Colorado Adventure, Day 9 // Friday, September 18, 2015
Let’s say you’re in Gallup, NM and driving to Tucson, AZ. How are you going to get there? Google Maps says the fastest route is 6 hours, taking I-40, then highways 77 and 60 through cities like Holbrook, Show Low, and Globe. This route will take you through some beautiful Arizona back highways, through mountain ranges, and through the Salt River Canyon, giving you great views and a relatively quick drive back. Sounds like a good plan, right?
Not for us! Our problem is we’ve already driven on these roads, and thus when we go to highlight roads on our atlas, we wouldn’t have any new roads to drive in Arizona! Forget that we just spent a week driving through places we’d never been, our adventure could not stop here. Instead of taking any of Google Map’s 3 suggested routes, we took the road less traveled. 🙂
From Gallup, we headed South on 602, driving through the beautiful Zuni reservation. Then we went West on 53, which turns into 61 in Arizona, until it tees with 191 on which we started heading South. For the first part of the drive, from here to Eagar, there’s not a whole lot to see. In the distance, we could see the White Mountains, but for the most part it was red dirt and dry desert plants all around. However, as we were driving through, we saw a “for sale” sign for a piece of land that was dirt cheap out there, and I have to admit we seriously considered it…and maybe still are. 😉
After Eagar, we began the more exciting part of the drive, through the White Mountains and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Four years ago, this area was affected by the Wallow Fire, the biggest wildfire ever in Arizona, and burned 841 square miles. We only drove through a part of that area, and were amazed by how long we were seeing the damage.
When we came to a pull out, we got out and enjoyed the wide, expansive views of this area. The Rockies were cool, but Arizona mountains will always hold a special place in our hearts. We like that we’ve become more familiar with all the mountain ranges in Arizona, so we can point out and name the different ranges and peaks. Of course we hadn’t ever been to this area, so it was fun to see the mountains we knew from a different point of view.
Okay, so to be honest, while we were happy to draw this new line on our map, I think it’s safe to say we won’t plan on driving this road again. 90% of the time it was going up, down, and around the mountains, and we rarely were able to drive over 30 miles and hour. It was painful. We were pretty relieved when we made it past the Morenci mines and were done with this road.
We were now less than 3 hours from home, but we decided to enjoy one last night of vacation together. After grabbing a few letterboxes between Clifton and Safford, we drove up Mt. Graham to camp for the night. We stayed in the Arcadia Campground, which wins the prize for being the cheapest campground we stayed at this trip, having the least amount of people, and also being the loudest campground. However, I rather enjoyed how much warmer the weather was compared to the other nights. Let’s just say it was still very much summer in Arizona! And so after a week of autumn in Colorado, we were now back to enjoying the summer sun. 🙂
The next morning, 9/19, we finished our drive to Tucson and had a happy reunion with our friends. We’re settled here now for a little while longer, and ready to make the most of our time, while still enjoying the down time we have together. 🙂