April 2019 – After our quick trip to southeastern Utah to photograph the red rocks and fantastic rock formations, we took our RV back down south to eastern Arizona. Leaving Utah’s chilly late winter air behind us, we found Spring was in full bloom in the Arizona desert.
The most extraordinary display of wildflowers covered the hillsides at the base of the Salt River Canyon, and we can’t recommend highly enough making a trek there to see the flowing blankets of yellow poppies and purple lupine that ripple between the towering canyon walls at the peak of spring.
Unfortunately, now that we drive The Train, we weren’t able to stop and savor the views. The pullouts are plenty big enough for a rig like ours if it’s the only thing parked there, but each one was filled with cars and happily gawking tourists who were gazing at the wonder.
But once we set up camp, our RZR got us out into the desert and we saw some beautiful wildflowers.
One day we decided to take the RZR on the Black Hills National Back Country Byway, a dirt road that was first built by settlers in the 1800s as a route connecting the flat farmlands around Safford with the mining communities in the hills around Morenci.
This dirt road is about 21 miles long and it winds up into the junipers and back down into the desert on its journey.The views were very nice, but what caught our attention were the many different kinds of wildflowers tucked into nooks and crannies here and there.
From tiny purple flowers wriggling in the breeze to pretty yellow poppies dancing in the sunlight, we saw all kinds of flowers brightening this otherwise relatively drab landscape.
The fun thing about doing this drive with the RZR is it was easy to hop in and out of it every few miles to poke around and take pics. It was a balmy Thursday, and in our three hours on the road (we go slowly!) we saw only one other vehicle, a motorcycle.
Buddy sniffed the flowers now and then, but he was more interested in the little critters that make this area home. We had seen two red-headed bugs with antennae flying while linked together. It was spring, and they were doing what the birds and the bees tend to do in springtime!
Then I noticed a patch of purple flowers that was loaded with these red headed bugs!
Buddy has discovered the joys of lizard hunting, and he chased quite a few on our excursion. He loves the chase, and on rare occasions he actually catches up to one too. They’re clever though, and they play dead to make him stop chasing!
There are several picnic areas along this route with views that look out into the hills. These rest areas have picnic tables and ramadas covered with copper roofs and lots of information about the history of the area.
One of the most amazing views is of the Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci. This is one of the largest copper mines in the world and has been extracting copper from the hills for almost 150 years.
Arizona schoolkids learn that Arizona is known for the five C’s – Cattle, Copper, Cotton, Climate and Citrus. We saw two of the C’s together while driving the Black Hills Back Country Byway!
At the mine overlook there were several big boulders with copper embedded in them along with detailed descriptions of how the copper is extracted.
It was fun at another point on this drive to see tall red penstemon flowers against the backdrop of a boulder filled with lichen.
Another thing Arizona is known for is sunsets. The word doesn’t start with a C, but reliably dramatic sunsets definitely make Arizona a very a special place!
As we’ve continued experimenting with triple towing, we’ve learned a few more things in recent weeks. One of the attractions of a toy hauler is the very cool back patio deck most have, and I’ve been drawn to several units that had side patios too.
Well, one afternoon I looked at our utility trailer and realized it would make a wonderful little raised patio!
If the rig is positioned right, the whole rear wall of the trailer can shade the patio, and by being up off the ground you don’t get that bitter cold breeze from under the trailer that you do when you hang out on camp chairs at ground level.
Another thing we’ve learned is that when you make a super tight turn, depending on the design of the utility trailer, it may be possible for a front corner of the utility trailer to make contact with the back of the fifth wheel trailer.
So, if you are getting set up to triple tow, you might consider taking your rig to a huge and vacant parking lot to try a few slow sharp u-turns to see just how tightly your rig can turn before contact is made between the two trailers.
Arizona is a beautiful state and we’re looking forward to watching Springtime continue to unfold here.
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- Salt River Canyon Map – If you drive your RV you’ll need a strong engine and nerves of steel for the steep grades and switchbacks
- Black Hills Back Country Byway – BLM website
- History of the Phelps Dodge copper mine – Keeping chefs cooking (copper clad pots) and electrons flowing (in wire) since 1872
- Ten biggest producing copper mines in the world – Phelps Dodge mine in Morenci is listed here as #8
- Black Hills Back Country Byway Map – Passenger vehicles are okay but a high clearance 4×4 is recommended
Other blog posts from southeastern Arizona:
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – Wild Animals in Tucson AZ 03/05/16
- Arizona’s Eastern Chiricahuas – Finding Beauty in Devastation 03/01/15
- Dear Deer in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains 02/11/15
- Old Adobe Doorways & An Evening Walk in Tucson AZ 02/23/16
- Saguaro National Park Petroglyphs – Tucson Mountains, AZ 02/20/16
- San Xavier Mission – Spanish Colonial Architecture in Tucson AZ 02/17/16
- Sandhill Cranes in Willcox Arizona – What a Party! 02/21/15
- Swift Trail Scenic Drive up Mt. Graham – Autumn Color in Arizona 12/07/15
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