22-Jul-2001 -- It was time for a few days in the outdoors with some hiking, camping and 4Wheeling. If possible we also wanted to include some confluence hunting, but that gets quite difficult in the US these days. This time of the year the deserts here in the Southwest are too hot to be enjoyed, so we were looking for some forests and higher elevations. With these parameters set we came up with a trip to central Arizona that would take us within reach of 4 unvisited (at the time) confluences: 35°N 113°W, 36°N 113°W, 35°N 112°W, 34°N 110°W.
This was the last confluence for this trip and even though we enjoyed our little exploring trip through central Arizona we hoped to go back home with at least one successful visit. We braced ourselves for another attempt since this confluence is located in an Indian reservation.
From Williams, AZ, we drove I40 to Flagstaff and headed south on I17. We left the big roads at exit 306 and headed into the National Forests. Working our way further south on smaller roads and dirt roads we arrived at the Mogollon Rim. The rim is an east-west cliff crossing almost half of the state of Arizona. The 200 mile dirt road running along the cliff offers access to cool pine forests, fishing, hunting and all other kinds of forest activities. Along the road are some very nice campsites right at the edge of the cliff with spectacular views of the forests south of the rim. We picked one off these sites and enjoyed a great evening and night in the forest. As the sun was setting we could see thunderstorms in the direction of Phoenix. To the west we had seen smoke from a forest fire all day, now as it was getting dark we could actually make out flames.
The next morning we got an early start and headed towards Show Low. On the drive through the forest we saw a number of elk and wild turkeys. The city of Show Low took its name from a winning hand in a poker game and it is returning to its roots, as there is a big new casino close by on the Indian reservation. We took Hwy 73 south; this is the closest paved road to the confluence. Our plan was to drive down the Hwy and see how close it would take us to the confluence, all the while looking for possible access to the forest. We did not have good maps of the area, but the satellite pictures from the Terra Server had shown a maze of roads in the forest. One of these roads appeared to actually come to within 100m of the confluence. As we were driving we notice someone parked on one of the dirt roads leading into the forest talking on his cell phone. We decided to stop and see whether we could learn something about the forest roads. As I got out of the car with map in hand the scene from 36°N 113°W
repeated itself. Again we had met an Indian man living on the reservation and again he knew the area very well. We asked whether it was ok to drive the roads in the forest and he said "Yes, there will be signs if you are not allowed to go". At this point we were about 5 miles from the confluence. We took one of the dirt roads we had come across and followed GPS and compass towards the confluence. Always carefully looking for any signs that might keep us from proceeding, we came across none. We had no real problem getting to the road close to the confluence.
The spot is in an area that has burned a few years back. There was evidence of fire fighting activity (faint tracks from heavy equipment, cut trees), but the area was quite green now. As we prepared to go back to the paved road we realized just how close to a maze the network of roads really was. The roads were not marked and even though we had saved the locations of all the intersections we crossed we had not kept notes on which direction we had turned.... So we decided that it would take as much effort to find a new way out as finding the way we had come. Well, we drove around for quite a while getting to dead ends and roads blocked by trees. At one point we started to take stock and prepare for a night in the forest, because it seemed quite hopeless to find a way. But eventually we found the right road.
On the way south through the reservation we stopped at Kinshba Indian ruins. We took some pictures, but unfortunately did not see any signs with information about the ruins.
The roads in the forest were all in good condition but require at least high clearance. Some of them are starting to be overgrown with vegetation and others are blocked by fallen trees. Since the roads are not marked it is easy to get lost in there. We enjoyed the green, cool forest with its meadows, this had been just what we were looking for coming from hot, dry SoCal.