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H3 Trails and Tents Tour - In Search Of Obscurity

Posted in Events on September 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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Contributors: Ken Brubaker
Photographers: Ken Brubaker

(Editor's Note: This is part two of a three-part series documenting the travels and adventures of Four Wheeler Technical Editor Sean P. Holman and Senior Editor Ken Brubaker as they 'wheel a bone-stock '06 Hummer H3 on a five-day adventure on obscure trails in Arizona.)

8:45 a.m., Primedia headquarters, Los Angeles: It's Sunday and the place is deserted. Holman is packing gear into the H3 while Brubaker is pretending to look busy with his camera so he doesn't have to work. Building security guard seems amused by the pair's obvious disarray. Brubaker announces that he's going to wear camouflage pants the entire week. This news generates a blank stare from Holman.

9:17 a.m., La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles: Very little traffic is a sign of things to come. We point the heavily-laden H3 onto the 10's eastbound ramp. We're blissfully ignorant that flat tires, wild javelinas, and Wilderness Areas are lurking in our future.

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12:35 p.m., somewhere east of Blythe, California: After three hours of brain-grinding thought, we finally come up with a title for this adventure. Happy with our major achievement, we gleefully realize that we won't have to think for the rest of the day.

4:45 p.m., KOA Campground, Apache Junction, Arizona: During check-in, the KOA staff warns of wild javelinas. Brubaker misunderstands and thinks they said "funky cold medinas." Holman thinks they said "we have tortillas." Things are off to a good start.

5:00 p.m., campsite, KOA Campground: Holman has set up his Coleman Sundome tent and Brubaker has set up his hinged-door Evanston tent. The Evanston is huge, so Holman christens it the Mega Tent. Our Coleman Raised Quickbed twin airbeds are inflated and the Coleman sleeping bags are in place. We actually look like we know what we're doing. Other campers seem impressed by our efficiency.

1:35 a.m., campsite, KOA Campground: A wild javelina saunters into camp and proceeds to root around. Holman unzips the flap on his Coleman tent and makes noises designed to scare wild animals. Javelina flees. Not from sounds, but from odor which accompanies sounds.

9:40 a.m., laundry room, KOA Campground: We're linked up to the campground's wireless Internet, working on our daily fourwheeler.com blog. We've taken over the laundry room. A couple of tourists from France eye us suspiciously as they wash their clothes. One whispers to the other "Regarder ces deux idiots."

11:40 a.m., campsite, KOA Campground: One of the goals of the Trails & Tents Tour is to not have a set schedule. So far, that sure as heck hasn't been a problem because it's almost noon and we're still at camp. The major goal of this tour, however, is to find obscure trails to explore. This means staying away from the major 'wheeling areas that have been done to death in the media. Our plan is to open our Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer and randomly choose a remote western Arizona area to explore. Problem is, neither one of us brought a Gazetteer.

12:30 p.m., parking lot of the Barnes & Nobles bookstore, Phoenix, Arizona: Using our new Gazetteer, we look for an area that offers utter isolation. We decide to explore Rattlesnake Canyon in eastern Arizona for no other reason than it sounds cool. We point the H3 east on Highway 60 out of Phoenix.

1:35 p.m., Miami, Arizona: Mining is king in this fascinating town. The town was actually created as a planned community in 1909 by a mining magnate named Cleve W. Van Dyke. At the time of its instant inception, Miami was an aggravation to the inhabitants of the established, neighboring mining town of Globe, who thought that Miami's existence would ultimately hurt their town (it did). It is said that today Miami's mines make it possible for Globe to survive. We pass On the Road Again Car Repair and Earth Mover Tires before we head east on Highway 70.

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2:15 p.m., east of Globe, Arizona, west of Pima, Arizona: We turn right on the graded dirt Klondyke Road. This road initially follows Hunsacker Wash and offers views of the Santa Teresa Mountains to the west and the Pinaleno Mountains to the east, both of which have peaks over 6,000 feet in altitude. The road is devoid of traffic, and dips and tight curves are frequent. Our Blackberrys lose service shortly into the drive. We're officially off the techno-grid. We follow Klondyke Road for the next 26.9 miles and our GPS says we average 32 mph.

2:55 p.m., Rattlesnake Road: At N 32 48.041 W 110 17.363 our Gazetteer says we've come to the beginning of Rattlesnake Road. There is a trail but no visible signage confirming that it's Rattlesnake, however. We get out of our H3 to look around and a barking dog starts quickly approaching from a nearby ranch. As Cujo closes in, we sprint for the H3 because he looks unhappy. We cross a rocky, dry wash and start up the trail.

3:00 p.m., Rattlesnake Road check-in station: About 1/4 mile into the trail, we come to a check-in station. Rattlesnake Road crosses private ranch property, and access is granted to sportsmen and recreationalists thanks to a cool Arizona Fish & Game program called the Adopt-A-Ranch Project. To access the property, a Ranch Pass is required. You simply check in when you enter the trail and check out when you leave. If you don't check in, it's considered trespassing. After you check in, there's a bright red pass you display on your windshield while on the property. While Holman checked us in, Brubaker aired down the tires while noting out loud that it's getting late in the day and the H3 only has a shade over a quarter tank of fuel. Holman seems unconcerned with Brubaker's observations. Brubaker begins to get nervous.

3:35 p.m., entrance to Coronado National Forest: So far, the trail has mostly followed an undulating, twisty ridge that runs parallel with Rattlesnake Canyon. The views have been utterly amazing, and we've seen no one or any sign that anyone has traveled in this area for a while. So far, this is a trail even a stock rig could do, and the rewards would be many. About 8.2 miles into the trail we come to a sign telling us that we're on Rattlesnake Mesa, which is the northern gateway to the Coronado National Forest and the Galiuro Wilderness (that last word should've thrown up red flags, but the significance of it was lost on us). From this point, the trail turns rocky and it narrows substantially as it begins an immediate drop into Rattlesnake Canyon.

4:00 p.m., rock ledges, Rattlesnake Road: About 8.92 miles into the trail, we come to our first major obstacle. The trail is becoming more rugged as we progress. Holman is driving and he has our H3 in 4-Lo as Brubaker spots him down the rocks. It's December, and long shadows are beginning to cast from the neighboring mountains. Brubaker is concerned about dwindling fuel.

4:15 p.m., somewhere on Rattlesnake Road: Progress is slow and the trail is getting more rugged. Brubaker begins to see images of sleeping side-by-side in the H3 with Holman after they run out of gas. Holman continually promises to turn around but keeps pushing forward.

4:25 p.m., surrounded by cattle, one H3 tire in the air, somewhere on Rattlesnake Road: It's getting cold, night is closing in, and we're still pushing forward. We're dropping off a rocky ledge that we're glad we won't have to ascend under the circumstances. Holman's new navigatory plan is to connect with Tom Rhodes Ranch Road, which should link us to a major paved road. Little do we know that ain't gonna happen.

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4:30 p.m., Galiuro Wilderness: In 1964, the U.S. Congress created the 76,317-acre Galiuro Wilderness. Nobody told us. About 10.8 miles in, Rattlesnake Road ended at a locked gate. Our Gazetteer showed roads continuing on, but they were closed. It would've been cool to hike in and look around because there's lots of cool stuff in there. Like the B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed on Bassett Peak during a training run in 1943. This tragic accident killed all 11 crew members. We hear there's a plaque mounted on one of the wings that commemorates the crew's final resting place. Daylight is fading as we take in the beautiful mountain scenery dotted with pinyon, juniper, and oak trees.

5:00 p.m. rock ledges, Rattlesnake Road: With the transfer case in low-range and the rear locker engaged, our H3 had little problem climbing the obstacles we thought would be challenging. It was slow going as night closed in, though. Brubaker nervously eyes the ever-dipping needle on the H3's fuel gauge. Holman is amused by this. He loves to run a fuel tank down to empty because he knows it annoys Brubaker.

5:20 p.m., 8 miles into Rattlesnake Road: With an undramatic whoosh, our left rear tire spat out its entire contents of air through a sidewall gash. Apparently, Rattlesnake Road didn't want us to leave quite yet. Holman uttered the obligatory "What was that?" as our H3 ground to a halt. We sprang into action and had the damaged tire off and the new one on in less than 10 minutes. We have to give credit to the engineers at Hummer for the exceptional way they designed the tailgate-mounted spare and easy-to-access tools. Because of this, the job was quick and painless.

5:55 p.m., Rattlesnake Road check-in station: Holman signs us out while Brubaker uses the built-in compressor in our Black & Decker Electromate 400 to air up the H3's tires. Brubaker is convinced that we're going to run out of fuel. Miraculously, we make it to a gas station on Highway 70.

7:45 p.m., campsite, KOA Campground: We break out our handy Coleman Fold 'n Go Propane InstaStart Stove and cook dinner from a can by the light of our Coleman lanterns. All is good.

4:30 a.m., campsite, KOA Campground: It's a balmy (by Brubaker's standards) 44 degrees, but California beach-boy Holman is firing up his Coleman ProCat PerfecTemp catalytic heater to warm up the inside of his tent. Apparently, javelinas have the night off.

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1:15 p.m., Kachina Hummer, Scottsdale, Arizona: It took all morning to break camp, repack the H3, and write and upload our daily fourwheeler.com blog. Since hitting the trail with no spare is like hitting the trail without much fuel, we called Kachina Hummer in Scottsdale to procure a new tire. The awesome team at Kachina comes through big time with a brand-new tire, and they fit us into their busy service center quickly so we could get back on the road. Our next stop was Flagstaff. Anyway, that was the plan.

2:45 p.m., Coconino National Forest, south of Flagstaff: As we drive north on Highway 17, we see a forest fire raging to the east in the Coconino National Forest. Illinois-guy Brubaker verbally notes that he has never seen a forest fire up close. Fire veteran Holman promptly exits the highway at the Rocky Road Park exit. We access a dirt road and aim our H3 towards the gigantic cloud of smoke. In a few miles the road turns rough and rutted and the smoke starts to thicken. With ash falling from the sky, Brubaker wonders if this is really a good idea. Holman enjoys watching Brubaker fidget nervously, so he powers on. A few more miles and the interior of the H3 is beginning to smell like smoke. Suddenly we see firemen. We're on the front line.

Will our boys get up close and personal with a forest fire in Arizona, or will they chicken out and turn around? Will frozen lakes and snow cause them to wimp out on camping? Will they deviate from the trail to see an authentic Messerschmitt fighter plane? Will they wake up an entire KOA Campground in the middle of the night? Will Brubaker be ridiculed by a prissy L.A. chick because of his camo pants?

Yup, they did it again. Log on to http://www.fourwheeler.com/trails_and_tents_tour/day_1 and read the daily Trails and Tents Tour blogs from Holman and Brubaker. You can read even more details about the trip as it happened, and there are more photos from the trip.

Sources

Black & Decker
n/a, CA
http://www.blackanddecker.com
Hummer
800/REAL-4WD

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