Fred and I decided to continue the trip that we attempted last week on the motorcycle, the one on the unpaved road. Our destination was an old mining town in the Bradshaw Mountains called Crown King. Where the pavement ends, a sign reads 26 miles to Crown King while another sign states that these roads are not maintained. We found ourselves driving through the deep valley that we had spotted from Sunset Point the previous week. Clouds of dust trailed behind us as we drove slowly on a road of numerous curves, rises and scenic lookouts. We made many stops, for with every bend and on every steep mountaintop there was a beautiful vista to behold; another Kodak moment. I had to delay getting out of the truck to protect my camera from the billowing dust. We climbed higher, the temperature got noticeably cooler and on this side of the peaks we had an early sunset with deep shadows darkening the landscape below.
You can see the winding road below
Along with the cooler temperatures the terrain also changed from desert to alpine. Shrub was replaced with lush ponderosa pines and though the land was arid, little purple flowers emerged through the rocks. After about 2 hours we reached Crown King, a little settlement that consisted of a General Store,
a Chapel and a few lodges. Despite limited, as well as primitive access to Crown King, many beautiful cottages are scattered among the pines. At 6,000 feet this town attracts many people who engage in winter sports as well as being a cool retreat in the summer for those who want to escape from the cities in the sweltering desert.
Rather than return the way we came in, we continued on the unpaved road leading out of this tourist village and drove back into the sunlight on the west side of the mountain. Because this area is in the Prescott National Forest controlled burns left the forest beside us smoldering, thereby creating the most beautiful sunset. The road became considerably narrower and the ruts became deeper, slowing our speed down to 5 mph (sorry, but I am in the states). After lumbering along for about 30 minutes we realized that coming this way might not have been such a good plan but we reasoned that this road had to lead somewhere. I was getting concerned though because this time of year the sun sets early and it might not be fun to be driving along this mountain road in the dark. On and on we drove, around sharp curves and up and down steep hills that wound around the mountains. We came to the bottom of a rise and with a sinking heart I saw that the road ahead was flooded. I envisioned spending the night in the truck with one bottle of water each, no food and temperatures plunging into the low forties. Fred grabbed a big pole and tested the depth and checked to see if the bottom was mucky. It wasn’t. He put the pedal to the metal and drove through the water so fast that it looked like the parting of the Red Sea.
A few minutes later we could see in the distance two trucks coming toward us, the first vehicles we had seen since leaving Crown King. We barely had enough room to allow them by. Fred stopped the second truck to inquire how far the next town was. The guy replied, “about 33 miles” that I knew couldn’t possibly be. He must have meant Prescott because on my map Mayer looked to be the closer one. (both were much closer but only as the crow flies; the map did not indicate all the switchbacks we had to transverse) It was dark now and the truck headlights enhanced the contour of the road as well as the rocks. We bounced along for another hour muttering at times about the rough road and envisioned how great a coffee would taste now. We were just starting to wonder if we would ever find our way out when we finally saw a sign that said “Mayer” 10 miles. Of course at 5 mph that is still a lot of driving on this desolate road. We were excited to see a sign for a ranch for if there was a ranch then there must be civilization nearby. Well that ranch was many miles from Mayer as it turned out. We did take the time to stop, look up and saw the most amazing sight. Because there were no lights anywhere around us the stars were majestically suspended above us and it was so silent. The Milky Way was a bright glow across the black sky. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
We were relieved to finally see the yellow lights of houses in the distance and even though I had told Fred I would kiss the pavement when we finally came to it, I restrained myself.