Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert
Wilderness Jeep Expedition: Tonto National Forest Road 1


Lewis Carrol wrote in Alice in Wonderland:

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.

So, I purchased a map of Arizona and found the beginning. No, not Eden - it's not down on any map. I found the road numbered with "1." Forest Road 1 that is, and I began a life of Jeep adventuring here; this wild land is conveniently located in Central Arizona. And I said to Russ, "It's Forest Road 1. I don't know if it will take a week or a day but I've cleared my schedule so I can see everything along this road. Are you in?"

Where else would you expect a wistful and introverted guy driving a Jeep to begin?

Camping in central arizona Jeep expeditionOh yeah, perhaps at the end. Like David Wilcox sings, "Start with the ending, it's the best way to begin." Well, in respect for good music and internal conflict, I listened to this song by Dave as we started the trail.

Urgency demands that we explore and see what's out there; this is an urgency prompted by modern progress and what journalists who can't come up with an original thought call "urban sprawl." My buddy, Russ, had just purchased his new Rubicon Jeep Wrangler and at the time we were seriously armed with two Jeeps, a harebrained level of enthusiasm, and a map...

What couldn't we do with a map in our hands?

Blooming Hedgehog Cactus in ArizonaThis central section of Arizona is rugged and spangled with rock formations, canyons, mountains, and wild sonoran scenery with saguaros, mesquite, ironwood, ocotillo, brittle bush, and juniper at certain elevations. Based on my map, it appeared that we could spend weeks out there without ever seeing a Wal-Mart or Starbucks - and to most post-modern folks, this is a frightening prospect. The map had some peculiar markings that indicated there were mines (or remnants of mines) scattered throughout the land.

"Must be rugged and wild out there, especially without Starbucks," remarked Russ.

Our expedition began with a snag, as the turn off for Forest Road 1 from Highway 60 passes through a small farming community to the immediate south. As I remember it, there were about 3 homes with porches, a tractor or two, and several dogs. A sign in front of one of the homes read, "Welcome to Meyersville - Population 11 - Est. 1954." We kept driving down the road - a graded dirt road - past the homes, waving at the children, until we approached a gate; and it was locked. A sign on the road read, "FR1" but the sign on the gate indicated that the road was closed. Forest Road 1 Jeep Expedition Arizona

"Russ, why don't we drive down highway 60 and take the next road. Maybe we can hook up with FR 1 somewhere out there." I suggested.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," Russ shrugged because he doesn't like to let minor things like locked gates get in his way. Yet he agreed to try my idea first. Upon passing through the community again, we waved at a farmer who was sitting on his tractor and wearing wide brimmed hat and denim overalls. He had dry and rough looking facial skin, like he was a character straight out of a John Steinbeck book. We drove slowly to keep the dust settled, and he waved and smiled at us as we went by. Then I watched Russ back up and lean out his window to talk with the farmer.

And I'll go word for word here:

"Yeah, you can get back on the sixty here, and go west for 'bout 2 miles. You'll see another dirt road on the left. That's 349. Take that - it'll be warshboardy to high hell, but you can do it in those contraptions you got there. After 3 or so miles, you'll find the other gate that closes off FR1 and then you'll have connected with it. Then you can go fer days and not see another soul if you wanted." He nodded and smiled, "It's a damn shame that they had to close that road. It's only warshed out fer maybe twony fave feet. But I guess thay ain't got no money to fix it since things er running so dry in the state budget. The first things to go are our lands, ya know. Anyway, have a good one."

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Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert