Saturday, January 19, 2013

Copper Canyon Reprise

Sam Cam records the usual suspects celebrating their safe arrival at the top of the  infamous Copper Canyon Hill.

Back on January 4th, Wayne Ranney and we went for a fine Friday hike down the old General Crook Trail and along the bottom of Copper Canyon. (Click here to read the blog post about it.)  As we were walking down that fine country back road, two things kept coming to mind: A) The road would be great for the Samurai and B) Susun would love to see it, too.

We were so enthusiastic about the awesome attributes of the road and the adjacent tiny creek and riparian area that we almost turned right around and drove it the very next day.  Then we came to our senses and realized it was a Saturday and the place would be teeming with "yahoos" running amuck in ATV's and bubba boy jacked up trucks.  Nah, little Samurais don't mix with that crowd.

So, time passed.  The historic cold spell came and stayed for days.  Meanwhile, we were chomping at the bit to take an official Road Trip and off we went practically the minute the cold weather began it head east to molest other parts of America.  As we were returning on Thursday, the topic of conversation came around once again to Copper Canyon.

Practically no sooner than we arrived home and unpacked, we were packing once again for the Copper Canyon day trip.  We took off at 10 am from here at Second Chance Ranch.  The little Samurai doesn't like driving even those four miles on I-17 and our top speed might have been 50 mph.  We had to hit the shoulder a couple of times to let high speed traffic blow past us.

Anyway, we arrived at the new Copper Canyon Trailhead and took off on our little adventure about 10:45 am.  Not even a quarter mile up the rough road, we encountered some old silver-haired "yahoos" in various vehicles including a totally inappropriate Subaru. They had all turned around to leave when they encountered the road's first gnarly portions. The guy in the Subaru stopped briefly to shout out to us, "ROUGH ROAD AHEAD!"  No kidding?  What was your first clue, dude?

Well, by way of disclaimer, we must say that if we hadn't personally hiked the road two weeks earlier, we might have turned around, too.  The nice thing about hiking a road first is you get to see each and every one of the itty, bitty routes between rocks and ruts and how you have to place your tires and so forth to navigate the dicey parts.  Without the benefit of scouting on foot, the idea would have been considerably more daunting.  Anyway, we forged on without mishap or peril.

About two miles into the trip, we reached the stretch of beautiful perennial flowing spring water.  What a wonderfully lush riparian area lies there unseen from the interstate's speeding vehicles high above on the canyon wall.  It's a very slow going road and about 98% of the length of the narrow route requires use of 4WD Low.  As you know, driving in 4WD Low is, by definition, the epitome of slow going.

By and by we came to the spring from whence all the beautiful water flows.  You really can't see the actual spring as it is overgrown by wild blackberries and nobody but bears dares wade into them thorny canes.  After leaving the upper end of the two mile stretch of lush riparian vegetation, we came to the photo rocks.  These are the same rocks Wayne was smitten with a mere two weeks beforehand.  And, wouldn't you know, the very same mean old bull blocked the road at the very same way-too-narrow-place.  We honked and bluff charged the bull and he didn't budge.  Finally, we squeezed his huge bulk between the passenger side and the rock wall.  We're surprised he didn't crush in the right side of the Samurai.  He was close enough for his hide to buff off some of the dust on the side of the Samurai.  His spine was as high as the top of the Samurai window!  Odd feeling to be that close and personal with such an ill-tempered animal.

We thought we were going to pull over and debate whether to make the final climb out of the head of the canyon.  That didn't happen.  We missed the last place to pull over and you know what that means--there's only one way out and you can't stop and think about it.  You just have to go and keep on going and hope it all works out OK.  The road narrowed even farther and the precipice on the driver's side became much steeper and deeper and edged closed to the track of the Samurai's wheels.  YIKES!  That last mile up that hill was definitely white-knuckle for both of us.  Luckily, neither of us blurted out any unsettling words or statements.  The steep hill and the slick unstable surface of the so-called road was right at the limits of the Samurai's capabilities. There were a couple of spots where we wished we really didn't have to navigate them but, of course, in a situation like that there is no choice.  There's no place to stop; no place to turn around; and no place to kneel and pray.  One simply kneels and prays in their mind's eye.

Luckily, we made it to the top totally OK without mishap and we could exhale and celebrate.  It was one of those types of hill climbs--the ones you love ti talk about AFTER you have climbed them.  Trust me, we won't be driving that hill again in this lifetime!  That was a one time thing.

Then, of course, we had to get back down OFF the hill and there's really only one practical way to do that--drive down I-17 (AKA: The Kamikaze Highway)  We got real lucky and didn't have a gaggle of high speed traffic bunch  up behind us.  Our Guardian Angels definitely must have played a role in such good fortune.

All-in-all, we were very happy to return home Friday.  SuziQ The Samurai is now resting peacefully awaiting her next call of duty.  Meanwhile, our next official Road Trip will commence Tuesday when we take off in the Nissan for a 365 mile round trip to Globe via Payson and Young.  We will spend the night at Globe's El Rey motel and return the same way on Wednesday.

Naturally, we mounted the GoPro camera on the hood of the Samurai yesterday and took 499 photos of the Copper Canyon trip.  We've been calling this arrangement a "Hood Cam" but have since changed the name to "Sam Cam."  We edited out about 100 photos and used Windows Movie Make to create a slideshow of the other roughly 400 photos.  We then uploaded it to YouTube for a 6:36 video of the trip through Copper Canyon.  You can see the video and read a little bit more about it here:

Many Cheers!  jp

1 comment:

Wayne Ranney said...

I enjoyed this so much! The movie too. Thank you!