We were sad to leave our friends, Liz and Jack when we departed Bisbee. SR90 took us through Sierra Vista then to SR82 west at Sonoita where we turned north onto SR83 to take us to Empire Ranch Road and the entrance to Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The refuge is high desert consisting of rolling hills surrounded by mountains on all sides. Good gravel roads lead to a number of dispersed camping areas. We enjoyed the beauty and peaceful solitude of the grasslands where many western movies were filmed by stars such as John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck and Steve McQueen. Lacking horses, we rode our bicycles 9 miles to Sonoita where we had lunch at The Steakout Restaurant and Saloon. They serve good barbecue, and from the looks of it, great steaks. That evening, we returned to enjoy a beer, listen to live music and watch the football game.
|Dispersed Camping in Las Cienegas|
With rain in the forecast, and because the trails into the campsites from the gravel road were dirt, we thought it wise to not stay and test the ability of our 4 wheel drive tow vehicle to get us out of Las Cienegas. Plus, if we had to endure rain, an urban area would provide more entertainment opportunities and we could complete necessary chores, like laundry and getting the oil changed in the truck. Tucson was just a short drive so we set off for Tucson Mountain Park, where we have stayed before. The weather cooperated the day we arrived allowing us to hike to Brown Mountain and back from the campground. The rain arrived the next day so we dropped the truck off at the Ford dealer and spent a few hours purchasing a few necessities (See's chocolates) at the nearby mall and shopping center. When we retrieved the truck, we were told that the brakes were very close to being worn out. The quote from the dealer to replace the brakes seemed a little high, but with the advantage of the internet I found a small repair shop that had high ratings and it was just a mile from the laundromat. The next day we arrived at Advantage Auto Repair on the corner of Fort Lowell Road and North Stone Ave at mid-morning and Oscar, the proprietor, promised us the work would be complete by mid-afternoon. After finishing the laundry we returned at 2:30 PM, and as promised, the truck was ready to go.
The following day, we had lunch with Sarah's professor from graduate school, Eleanor, and her partner, Michael. After lunch, Michael delighted us by showing his collection of automatas. He has amassed an amazing array of intricately crafted objects designed to create movement in these fanciful 'toys' simply by turning a hand crank. See Michael's website to watch them come to life.
The lure of more petroglyphs was too strong to resist, so we headed for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site about 150 miles west of Tucson Mountain Park. Painted rocks are a misnomer for this site. The rock art here are petroglyphs. The ancient nomadic peoples that traveled along the Gila river here used stones to chip away at the dark oxidation, known as desert patina, that covers the exposed rocks leaving thousands of intricate figures and designs. The campsites were exceptionally large, ours was at least 100 feet square and provided great views of the distant mountains.
|Huge campsite at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site|
|Not your average pile of desert rock|
|Thousands of petroglyphs|
|A mixture of cultures|
|A river flows through the desert|
|Looking east with the sun reflected on the mountains over the Colorado River|
|Our campsite at Picacho|
|See the line along the river?|
|Desert view from road into Picacho|
|Departing Picacho on the washboard road|