Monday, June 9, 2014

Touring Graham and Greenlee Counties

We were only at home for a couple days after returning from Iowa, but we were already craving another adventure. We want new scenery! New experiences! More letterboxes! I need to draw more lines on my atlas and proclaim "I've been here"!!! We don't care how hot it is, we just don't like sitting around in air conditioning all day! So, what did we do on a weekend with a high of 110? 
We went on an adventure! :)

After much deliberation, we narrowed down our options and picked one that was new territory, had letterboxes, and didn't require too much hiking in the heat. Best of all, it covered the last 2 counties that we needed to visit in order to say "we've been to every Arizona county!"

We took off East on I-10 and then North at highway 191. Shortly after, we entered Graham County. There were new-to-us mountain ranges stretching all across the landscape - West, North, and East of us. Curtis had tried to convince me that Graham county wasn't much different than the rest of Southern AZ, but I had none of that. This is all new and definitely different!

We started off by driving up Mount Graham. At first I was doubtful that our old truck could handle this in the heat, but praise God we made it, because this scenic drive is a real treasure in Graham county!

We started around 5000 ft and gained 4000 on the way up. It wasn't too long before the desert plants lining the road turned into huge pine trees, and everything became more and more green!

The main reason we took this detour was for the hike and readjusting to the high elevations, in preparation for hikes in the near future. There did happen to be one box at the peak, but unfortunately turned out to be missing. While we were bummed about that, this was still completely worth it!

We stopped at Shannon Campground, elevation 9000 feet. We began hiking here on Heliograph Peak trail, which was just 4 miles round trip and gained 1000 ft. 

Above - we were grossed out by these caterpillars. Sorry, I still had to share the picture. :)

One mile in, one more to go. Up to this point, we had been hiking on a narrow dirt trail with pine trees on either side.

It was right after the sign that the trees cleared and we got this view looking South.

Excited to have this view!!

While we were struggling a bit with the elevation changes, the hardest part of this trail were all the trees that had fallen in the way. Curtis doesn't have any issues with getting over them, it's a real challenge for someone short like me. :p After so many fallen trees, I began questioning if this was worth the effort. (Spoiler alert, it was!) 

Finally, at the top!

The above setup is all a fire lookout station. See the tall tower on the left? Sadly, it's for official business only, but we were wishing we could see the world from that point of view!

Just over 10,000 feet and feeling great! 

The LBT - Large Binocular Telescope. How lucky I am to have an astronomer student as my husband, I know so much about that telescope! :)

There wasn't one good point with a 360 view (unless you could get in the tower…) But these next pictures are of the view from the Northwest to the East.

The best part is that in Safford, the nearby town, it was 110 degrees. Up here, it had to be much less than that, and had a nice breeze. We were never too uncomfortable throughout this whole hike at the noon hour!

Instead of returning on the trail that had all the fallen trees, we chose to go down the service road instead. Yes, you could technically drive up, but the hike makes it so much more worth it!

After getting off the trail, we stopped at this scenic overlook, facing Southwest.

So many trees!

Below - our "Graham County Selfie"

Then there was the scenic drive down. Completely different than the scenic drive up. Totally deserving of another 50 pictures.

You're welcome for narrowing down my selection to post! ;)

Below - the end of the scenic highway as we approach the small town at the highway junction.

After lunch and some boxing in Safford, we continued on to our last county - Greenlee!

Yes, I'm pretty sure the scenery got more green as we entered Greenlee...

See below? Definitely greener! 

Oh, and highway 75 North is beautiful! The road goes up, down, and around mountains all over. I was so glad we still had daylight because this drive was the best!

Below - entering Clifton, Greenlee's county seat.

From what I could see, Clifton was small, colorful, and interesting. Quite a pleasant town to drive through!

Above - the "city gates" are ahead. I wish I had a better picture because it was awesome!

Train station/visitor's center

We continued driving North until we came to the scenic overlook over the Morenci Mine. It was just amazing, and sooo big!

Apparently it's also a good place to be a bighorn sheep because there are no mountain lions around here. We're bummed we didn't get to see one though!

Sad that the letterbox here was also missing…but again, so worth the view! 

We also saw this tree that a giant probably sat on.

Our "we're in Greenlee!" picture. Photo credit: Rock.

We attempted taking selfies with the mine, but with the sun setting in front of us, all our pictures turned out silly like this. :)

Above: a Mexican cemetery on the hillside.

More mining stuff!

Below - this thing went over the highway and we were thrilled to drive under it twice! :)

While driving back through Clifton, we noticed this tiny jail's door was open so we HAD to check it out!

Ohhh Curtis :)

Below - inside of the jail.

The basement was totally freaky but we risked everything to check it out.

Curtis in the basement cell - after this we ran out so that they wouldn't accidentally lock us in!

The historical marker!

Right next to the jail is this old train. See, this town is just awesome!

After grabbing a few boxes, we started to head back, taking a detour for two more boxes.

Below - boxing at another cemetery at sunset.

And there's the moon! We still had to grab a few more boxes in the area before going home though. 

And that's how we managed to still have an adventure despite the heat! We honestly never felt too hot this whole day. Of course, having just been to Iowa we now have the humidity to compare to our dry heat, and we'd take this any day! Sorry friends :)

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