29-Mar-2005 -- This was the first official day of my daughters' spring break and we had spent the morning climbing to the top of Picacho Peak just north of Tucson. Our next stop was 34n-112w.
All of the maps I had depicted a short, easy route coming from the west and Interstate-17. I didn’t know it at the time but I wisely chose to follow the advice of previous visitors and made our approach from the south and east.
We headed for Carefree then onto Pima Road and turned right on Cave Creek Road. We passed several luxury neighborhoods with very nice houses near the Tonto Hills subdivision. We entered the Tonto National Forest and set up camp at the Seven Springs Campground since we were not going to be able to get to the confluence before dark. We were the only ones camping there. Other than some wind, it was a very quiet and nice campground. This was real camping – tents and sleeping bags – our RV would not make it where we were planning on going on this trip….
The next morning we continued north on Road 24 and passed a sign that said this road was not suited for wet weather travel or low clearance vehicles. We turned west onto Road 41 and would eventually parallel the New River. The road condition gradually narrowed and became rougher the further along we went. We stopped just before a big mud pit across the road almost due south of the confluence.
My daughters were quickly catching frogs and playing in the stream as I began my hike to the confluence. It was about an 800 foot climb up and there are a couple of ridges hidden and unseen from the road.
The confluence lies on the southward facing side of a ridge, at about the same elevation as the ridge to the south of the road. The grass was very green and there were flowers everywhere.
Previous visitors had reported leaving a geocache in a 3 gallon bucket there. I spent over 15 minutes looking for any pile of rocks with (and without) a skull on it within about 10 meters of the confluence with no luck.
My Picture #1 looks northeast. Picture #2 looks east. Picture #3 looks south. Picture #4 looks west. Picture #5 shows a perfect confluence reading on my GPS units. Picture #6 starts the rest of the story….
As I was hiking down the New River Mountains to the road, I saw a pair of ATV’s coming from the west. I radioed to my wife to ask them when they went by how the road condition was out to the interstate. They had approached the mud pit and decided not to cross it. They told my wife that this was the very worst part of Road 41 and that they didn’t want to get stuck and were going to turn around.
They had left by the time I had made it back to our Tahoe. The hike had taken me just under two hours for a 1.8 mile round trip hike. We had already decided that it would be risky to attempt the mud pit crossing and were packing up to go back the long way out when along comes an Isuzu Trooper.
Now, if you’ve never seen the relative size difference between these vehicles, an Isuzu Trooper probably weighs 1500-2000 lbs less than a full-size 4WD Tahoe. (This will soon become important to the story).
We told the driver our intentions and he said he was going to consider crossing. I told him I had two 25 foot tow ropes in case he got stuck. He said he had one too.
He decided to go for it and, although it was a little ugly, he made it across and up the other side just fine. The thought of only having to drive 10 miles to the interstate instead of at least 4-5 hours of back-tracking suddenly looked a lot more appealing. He said he would wait if we wanted to try so we impulsively decided to follow.
Everybody was watching as I carefully approached this obstacle. I started forward and the Tahoe’s left running board soon became hi-sided on a rock. I was stuck and the front left tire was three-quarters of the way submerged in muck.
Evaluating our options, we decided to unload most of the stuff from the Tahoe and then, since we were less than half way across, would simply back out and go the long way around. After unloading, I got back in and started to drive out. At first I couldn’t go backwards, so I tried forward. All of a sudden, I was free and at this point, committed to going forward. The far edge of this pit in the road had a fairly significant slope.
Significant enough so that when my front bumper hit it, the front license plate was form-fitted to the bumper. It also produced an upward pitching motion allowing the front tires to help pull the vehicle up and onto the other side of the obstacle.
So there I was on one side - with my wife, daughters, and most of our stuff - on the other.
That’s what you see in Picture #6 as we were reloading – except you can’t really see the large rocks in the mud or just how deep and muddy this bowl really was.
We finished loading our stuff back up into a very dirty vehicle and thought that it would be just another hour or so to go the remaining 10 miles to the interstate. Besides, the ATV riders said this was the worst part….
Examination of the topo charts shows the New River paralleling and crossing Road 41 multiple times west of the confluence. There was about a foot of gently flowing water in the river and we would end up crossing it several times before reaching pavement. One advantage of these multiple crossings is that I was able to stop midstream a couple of times and wash a majority of the mud off of our vehicle.
We were committed on our westward journey to the interstate. There was no going back across the pit. I ended up moving several hundred pounds of rocks - both on the road and in the river on our way out. I would carefully walk up and down my intended path across the river and moved anything that looked like it might be in the way.
It was a lot of fun, but it quickly got old. I wouldn’t recommend an approach from the west unless you have a very high clearance 4WD vehicle - preferably with a winch to self-recover if you get stuck. A tow truck here would have been at least a full day event and would likely cost lots of money because it would not have been your average tow truck way out here – it would have required a 4wd monster tow truck to come and get you out.
Guess who just bought a front receiver hitch and is ordering a winch? (as well as a new left side running board - found it on ebay)
Two and a half hours later, we were finally on Interstate 17 heading north. What a great (day-long) confluence adventure!
It’s the journey that counts, and the memories you keep from having made them.
Next stop, Paria Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness – and N37-W112.