope you do get a chance to meet IRL!


  7. #7

    Default Unplanned visit

    Our arrival in Tucson was entirely unplanned. Our aim was to avoid all big conurbations until we're forced to end our trip in Phoenix in Wednesday next week. We called into the visitor centre in Benson last night for advice on where to stay in their town but rather than recommending somewhere local they directed us to Embassy Suites on E. Broadway Road, Tucson.

    I hadn't realised that Tucson was your base Buck. Had we known this, and known we were visiting, then I would certainly have arranged to meet. As it is, our plan is to head for Mt Lemmon tomorrow morning (following a route recommended by Jaimie) and then move north-ish to try out one or two of Arizona's scenic byways.

    I was sorely tempted to visit the mission but I've long since realised that, however frustrating it is at the time, it's impossible to do everything (and that it's the entirely unexpected delights like Sequaro that end up sticking in the memory)


  8. #8

    Default The benefits of not planning

    Hi Buck,

    As it happened, today proved to be so overcast that a "scenic drive" up Mt Lemmon seemed liked a pointless exercise so we followed your initial recommendation and headed for San Xavier Mission. Which kind of proves the value of leaving things open until the very lat minute.

    It being a Saturday the mission was the focal point of the community with baptisms from 10.00 to 12.00. While this did restrict things in terms of viewing the mission from the insider, it did give us the opportunity to experience the sight of tattooed gang members and their wives/partners dressed in their Sunday (okay, Saturday) best carrying daughters in lace dresses or sons in mini-suits into the mission for the necessary blessings.

    In the square in front of the mission, a group of girls - including the cute youngster below - followed traditional dances.

    Currently in Apache Junction, watching a fairly spectacular storm outside. Plan is to visit Prescott tomorrow, "do" a bit of Route 66 the day after, visit the South Rim of Grand Canyon on Tuesday then return to Phoenix on Wednesday when we have to drop the car off.


  9. #9


    Wow! Great pictures. Looks like a fun trip.

  10. Default

    omg lovely trip. what an experience.

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