Day 1 – May 27, 2011 – 152.3 Miles ( 9.7 MPG) – worked the shop as leader in the morning – turned in the key and returned to Rockhound State Park where Linda had finished setting up the RV for travel. Took half an hour for lunch, hooked up, dumped our sewage and grey water, and headed out around 2:00 PM. The major highlights included the Morenci Mine located in and around Morenci, AZ. Unbelievable scale.
The largest producer of copper in North America and one of the largest open pit mines in the world. To drive through on route 191 took us about 2 hours – granted speed limits through tunnels and hairpin curves were down in the 10 MPH range, and we stopped to take a few pics, but – we were still impressed with the scale.
800 million pounds of pure copper per year and has moved over a million tons of ore per day. We traveled until about 6:30 PM through along some of the windiest mountain tarmac we have driven on. We camped at the Granville camp ground in the Apache National Forest at around 6500 ft elevation.
Day 2 – Saturday. May 28, 2011; 164 Miles (11.3 MPG) – fairly early start for us – 8:15 AM local time. Even at that we collected about a basket each of needles at the Granville camping area. Heading north on rte 191 we encountered even more of the windiest roads yet – even more hair pins and a lot longer than 152 in the NM Gila Forest. We were wending our way over the San Francisco Mountains and took a break to collect more Ponderosa Pine needles for basket making at Sheep Saddle rest area. The whole stretch was visible a little farther north from the Blue Vista View Point which is at the peak of the Mogollian Rim of the San Francisco Mountains. We had pulled the trailer to over 8000 feet and were glad for the break. Met a fellow from Italy who was on vacation and headed South to our North – he spoke pretty good English and said he was on a 6 week vacation!
From there it was downhill until St. John’s where we split from 191 to head over to the National Petrified Forest on 180, which is an east west road that parallels the old Route 66 for quite a way. We arrived and had camp set up by 2:00 PM (dry camping free at the gift shop site at the entrance to the Park) and did an “over view” ride that turned into a fairly extensive viewing of the Petrified National Park and the Painted Desert, along the 28 miles of Park road.
The idea was to be able to do a finer exploration on day 3, but we did spend about 4-5 hours at it.
Winds were forecast to be sustained 35-45 MPH with gusts to 65 MPH later in the day so we committed to a relatively early start in the morning. We were too tired to play scrabble.
Day 3 – Sunday, May 29, 2011; (0 miles toward Alaska – Explore day!) – we got going a little after 8:00 AM and went directly to the visitors center to see the museum and get our National Park stamp for this park (We had forgotten our “Park Passport” yesterday). We spent about 3 hours exploring that area around the South Visitor’s Center – the “North Visitor’s Center” being at the other end of the 28 mile Park road we had traveled the day before to view the Painted Desert and get a glimpse of the old “Rte 66” which came through Holbrook – the closest town of any size to the Park – in the “old” days. There was a short path through some of the natural area, called Giant Logs Trail, that we walked which had many photo opportunities along it. The pamphlet and the “obligatory park video” that we watched in the Visitor’s Center explained the geology of the area, the dinosaur/crocodilian connection and how the petrified wood and Painted Desert had been formed and how so much of the wood ended up in this relatively small area.
At that point we’d had enough of the organized viewing and were a little frustrated at seeing all this mineral wealth and not even being able to pick up a pebble.
Linda had done some research on a site over near Woodruff AZ that was in the middle of nowhere and where there were some possible petrified wood specimens that we could collect legally. The site was about 30 miles by paved, dirt and jeep road from where we were camping (despite seeming so near on the map as the “Raven flies”) near the Park entrance. Well – it was a bona fide rock hounder’s dream and we spent a couple of hours collecting there as the winds began to creep into the 30+ MPH range. The ride back was pretty much broadside to the “breeze” so there was a bit of a fight to keep the 4 Runner on the straight and narrow, but we made it back just fine – a little past mid afternoon, right after the Rod Sox had beaten the Tigers in the 9th inning off a Big Poppy home run!).
Linda took a few moments to patronize the gift shop/museum that was so kindly allowing us to dry camp for free and came back with some petrified dinosaur bone (which she will probably make into a piece of jewelry) and a Navaho woven basket to be able to see a different technique than the Pine Needle method we have been using and as a way of thanking the folks for their hospitality. We will be staying here tonight to ride out the worst of the wind, (so far only 44.4 MPH on the old Brunton Anomometer!) then we’ll head for Meteor Crater, followed by the Grand Canyon!