Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rogers Canyon

As forecast, we awoke to clear skies on Sunday morning.  Nearby Rogers Canyon was the main reason we wanted to stay in Superior. I learned about Rogers Canyon from a woman I met while waiting for our bags at Logan International Airport when I flew home with my mom. She told me about old cave dwelling ruins that could be found on that trail and said they were well worth visiting. 

We were warned that the road to the trail head would be rough. That turned out to be an understatement. Just a few miles west of Superior we turned onto CR357 to CR172. At the junction of 357 and 172 we were presented with a stream crossing. Due to the recent heavy rains, the stream was about 30 feet wide and running swiftly. Just as we reached the stream crossing, a group of people driving ATVs approached from the opposite bank. Fortunately, I yielded to them for they clearly knew where the shoal was in order to safely ford this stream. The safe place was not directly along the path of the road, rather it was just downstream from where I would have crossed had they not arrived first to show me the way. This was frighteningly obvious when we returned several hours later and the stream had ceased to flow, for the place I would have tried to cross looked like a small swimming pool with one or two feet of water in it. Had I tried to cross in that spot, the water would have come into the cab of the truck.

These county roads are dirt roads, meaning just that. They are just the local soil that has been graded without any gravel to firm up the soil when it becomes wet. With the recent rain, these dirt roads were muddy and extremely slick. Even with four wheel drive, one has to go slowly to avoid sliding off the road. I was a little concerned about what I would find further on because our map indicated that the road was designated as suitable only for four wheel drive several miles further along. Given the slippery conditions I was experiencing early on, I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like later. Just then, I saw another truck approaching from the opposite direction. It turned out to be a Sheriff's Deputy. We both stopped and said hello, he asked if we "were going to the top". I said that I thought so, and asked how the road was. He told us we would have no problem and asked if we had enough water. We assured him that we did. He bid us a good day and we both drove on.

As the road gained elevation, it became narrower and rougher. The roughest sections also happened to be the steepest. In these areas, erosion had exposed large boulders and created deep gullies that had to be carefully negotiated at less than walking speed. I didn't want to bounce the underside of the truck down upon one of those boulders. The road presented us with many switch backs, some of which occurred at the crest of a hill that left us looking at the sky with no sight of the road where we were supposed to turn. At one switch back, the turn radius of the truck exceeded that of the road and we were forced to back up and move forward a couple times to get the truck around the turn.

After nearly an hour to travel 10- 15 miles, we reached the trail head. It was 59 degrees but we didn't need jackets, despite the 3 inches of snow because of the strong, bright sun.

Bright sun, 59 degrees.

The hike to the ruins descends into the canyon along a stream for 4.1 miles. Because of the recent rain and melting snow, the stream was running pretty well. We were forced to cross the stream numerous times as the trail switched from one side to the other to avoid the steep canyon walls. In many places, these crossings were quite challenging and we were forced to throw large stones into the stream to make a safe place to ford. At others, we had to bushwhack to an easier crossing. Sarah took a beating with thorny bushes at one such cross country adventure. 
Painful thorns from bushwhacking

A beautiful stream, but crossing it more than a dozen times became tedious.

The flora here was different than we had seen elsewhere in the Sonoran desert. Here there are more broad-leaf deciduous trees with bright white bark and large leaves that resemble those of a maple tree. In addition, there were pines and juniper. 
These trees, with bright white bark appeared to be some type of maple.
Before we could see the ruins, we saw the large caves where we knew they would be. There is not much left of the ruins, mostly two small walls. While not a magnificent example of pre-historic ruins, we were still impressed with the skill and determination those ancient people had to survive in this environment. 
Cave dwelling

All we know about this place

We had a small snack, drank plenty of water then began the all uphill walk back to the trail-head. We reached the truck at about 5:30 PM and returned to the Mary Joan shortly before 7 PM. Too tired to cook, we had a nice dinner Los Hermanos, a popular Mexican restaurant just up the street from the Superior RV Park. Sarah had the Chile Rellenos and I had the Beef Machaca. Both were very good. The staff was friendly and the $4.00 margarita was very a bargain.

It's going to get warm soon, so time to start thinking about migrating north. Stay tuned 

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