Arizona Canyon Four Wheeling - Martinez Canyon - AdventurePosted in Ultimate Adventure on April 1, 2004
Imagine a time, long ago, when prospectors and traders roamed a scenic red canyon in the Arizona desert. Precious metals were the sought-after treasure. Whiskey and women were the distractions from a hard day of toiling in the mines that riddle the walls of historic Martinez Canyon.
In the late 1800s, miners worked this area, creating the Martinez, Columbia, and Silver Belle mines. Silver and lead were the ores they extracted from the hard canyon walls. Belle Aire, a small town born from the ore operations, once thrived with commerce.
Now, travel forward in time when horses and mules rarely traverse Martinez Canyon. Instead, hard-core four-wheelers crawl over the boulders and ledges that speckle the canyon floor. Gone are the merchants and miners, replaced by a new kind of explorer. These explorers seek rocks and the challenges that they offer.
Winding your way Eastward from the highway that connects Florence Junction to the small town of Florence, you head across the typical southern Arizona desert. The dry climate and warm temperature allows little more than cactus and scrub trees to survive.
However, as you progress, the terrain becomes less flat, and the relief of the desert becomes more rugged. Washes and ravines gain depth, and the tint of the dirt turns the slightly redder. Soon, you find yourself entering a canyon bottom, lined with large cottonwood and ash trees, forming a shady canopy over the trail. Water trickles from the canyon sides, showing the signs of the ever-flowing clear water springs that drip from the rocks
Nearby, timely signs of the past inhabitants of the canyon lie. An old ladder and aged rebar still jut from one of the rocky faces where miners once roped their way up into the mine shafts. There are some mine entrances at the trail level, and, interestingly enough, one of the entrances that still remains used to be a bar and a brothel when the canyon was heavily occupied.
Emerging from the trees, four-wheelers are rewarded with a scenic view of a reddish rock canyon towering ahead. Large overhangs of rock form shallow caves at the edges of the canyon. Where there was once a heavily traveled mining road, now sections of it are hardly discernible. Following portions of the wash will lead you through plenty of boulders and rockcrawling. Portions of the old roadway connect some of these wash sections where there are optional obstacles for those looking for greater challenges. High clearance and lockers are a plus, if not mandatory, on this trail.
A large mill structure still remains standing in the middle of the canyon. This timber and tin building once held several large generators and an old steam engine. Old pulleys and belts still remain along with some electrical components. A fairly long section of the ore-cart track that once carried raw ore from the mine shafts follows a canyon ridge and spans the wash. Rock tailings on the sides of hills lie silent as reminders of mining excavations.
The canyon floor rises, and the old road that once continued much further up the canyon is now impassable. Some years back, a landslide resulted in the road below, becoming heavily blocked with fallen rock.
Another road climbs upward over eroded switchbacks up the side of a mountain. Climbing rapidly leads you up and out of the canyon and through a shallow cutout on the mountain top. A large, abandoned mine resides there. The old mine has six levels and an extensive tunnel network leading through the rocky mountainside.
Dropping over the other side of the mountain provides you with a commanding view of the lower desert below. After following a short, off-camber section of trail, you arrive at the main descending trail. You have two choices of how to get down the mountain. If you stay right, you'll find something resembling an Alpine downhill ski course. This path is relatively straight, but it's a steep drop for about 75 yards. Line up well at the top and slip the tranny into Low range. As you ease over the edge, stay alert and do your best to keep your vehicle sliding - yes, sliding straight down all the way to the bottom of the hill.
The slightly slower but just as exciting route lies to the left at the fork in the trail. Named the Leuge, this drop-and-slide obstacle is sure to keep you on your toes. You make a steep drop into a deep, eroded ravine, hoping the rear of your vehicle does not pass the front and that you don't flip it on its side. Once you finally complete the drop and make the turn, you need to line up to clear the tall wall of the ravine on your left side. A large rock under your right-side tires doesn't help since it tips you further into the left wall. More than one soft top has been sacrificed here. Clearing this obstacle starts you on a long slide down the rest of the hill. Stay light on the brakes, and work the wheel to keep headed straight down the slope. Once you make it safely to the bottom, you will be glad you took the ride. It is worth the trip.
The remainder of the trail is fairly mild, winding back in a large loop through the mountains to connect with the first part of the trail. It's an awesome trip with first-class 'wheeling and breathtaking scenery.
The trail through Martinez Canyon offers rockcrawling challenges among spectacular desert terrain. We promise that you will not be disappointed if you choose to take the Martinez challenge.