A Road Less Traveled

How often do we watch a television program where the adventurer takes a road less traveled? There are benefits away from people, especially when taking landscape photos. We want few to no people in the photo and to view wildlife in their natural habitat, so I can relate to that idea in traveling a road few will be on. 

Recently I ventured down a road I had never driven before. It was a winding, paved road with no center line or shoulder. No consultation with Google maps was possible so I decided to drive at least 10 miles, assess the situation, and turn around if nothing caught my eye. In the first 5 miles, I only saw one other vehicle and then a bicyclist on the side of the road!

I pulled along side the bicyclist and asked if all was well. The guy smiled and said, “Are you checking on me?” Of course I thought; “Yes, you are in the middle of nowhere, stopped on the side of this road, and I wanted to be sure all was well.” Actually I was miles into my drive and not sure if the exploration was worth it. Then suddenly surprised to see another human being out here … and on a bicycle … or more specifically off his bicycle! Why not check on the cyclist!

While talking with him, one vehicle pulling a trailer passed us by … no other traffic … which is the reason this guy bicycles the road. He was simply having a snack break, one he takes every 45 minutes. When he heard me say I was exploring, he had a suggestion. Another mile down the paved road, the road splits and becomes dirt roads. Take the road to the left, drive about 4 – 5 miles and when finally up a hill the land opens to San Rafael Valley … what he suggested I should see since I am already this far down the road. He also mentioned to go straight, no turns, and remember how to come back out, back track, so I do not end up in Mexico. Easy enough. I drive on after we discuss the importance of bicyclists hydrating and eating food for fuel. I wish him a good ride.

Montezuma quail are in this area from research I had done last year. Despite no chance seeing them now, I did want to know where the San Rafael State Natural Area was. I continue down the road. 

I enter and leave national forest land, drive over cattle guards, pass signs informing me “illegal smuggling can occur” in this area (okay, I am less than 10 miles from the Mexican-USA border) and a “primitive road” sign indicating use at my own risk as surface is not regularly maintained. Of course, when you are driving a dirt road, through arroyos/washes, on rocky and winding roads it is a good time to check where clouds and the sun are in the sky. All was good. I continue on since the point of my drive was to discover a new place.

Do you know how long 5 miles is on a dirt road? It can seem like forever! Finally, up… up… an uphill and I thought this must be it! Yes! 

I pull over at this 4-way dirt intersection and within 2 minutes of my arrival, a truck pulling a trailer with hay turns off on the side dirt road, a regular pick-up truck and a Fed- Ex vehicle drive down the road I just came up! Then I have the place to myself! Wow!

I really need to plan these adventures earlier in a day! Of course, I probably would not have met the bicyclist to learn of this road to then drive and explore. Such is life; such is adventure! I will need to return another time … maybe Montezuma quail time! I loved seeing this beautiful expanse of land in the middle of nowhere! So glad we still have these places on earth!

Looking one direction
Another direction
Wonder where he was going?
The road I just came up.
The reason for the cattle guards.

Do You Have A Sense of Adventure?

Life can be so humdrum at times, but we each have opportunities to seek something new and different … I call mine adventures! All to have a sense of adventure, to discover a new adventure, and break the cycle of humdrum-ness! Recently I realized I had been doing the same ole thing every time I drove down a particular road toward the Grand Canyon and it was time to do something different. And so I did….

How many times had I driven past various trailheads on my way from Flagstaff, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park and wonder where do those trails go? Numerous times! I had to do something about that mystery and decided to check out a few trails. My adventure was to begin!

Red Mountain Trail is 25 miles northwest of Flagstaff. The 1.5 mile trail is very easy to hike with one short ladder to climb. You’re walking into a “U” shaped area, what remains from a volcanic cinder cone that blew more than 700,000 years ago. 

Red Mountain is part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field. As you walk into its amphitheater-like  center you see eroded pillars, called hoodoos. It had snowed the night before so in some cracks snow was evident. People do climb around in this area which has walls going about 1,000 feet up.

Returning to our car, we could see the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.

We drove back to Flagstaff and stopped at a trailhead where I discover there are actually a few trails, the Walker Trailhead and Watchable Wildlife Trail. Some other day I will check out Walker Lake Trail to see if there is a lake on the 1.7 mile trail. Instead, I took a quick walk to check out the Watchable Wildlife Trail. With snow from the night before, it was not evident to me there was a .25 mile paved loop accessible for wheelchair use. Plus there is supposed to be a 1.5 mile trail for wildlife observing. It looks like a beautiful area however with the snow I walked my own trail.

It was interesting looking at the cinder cone in the distance and realizing what this entire area used to be like when volcanoes were erupting, such as Red Mountain, and how some others had not erupted yet. I enjoyed seeing the snow too since those of us living in the southern part of Arizona rarely do.

Another time I will return, walk these trails and put the final pieces of this adventure into my book of adventures. Where is your sense of adventure? You’ve got it! Just take it out and provide it time for a spin. Have fun! Go for it! Enjoy an adventure!