US-191 - Clifton
After driving down the mountain that Wednesday morning, I headed straight for Clifton. Not having got much information in Safford, I planned to ask in Clifton. I recall from a previous visit that the Visitor Information was very helpful. But that was a long time ago.
On arrival I discovered that the said information office is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Next day it was not open either.)
There did not appear to be any other information in town.... no rangers office, no BLM office, no police station or sheriff that I could find. But there was a book store, which sold all types of second hand stuff as well. The store was closed, but there was a phone number along with a humorous message about office hours. I called.
The 'mountain lady' was delightful, and said she would be there in a few minutes. I had told her that book sellers normally know everything, and since I was not able to find any information, figured she would be able to help. She sure did.
More than an hour later, and going on for dinner time, we said goodbye, but not before exchanging business cards.
By now it was too late to go to a forest campground, so settled on the North Clifton RV park. Tony, who is in charge, was able to fulfill my request, close to the bathrooms... and wifi. Since the bathrooms, office, rec room and laundry were all in the one building, and the wifi router was in Tony's office (as well as elsewhere in the grounds) I had excellent wifi.
Tony also told me about the history of the town and gave me small booklet; the history of the RV park; as well as his family's history, being third or fourth generation US from Mexican heritage. A very interesting... and interested person.
The RV park is full with mostly permanent and semi permanent contractors who work in the mine. Packed in like a parking lot, there definitely is no 'camping' feeling. But I was well away from that, on a concrete slab, just outside the office. The bathrooms were clean. Took the opportunity to do my laundry as well. All up, including the laundry, it cost me $12.00.
I must have hit the wrong number on my phone, when later in the evening the mountain lady and I connected again. She suggested that we meet for breakfast in the morning.... which we did, right next to her store. Most of the morning was gone by the time these two septuagenarians had finished breakfast... and solved the problems of the world. Such interesting company. Such a memorable breakfast.
the adventurer rolls on
It is certainly a wonderful thing that you and the bookstore owner managed to "... solve the problems of the world..." Great story and one of the reasons that road trips are more adventure than travel.
US-191 - Coronado Trail
Drive it. You'll never forget it.
It was August 2001. I had been given a Kia Rodeo (I think it was), to relocate from Tucson to Putney VT. First destination was to be Albuquerque NM. Checked my maps very carefully and found I would not have to drive on the interstates all the way. There seemed to be ample opportunity to take alternative, maybe shorter roads. Bonus was, some were marked as scenic routes.
The plan was to take 191 to Eager and 60 to I-25. (In those days I did not know they were called US-191 and US-60.) The information centre in Clifton is right on the highway, so I stopped. The lady there told me it was beautiful, I would enjoy it, but did not give any specific detailed information. Gave me a couple of photo copied sheets of handwritten information, with the road hand drawn.
That was all I knew.
It was beautiful, that is for sure. But I do not think I have ever been so scared. I was far too scared to drive on the cliff side of the road. From memory there were no guard rails and the road was definitely much narrower than it is now. I don't think it was all paved either. I made it to Eager and headed east on 60. A 100 mile 'shortcut', which I had (erroneously) assumed would take less than two hours, had taken me close to four. I was now pushing to get to Albuquerque before dark.
[I think it was at Quemado NM that I had to get more fuel. In this remote place, the service station owner asked me where I lived in Australia. I was staggered. He said he recognised my accent as one of his empolyees was an Aussie. He also suggested I take 36 and 117 to I-40, which, considering the hour of the day was probably not a good choice. But it was stunningly beautiful.]
Now, on this August day, 13 years later, I set off on the Coronado Trail through Morenci, destination Alpine. Stopped at all the mine pullouts and marvelled at the many colours of the rock; horrified at this scar on the landscape. The road today is wider, sees much more heavy traffic, and definitely more cars. (In 2001 I saw three vehicles in four hours.) There are now guardrails at the worst parts.
The switchbacks are still there and despite the guardrails, it is still not a road for the faint hearted. Much of the time I was well over the double lines. (Later speaking with some of the locals in Alpine, they assured me that they always do as well.)
Checked out the first campground. Granville campground is in a bushy setting, well spaced and presenting a wonderful challenge to find a level spot. It is on a dirt road and would not be suitable for RVs. Furnished with fire rings and picnic tables, there were outlets for water. But when I was there, these were dry. It was completely deserted.
Lower and Upper Juan Miller campgrounds had a road leading up to it which stated 'drive at own risk'. It was quite a good gravel and dirt road, but the tracks into the campgrounds I gave a miss. The K P Cienega campground looked absolutely beautiful, but this too, was deserted. It is in an area which was affected by wildfire in 2011. The danger of falling trees is an issue here. However, it would be a most beautiful campground. It overlooks a huge meadow. I sat there for a while imagining what it might be like early and late in the day. It is the type of area where wildlife would come to feed. (Hunting is forbidden.)
Lastly there was Hannagan Meadow campground at over 9000'. This is located just south of the lodge. Four of the eight spots were occupied. No hookups, but I noticed there is water and a dump station. A beautiful, bushy campground.
In Alpine I had a great spot in the Alpine Village RV Park. Good facilities, free wifi... all I needed. The owners were most friendly and helpful. However, this RV park has also packed them in like sardines. Mostly permanent vans, (one man told me he leaves it there all year and just comes in summer), on site vans for hire, etc.
Loving the description of "my backyard". I have a Clifton story. I contacted the Visitor Center (the one that was closed during your recent visit) to get permission to use it as a start/finish point for our Tucson-based walking club. I've done this all over the state for the past 25 years, permission granted, about 25 people showed up from around the state to do the 10 Km walk around town. When we returned to the Visitor Center the locals had a reception for us, cookies and punch for all. Only time that has ever happened.
We have driven the Coronado Trail several times over the years, it was paved in 2001. KP Cienga is one of our favorite campgrounds. A little background - what is now US 191, was US 666. And yes, it was referred to as the Devil's Highway. My father, the adventurous one, once 'tricked' my mother into driving that stretch telling her it was shorter. She did not like heights, especially drop-offs, so she drove (which kept her away from the edge) - I think she got even.
With all that said, it is a beautiful drive, just be prepared for a scenic adventure.
Thanks for the memories!
My first teaching position was in a copper mine town in the Arizona desert. I believe the school played against the Clifton/Morenci kids in Football, Basketball etc. I never did travel 666 AKA 191. Interesting description! (We were at a festival in Safford once, though, and US-70 closed somewhere between Safford and Globe. We had to go the LONG way around, leaving Safford at 9:30 pm and did not get back to our home school for another 4-1/2 hours. If the road hadn't closed, we would have been home in 3. The kids were excused from school the next day, but this teacher was NOT!)
US-191 - White Mountain Region
Having been told by the ladies in the office at the RV park, that the scenic route I had planned to take to Big Lake, was closed due to roadwork, I headed north to Eager. Here I planned to pick up 260 to Show Low and US-60 back to Springerville, 'Gateway to the White Mountains'.
First stop was at Nelson Reservoir. Here there was not only a nice turnout, but a great view over the water. This is obviously a popular spot with the locals. I watched for a while, all the activities on the water. Caught up on some paper work and made lunch.
At Eager I turned onto 260 west. Once out of the town, the road runs through meadows and agricultural land. A little further on it enters the mountains. Once again, wonderful views so difficult to record. These minor roads have so few places to pull over and take a photo. I had been told about the chair lift ride at Sunrise Peak, and thought this would be a nice activity. Unfortunately, by the time I got that far into the mountains, the rain was pouring out of the black sky above. That wouldn't be fun. I gave it a miss. Maybe another day.
Where these two scenic roads meet, at Show Low (who ever thought of that name?), one has already driven through more than nine miles of suburbia, constant traffic lights and (slow) speed zone changes. Pinetop-Lakeside seems to have merged with Show Low. All of that is still marked as 'scenic' on maps, however it is anything but. Similarly on US-60 heading east out of Show Low, for at least another two or three miles.
When I saw a Forestry Services Office, I called in. Once again they were not able to tell me anything about local scenic drives and attractions, other than commercial attractions... which mostly do not interest me. I was told I could learn more in Springerville, but I would have to hurry to get there before they closed at 4.30pm. (It is here also that I was told I was unwise, even foolish, for travelling without a fire arm, by those who purported to 'know'.)
Arrived at the said office at 4.29pm. The trip from Show Low to Springerville was spectacular over the volcanic high plains of AZ... so akin to the high plains of MT. A drive I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the time pressure.
In Springerville I aimed to get information for the trip heading north of there. Lyman SP was highly recommended as after that, 'there is NOTHING!!!' "Believe me," she said, "we travel it often to see family.... there is NOTHING to see."
How do these people get their jobs? Aren't they proud of the region in which they live? Is this the way to promote it? Can't they see the beauty in each valley, which changes as one passes over one crest after another, along the way? I was puzzled? I still am.
Stayed at a wonderful RV park, Casa Malpais, with great facilities, and of course, wifi. Just two miles west of the town. But this time I had to drive to the bathrooms.
Last edited by Lifemagician; 08-09-2014 at 02:58 PM.
Reason: corrected grammar (musta bin in a hurry).
With apologies to George, (glc),
but we do not allow references to Wikipedia as a source of factual information...
We do, however, have a short article on RTA about the origin of the town called Show Low which can be found here.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-09-2014 at 12:25 PM.
Reason: changed the link
It was a rhetorical question.
US-191 - to I-40
Heading north out of Eager, along US-191, the first place is St John. A tiny, spread out desert country town. I did not see anything to make me want to stop, and continued. A few miles further on is the turn off to Colorado Generating Station (authorised vehicles only). I had seen tall smokestacks for some time, and wondered what they were.
What was much more interesting was the huge area of metal junk in the field on the other side of the road. As I got closer I saw that it was the storage of a steel company. Looked like there was quite a lot of salvage stuff in there. Even an old travel trailer. The sort of place you might find 'something useful'.
It was just south of the Zuni Wash, on the east side of the road, where there is a cattle corral. This one looked like a well preserved older style, made out of logs. There was a windmill and tank or trough next to it. Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop, but I would have loved a photo of it. Reminded me so much of what was around in the area where I grew up.
As I progressed up the road where there was nothing to see, I came to a 'tiny' house. Set well away from the road, there did not appear to be any electricity connected, nor could I see a water tank. It was typical of the tiny houses one sees on the tiny house website. It looked so cute and quaint out there in the desert, with nothing else around.... but desert.
Some of the valleys one crosses have warnings of flash floods and not to enter water. These were often greener areas as a result of recent rains. This was ranch country, and I wondered not so much as to how many cattle they would have to the acre, but more like in the northwest at home, how many acres needed to raise one animal.
The next valley would be red rock country, sculpted by the wind and rain. The variety was endless.
Then there was the sign '36 acres of wilderness for sale'. I think it said $795. Now, what could one do with 36 acres? Raise one heifer?
As I drove along this road the sky to the east was almost black, yet the sky to the west was bright sunshine, blue sky and fluffy clouds. A school bus stop reminds one that people actually live in this desolate place, even though there is never a house to be seen.
At I-40 I decided on a slight detour, and headed to Petrified Forest NP. Many a time have I passed by here, but never stopped. In the end I only got to see the Painted Desert. At the visitor centre I had been told that the Petrified Forest part is really difficult to see much of without having to get out of the car. Whereas the Painted Desert could be enjoyed without having to walk. Just as
well, since it started to come down in bucket loads before I even got to the I-40 underpass.
The Painted Desert is an interesting place. It left me with a dilemna. Here I was marvelling at the colours of the rocks which form this landscape..... the same colour rocks which are exposed at the Morenci mine. Scar on the landscape or worth preserving?
Another old stomping ground of mine....Petrified Forest/Painted Desert. Worked there in the gift shop (Fred Harvey back then) one summer during college.
You could see some of the "trees" and rock within 100 ft of the parking lot, or at least you could years ago. This is another place that we've also passed by and haven't stopped ... but keep meaning to do so, like you.