Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cochran Coke Ovens/Martinez Cabin and Mill - January 31, 2010

Cochran Coke Ovens

**UPDATE - 2020** - the Coke Ovens are closed to the public.  Do not trespass.  Do not open the fences.  View them from a distance.  Vandalism has caused the collapse of one.  Leave them for future generations.  The Martinez Mill trail is also closed - you must hike in.

Wow. Here it is Tuesday and I'm still sore. Randy and I did the beautiful ride up through the Box Canyon, East of Florence, then up onto the Martinez Canyon Road (easy, fun and beautiful ride - unfortunately, we had to spend some time banking a fire that someone left burning - they left the area covered in fast food litter, and human waste that was not buried - how unfortunate - that is what is going to close these areas off for everyone's enjoyment in the future), then we turned off onto the Coke Ovens trail. We had been warned it was "bumpy." I didn't really expect HOW bumpy it would be.

It started off rocky and bumpy - but no big deal. The quad crawled over it in 2 wheel drive just fine. Stopped to ask a couple of kids that were camping by the cattle pond how bad the trail got, as it started to become clear relatively quickly that there would be some moderate rock crawling happening. They said that we were on the worst of it, and it would get better shortly. Ha - I don't know what exactly they meant by better, but it sure didn't get "better" anytime soon.

We crossed over the first rock obstacle (me with Randy's help) - a two foot step up that you must make while making a sharp turn to the right. We made it - I started to worry that maybe this trail wasn't for me. We crawled to the top of the mountain from there, and as we got to the top, we decided to take a little break. The view was breath-taking. Canyons everywhere, it was so green from all the rain - and it was clear and sunny!

As we took off from there, we came around a corner and had to slowly crawl down a rock slab. Looking back at it, I said to Randy "oh, this is the picture in the Wells book that said it is the roughest part." LOL Right. We drove around a switchback, and it loomed ahead. The most horrible looking rock slab going straight down the side of the mountain. Randy refused to let me ride it.

Nasty incline/slide
Let me stop here and mention that I'm not an experienced quad rider. I rode the trail up from Lake Pleasant to Crown King, and I thought I would die afterwards. Of course, I rode it on a little quad that didn't have independent suspension or 4 wheel drive. I was miserable. This time, we borrowed a friend's 4 wheel drive Polaris. Other than the Crown King ride, I really haven't done anything too challenging. I'd also like to note that it was at this time I realized the Coke Ovens trail was rated more difficult than the Crown King Backroads trail. Yes, I brought the book, and yes, I stopped to read it. I felt I was doomed. The nerves started kicking in...

Randy took both quads down the mountain side, while I hiked down. There were several two foot step/drops, and some awkward off-camber manipulation - but Randy did it like a champ! The road looked so good after that...

We started up the next mountain and I stopped to watch some other folks come down the mountain rock slab while Randy rode ahead to see how bad it still was. The other folks coming down came by and told me that was the worst of it. They were right, although I wasn't done panicking about it all...

I caught up with Randy, and we went down another rock slab, and on the way down, I started hyperventilating. I got to the bottom, by the fork in the road that is the loop to the coke ovens, and I started crying and getting hysterical. I can't do it, I want to go back, I'm not capable, blah, blah, blah.

Randy stops for a bit, calms me down, gets me breathing again, and talks my courage back up. Tells me I can't stop now - this is the one place I've always wanted to go - how can I stop when we're less than two miles away?

Cochran Coke Ovens - Backside
After that, it was mostly smooth sailing to the Coke Ovens - it wasn't easy. But I had my "take charge" back, and was feeling mostly pretty good about the ride. The Coke Ovens were beautiful - everyone commented on how courageous I was to make it up there. I was feeling pretty good about myself. It was worth every tear, every fear, and every half-breath taken.

But now I have to go back. Oh crap. No, not gonna get scared...not going to let the fear take over. I rode back pretty confident and in pretty good form. The big rock slab on the side of the mountain? Well, I even took a stab at going up that. Until I almost rolled the quad. Randy took over from there. But I tried, and that was all that counted.

At one other point, I popped one wheel over the edge of the road and tipped. I caught the bike and myself, and hung on for dear life while Randy ran down to straighten me out. My arms are at this point getting tired of fighting the quad. But I'm still trying damned hard! No tears this time...just confidence and "can do" attitude!

Martinez Cabin
After we got done on the Coke Ovens trail, we road to the Martinez Cabin, which was stunningly beautiful. We tried riding up to the Martinez Mill, but the road was washed out and we had to ride the creek bed. My arms were giving up - I couldn't steer in rock gardens anymore, so we quit and hiked about .23 miles to the Mill. In that short hike, we saw a jeep-turned-rock-crawler with a broken tie rod. The Mill was also worth it. Lots of equipment and neat mining stuff lying around. We didn't go up any further, although I understand you can. But it was 3:30, we were going to lose light, and I wanted pictures of the box canyon.

Martinez Mill

We were on the Backroads of Arizona from approximately 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Beautiful day, beautiful scenery, beautiful ride. Brutal, heart wrenching, and sometimes heart stopping. But worth every sore muscle and tear shed to see it all!

Please remember - stay on marked/obvious trails at all times - if it doesn't have two wheel paths, its a hiking trail, not a riding trail.  Pack in your food and water, pack out ALL your trash.  Leave the area cleaner than when you got there!  Let's leave these areas open for many years to come!

**UPDATE - 2020** - the Coke Ovens are closed to the public.  Do not trespass.  Do not open the fences.  View them from a distance.  Vandalism has caused the collapse of one.  Leave them for future generations.  The Martinez Mill trail is also closed - you must hike in.

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