Day 3 of a two-week roadtrip to Colorado and New Mexico found me in
Arizona, finally reaching Colorado in the afternoon. I was camped in
the Lukachukai Mtns of Eastern Arizona, on lands that are part of the
vast Navajo Nation. I would have quite a bit of driving today to
get to Colorado, with much rough Jeeping and even a bit of actual
hiking along the way.
This was my short sunrise hike, an unnamed summit with 600ft of prominence
on the southeast side of Big Lake. My route from the southwest followed
an easy ridgeline to approach the summit from the west, taking twenty
minutes. No bushwhacking with mostly clear understory, modest brush found just
below the summit. I got to the top just as the sun was cresting above
Roof Butte, the P2K I had driven to the previous afternoon. There are also views
south and southwest, trees blocking those towards the north. I thought I
might find an Andy Martin register, knowing he had visited in 2014. Having no
luck in locating said object, I ended up leaving one of mine before
returning much the same way.
This is the northeasternmost P2K in Arizona. I had a few hours of highway
driving to get myself to the north side of the peak along US160. Once I turned
off on the access road, the real fun begins. This is a long drive, almost 14mi
to reach the summit. The first few miles are well-graded, but once you
pass the last homestead along the road, it becomes a challenge. As others have
commented, it's the crux of the outing and can be scary in the wrong vehicle.
There are washouts, deep ruts, boulders on the road, and lots
and lots of rock. One has to watch the road carefully almost the whole way,
making for a tiring drive. There were at least a dozen other vehicles on the
road today, most of them driven by women. Seems 'tis the season to collect
pinenuts, a traditional pasttime, for the women, anyway. The men I saw were
either sitting in a chair, drinking, looking bored, or in the case of a young
family, the husband was watching the two toddlers while mom collected pinenuts.
They were picking them up from between the rocks on one side of the road or the
other, one by one. Combined with the difficulty of the drive, this is one tough
way to spend a Sunday. The ladies were almost all nice, waving back to me, the
men just staring at me and ignoring my friendly waves. Even the
wild horses I encountered from time to time looked less intimidating
than these Navajo men. The last few miles I had to myself, traveling through
some lovely oak woodlands before the summit finally comes into
view in the last half mile.
It would take me an hour and a half to complete the drive to the base of the
mountain on its north side, leaving less than a quarter mile hike to the top.
The hike is steep, but not really brushy, taking less than 15min. At
the summit cairn there was a very busy, somewhat
disorganized register in a set of red nested cans. I didn't have the
patience to try and figure out the oldest entry and who might have left it. It's
a P2K - it's going to see a lot of traffic. Views are mostly blocked by trees,
but if one wanted to walk the perimeter of the flattish summit, views
can be had. The hike is easy, the drive is not, and I've not got much to
recommend it to anyone.
More driving, through Four Corners to reach Colorado, and then more driving
still. I had thought I might try to do a bigger hike in the afternoon, but the
forecast was decidedly against it. I got some rain on my way out of Cortez, but
luckily nothing much. A cold storm bringing snow was due this evening, so I
didn't want to get stuck camped away from the pavement if we got more than a few
inches of the white stuff. I decided to visit Newman Hill above Rico, and old
mining town along SR145. The oddly named "Hill" lies across the west side of
Dolores Mtn, between Spear Slide and Deadwood Gulch. An unsigned, high-clearance
road is found on the east side of the highway, just south of the town center.
The rough road sees some traffic, but not a lot, probably kept clear by the
locals. It's a lovely road travelling through aspen forests that are in
the process of changing to fall colors - very scenic. I found several
downed trees that were easy to move, then more serious,
mature aspen downfall that stopped me about a quarter mile from the
point depicted on LoJ as the summit. I had a lovely hike on the continuing road,
then onto a lesser road that hasn't seen traffic in years. I passed by
an old mine (mostly just a big hole with tailings) with
a concrete foundation to a building that has long vanished. I noted
several mountain bike trails that have been constructed on the hillside.
One of these led just past the summit, leaving an easy cross-country
through ferns to reach what passes as the top. No doubt, this was
probably named for one of Laura's descendents who poured his life's blood into
prospecting and mining in the area. To have been able to reach the summit before
Laura brought me no small measure of joy. On the way down, I followed the mtn
bike trail back to the road, easier than my ascent route.
After returning to the Jeep, I drove most of the way back down to Rico,
stopping a few hundred yards short of the pavement where I found a nice spot to
spend the night. If it snows tonight, I should have little trouble reaching the
pavement in the morning...