By Patty Wilber
Well, seeing family for Christmas was not an option, so I decided to book a little social distanced camping trip to Ride Out Ranch in Florence AZ, where it was warmer than the East Mountains! We talked our friends the Shuerts into coming with!
It was over 400 miles away, so a bit of a drive, and I did take us down the Salt River Canyon on Hwy 60, which is rather steep and winding and you can only go about 30 mph, but hey we made it without burning our brakes. (We came back via Payson which did have its six and seven percent grade spots and runaway truck lanes, but the road was not nearly as serpentine and was 55 mph plus, so an easier trip!)
We chose the primitive camp area at Ride Out because they said we would be the only ones camping there. It was a very good choice! There was lots of space and fantastic views. The only amenities were horse stalls and water. I had expected a porta-potty, too, but nope. Good thing we brought our own!
Our hosts double checked our time of arrival with us while we were on the road and met us at the gate to help get us settled. They sent us some GPS trail tracks and gave us some advice about where to ride. They had one impromptu organized ride that we did not attend, but we were invited. Other than that, we were pretty much on our own, which is what we had wanted!
The first afternoon we rode down into the Box O Wash (corrected from Donnelly Wash–blaming Maps.me’s names) which was just below our camp area. We were a bit goggle-eyed over the huge saguaros! Saguaros can grow to 40-60 feet and some are thought to be 200 years old. They do not get their first arms until they are 50-100! (It depends on rainfall.) You can see the ones behind Jim in the picture above have arms! OLD!
We rode about four miles and we took the dogs, who had a bit of a learning curve…there are a LOT of spiny plants in this part of Arizona and they stick to dogs.
I finally tried out my Equilab App on my phone that my friend Patty recommended. She ran hers and I ran mine. Our paths recorded LOOKED very similar, but her mileage was 3.9 miles and mine was 0.3. Clearly I screwed up somewhere!
The next day we rode across Cochrane (a good gravel road) Drive toward the rocks called The Boulders. There are no marked trails but there are some two tracks and some cattle trails. I forgot to activate the Equilab, but Patty did and Bill had his GPS. We made a nice loop of about eight miles. There were more fantastic saguaros and some fun rock formations.
This area has a fair number of off road vehicles (often driven by retirees, we were told) but we only saw four and only two saw us. They really were piloted slowly and by people that looked even older than us. (It was a Friday.) The dogs stayed in camp.
That evening we hung out around a propane campfire (wood is allowed only in fire pits) and watched an amazing sunset!
I messed with Equilab (and everyone made fun of me for my incompetence, just saying) and also my Maps.me (another phone app mapping program). The Maps.me indicated that we could ride down Donnelly Wash (which was really Box O Wash….again, clearly Maps.me is at fault for this name error…probably…pretty sure…) all the way to the Gila River, and it would be about eight miles one way. So, on Saturday, that is what we did!
There were a few javelina hunters, and a few vehicles, so we were not in the wilderness, but it is a very big wash and we had no problems staying out of each other’s ways.
My Equilab recorded 14 miles but Patty’s recorded 16 as did Bill’s GPS. Equilab was not happy that I put my phone on airplane mode and it estimated (by drawing a straight line) some of our route, thereby underestimating. But I did canter for two minutes and trotted for seven on the day! Whew. So fast. LOL.
On Sunday, we went back into the wash but we went up instead of down. We were planning on a shorter ride so we took the dogs. Lani and Coulson thought they were going to have fun chasing after a jackrabbit but Lani plowed into some cholla while her brain was occupied with RABBIT RABBIT RABBIT. It was not a pretty sight. Good thing she had Jim and my leatherman to save her. Coulson might be smarter or at least less single-minded. Fortunately, Lani was able to continue the ride, and paid a lot more attention to where she was going.
We climbed out of the wash onto the flatland to the west, and we wanted to make a loop. We got fairly far, but we were not finding a route down. Jim wanted to plunge down the steep sides. That did not look good to me. I figured that if the cows hadn’t gone that way, we should not either. Eventually we did find a good cow trail down and we made a nice loop of about four miles. I did not put my phone on airplane mode and Patty’s EquiLab mileage and mine MATCHED!!
Then we finished packing up and headed home, back to winter. It had snowed a few inches while were gone.
But, of course, we do need the moisture!