Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Box Canyon and Martinez Canyon - AZFJ Christmas Meet Up

Lewis & Clark and Calamity Jane - Price Road, Florence, AZ

This past weekend Paul and I combined the Christmas Meet Up with a chance to wheel in, then hike in, to Martinez Canyon - one of my favorite places to go in Arizona.  So far, in my opinion, one of the top 5 most beautiful spots in all of Arizona!  Even more beautiful now because there is no motorized traffic allowed in there.  

But as usual - I'm getting ahead of myself.  

So everyone knows we have two FJ's.  Calamity Jane - mine - she's Black Cherry Pearl (also known as purple) and Lewis & Clark - Paul's - Voodoo Blue.  They are both 2007, mine is a manual, Paul's is an automatic.  Both have a lift, although Paul's is higher than mine - Paul's has been very seriously outfitted for off-roading, while mine has just started the process!  But we NEVER take them both out together.  Paul and I enjoy different aspects of off-roading - Paul loves the challenge of driving, I love watching the maps and keeping on the look out for buildings, etc on the way - we both love what we call "destination" driving.  We rarely go off-roading "just to go drive on a dirt road."  There's almost always a cabin or a mine we have researched to go see.

AZFJ Crew - Price Road, Florence, AZ

So when said they wanted to go "run the box canyon" for Christmas - I told Paul we should go - and take both trucks (because hey - people are always surprised to find out we have two) and then go camp out and hike to Martinez Cabin/Mill/Mine in the morning.  Paul agreed!  We got the ham radios set up so we could chat along the way (that's the biggest thing I missed about riding with Paul - I love the conversation - which doesn't happen the same when you're in separate trucks).  We fixed a few suspension things on Lewis & Clark, made sure both girls were ready to romp - and on Saturday afternoon, off we went.  

Our trucks with their Christmas lights

We wanted to arrive a bit early - we were meeting at the shooting area outside of Florence - but past that a few miles is the train bridge - an old wooden train bridge with spots just wide enough to put an FJ Cruiser in!  So Paul and I took Lewis & Clark and Calamity Jane and took some photos of the girls.  Calamity Jane has her new bumper on with two of Lewis & Clark's KCHilites HID lights on the front.  She's looking particularly bad-ass, although still a bit shorter than Lewis & Clark.  After taking photos and admiring our trucks (because hey - who wouldn't - they look awesome!), we head back to the shooting area to meet up with the other AZFJ folks.  Our friends Bryan and Kelly were there, Alicia (who I know from Lady Owned Toyotas), and several others.  From 3-4 we all chatted, took pictures of the trucks, and just re-acquainted ourselves with old friends - some of whom we have known online for 7-8 years!

At 4 p.m., we all decided to head out.  Because Paul and I have ham radios, and only one other truck had ham (Ray - the route leader), we headed up the back of the group.  Besides, we were going to peel off and head to Martinez Canyon after the box canyon was finished - so we figured being in the back was best.  

Entrance to the Box Canyon - Gorgeous Country!

So a line of 13 trucks start heading up to the Box Canyon - and what a beautiful afternoon/evening it was.  Some of us had our Christmas lights on our trucks - all of us looking awesome in perfect FJ style!  The Box Canyon was easy enough.  Only one small area did I need a bit of spotting - our good friend (and amazing glass guy - if you need his info, hit me up!), Bryan Glider, spotted me up and over a rock obstacle, which Calamity Jane handled like a champ!  Paul was behind me and said I handled it perfectly!  I was still waiting for the dreaded "waterfall" - but it was not to be on Saturday night.  

The trucks - with lights - at camp

As we exited the Box Canyon and headed up to the Stage Stop, Paul and I agreed that we would turn around and head back to the Martinez Canyon turn off.  Neither of us realized the Waterfall was further up Mineral Mountain Road...but now we knew we would be handling it alone - just the two of us - on Sunday morning.  So we left our group of AZFJers to find a camping spot for the night.  

Paul had me lead - although my phone's GPS was having difficulty - the road was fairly obvious and we had both been to Martinez Canyon before (although Paul had not been all the way back to the mill).  We found a lovely little camping spot just off the road, we set up our nice little Marmot tent, built a small fire, and made dinner.  We had decided to just do freeze dried food this weekend - so we both had Mountain House Beef Stroganoff Adventure Meals.  We get these at Wal-Mart, and they aren't half bad!  Although I got a kick out of commenting on whether the meal was the adventure, or you ate them on your adventure (I'm easily amused).  Anyway - Paul fixes us both a drink, and we sit back by the fire enjoying the cold air, the amazingly clear sky with stars, and the warmth of the fire.  

Our Kamping Keurig - the OXX

And then we turn in for one of the worst nights sleep I've ever had.  Now, we had cots - so we aren't sleeping on the ground, and we have Paul's Buddy Heater, so I should have been super-comfortable.  I slept well until 1 a.m., then I got cold.  And I couldn't get comfortable in the down mummy-bag.  So I tossed and turned, and finally got up and went and got in Calamity Jane, started her up, started up her heater, and turned on some soft music and dozed off for an hour or so.  I should mention that Paul slept like a rock!  

So bad night's sleep aside, I got up around 6:30 as the sun was coming up, and started poking around the fire remnants trying to get a new fire started from the buried coals.  I hear Paul from inside the tent "babe - is that you?"  I laughed - asked him who he thought it was.  I heard something about big foot...crazy guy.  He comes out and gets the fire good and started, and we get out our totally awesome Oxx CoffeeBoxx - an industrial strength Keurig - Paul fires it up, and in no time, we have hot coffee and tea in our cute little Yeti Ramblers (Paul's is orange, mine is teal).  We sit around by the warm fire just enjoying the hooting of a bunch of owls, then the squawking of some other bird who seemed perturbed by our presence.  It was quiet.  Not a soul in site - nobody had come down the road, and we were in the middle of nowhere quietly enjoying the beauty of Arizona.  We had another round of Mountain House Adventure Meals for breakfast - not as good as my eggs and bacon, but certainly easier - then we pulled up camp, and headed out for the last 1.5 miles of road to where we park our trucks for the hike in to Martinez Canyon.

Adventure Meals...

So a short bit of history here - back in 2010, I went to Martinez Canyon on the quads after visiting the Coke Ovens (which are now off limits) - you can see this in an old blog post of mine.  We were able to take the quads all the way up to the Mill if we chose - although I stopped just past Martinez Cabin as I was tired of fighting with the quad at the time and it had been a really long day - we hiked the rest of the way in (maybe half a mile from the cabin to the mill).  Sometime before 2017, they closed Martinez Canyon to all motorized traffic.  Probably not a bad thing - there were some gnarly off-road trails up there (ie - "The Luge") and the road was getting very torn up and the trestle from the mill across the river bottom had fallen.  I saw the trestle before it fell - but Paul didn't.  When Paul went in 2017 with Duner and Connie, they had to park and hike in as the road had been closed by then.  From Martinez Cabin, they took the wrong path - they went up The Luge path - but gave up and went back.  To get to the Mill, you keep going up the river bottom.  So I've been to the Mill, but Paul has not - I was so excited to show it to him!

Martinez Canyon
Our little campsite

As we head out on foot, my new Osprey pack on my back, we hoof it down a rocky, but relatively well maintained road into the river bottom.  Then it becomes a little less clear.  Sometimes there is a road.  Sometimes there is a trail.  Sometimes there is just a river bottom.  But heavens is it beautiful in there.  The trees have all changed colors, the canyon walls are bright orange and red with the sun - such a gorgeous place for the hard life of mining.  The road has all but deteriorated by this point - and looks nothing like a road - and nothing like I remember it.

As we approach Martinez Cabin, I'm dismayed, as I usually am when I revisit old sites, to see how degraded it is.  There are entire buildings missing.  The old generators have been dragged out from their shed covering and stripped of copper wiring.  The Cabin itself is rotting away - and will soon fall over due to a tree that has grown/fallen into it.  I cannot count that as human caused, so I'm less upset about that - but the rest of it is clearly human caused damage.  Lack of respect, greed and downright lack of caring about our pioneer history.  This will all be gone someday...with only memories and people's photos to remember it by.

Martinez Cabin in Martinez Canyon

Paul checking out a small adit

After we poke around the cabin site area for a bit, we head up and over to the Mill.  The road is even less obvious - and where there is a road, it is so badly washed out that it looks too dangerous to even hike on.  We chose to hike up the small trail next to the creek.  I can't believe I took a quad up here...but I see where we stopped due to a Jeep with broken tie rods, as well as a rock garden full of baby heads.  This is, by the way, where I coined the term "baby heads."  Head sized rocks that make for uncomfortable wheeling.  Uncomfortable, not impossible.  However, this road is now pretty much impossible/impassable.  The washouts are massive, and the boulders are huge.  

As the canyon opens up, we can see the smoke stack of the Mill - I'm of course saddened by the lack of the trestle, but excited to show Paul all the machinery inside the Mill itself.  We scramble up the side of the river banks to the mill, and I get bummed out again - it seems a great deal of stuff is missing.  The site has been stripped of anything that can be reasonably carried out, and only the massive pieces of machinery are left.  The parts bins, which used to be full of old parts, are empty.  Copper has been stripped off of anything it can be stripped from.  But the large equipment - its amazing.  Paul is, as always, mesmerized by all the things that can be flipped, turned or switched.  He's like a 5 year old.  But his engineer nerd comes out as he explains to me (whether I'm listening or not, I should add) what everything does.  

Martinez Mill - 2010

Martinez Mill - 2020

The Martinez Mine operated from 1880 until 1971 - so it has a long history - not all of it old.  It was a lead, silver, copper, gold and zinc mine.  It used to be owned by a family in Florence, but is now on BLM land.  It has several known adits, and is also known as the Silver Bell - Martinez Mine and sometimes the Columbia-Silver Bell Mine.  The lower adit/shaft is flooded at the bottom, and is dangerous to enter (as are most mines in Arizona).  

Paul and I stop to have a snack in the shade of the old Mill, then we hike the very short way up to the mine adit - due to the steep incline, Paul opts not to go in (and after watching some YouTube videos, I'm glad he didn't - it's flooded).  But we decide it's time to head back, as we still have to tackle a major 4 wheeling obstacle on the way out - The Waterfall.

The hike out of Martinez Canyon was uneventful, but beautiful.  The drive out to Mineral Mountain Road was bouncy but easy.  We followed several pick up trucks up towards the Waterfall, and I'm trailing behind so as not to suck so much dust, when Paul comes over the Ham and says "there's a Jeep up here.  And a 4Runner.  Oh, and this must be the Waterfall.  Wow - it's worse than I thought it would be."

Martinez Canyon - the old road up

And I just stop Calamity Jane for a second.  I still haven't seen the Waterfall.  I was already scared.  I've seen video.  I'm not even sure my truck can make it.  But I drive forward as a manual shift Jeep takes a line up the obstacle - flexing more than I've ever seen a vehicle flex, and I look at Paul and tell him there's no way.  My truck can't make it, and there is no way I'm doing it.  The lady in the 4Runner says she's not going up it - she doesn't have skid plates or a lift, and she explains the alternate route around.

But of course, because a Jeep has done it, Paul is going to do it in Lewis & Clark.  And he takes the harder line straight up.  Scares the living daylights out of me - I'm certain he's going to slide and get body damage - I call over someone who helped spot the Jeep for help - but Lewis & Clark climbs it like the boss she is, and as he drives by me (as seen in the video), he says "Now we just have to get yours up here."

The top half of The Waterfall obstacle

So Paul takes Calamity Jane, and brings her up.  She stalls a time or two - as expected.  But she popped right up and over those nasty rocks.  I had no idea she could rock crawl like that.  Still not sure I'd have tried it - definitely not in a manual - but it did give me a ton more confidence in Calamity Jane.  The videos don't do this obstacle justice.  Paul was frequently on 3 wheels, and half way up, I thought Calamity Jane was gonna need a winching.  But her tires caught, and up she popped - like the bombshell she is!  These trucks can do anything with the right driver!!  Which is apparently not me.  Haha.  But seriously - look at her bad ass go up that obstacle - those rocks are 3-4 feet high!  And as soon as your front tires are over those rocks, you can't see anything but sky.  Paul did it with a big smile on his face.  Crazy.  He's crazy.  Gotta love him though.  Here are the video links...

Paul's Truck - Lewis & Clark - Part 1

Paul's Truck - Lewis & Clark - Part 2

Bobbi's Truck - Calamity Jane - Part 1

Bobbi's Truck - Calamity Jane - Part 2

The rest of the drive out was long, but uneventful.  I was tired - lack of sleep and stress over the Waterfall had taken it's toll - but it was beautiful country, and I had fun driving my truck.  As Paul said, all I needed was a little "seat" time to feel what she can do.  And while I may not have done the Waterfall, I did everything else without panic and without tears.  So all in all, it was a good trip!

Two FJ's - Twice the Fun!

1 comment:

  1. I love this entire story. That waterfall was a rough one girl. Doing it at night was a hard challange. Thanks for the shoutout. Looking forward to seeing more blogs