In May of infamous 2020, Chris Snell and I ventured out on a short trip to some of Arizona's ghost and living mining towns. Chris did all of the navigation and a considerable part of driving; I loved the trip enough to suggest a similar route to Land Rover Club of San Diego as a club trip.
Fast forward a few months - we find ourselves rolling uphill on Interstate 8, towards the meeting place near Buckman Springs rest area.
Our plan was extensive and ambitious: drive through Slab City, CA, and take fifty miles of dirt roads towards Bradshaw Trail and Palo Verde, California. Then we aimed to hop to Quartzsite and Bouse, Arizona, and explore the remains of a ghost town of Swansea. From there, we'd go East - trying to cross Bill Williams River, and on to the ghost town of Signal, a very much alive town of Bagdad, and take a circuitous route via Camp Wood area and Prescott National Forest to Chino Hills. We'd leave dirt for a few dozen miles, and return back to it in Coconino National Forest, camping at about 7000 feet, then seeing Sycamore Point and Falls. The farther we'd go to the East, the murkier our plans became - we could drive Schnebly Hill Road East or West, take or not take any of Sedona's other red rock trails, camp near Mingus Mountain or Crown King or a ghost town of Bradshaw City.
Most of us meet at Buckman Springs exit from I-8, and we make our way East to El Centro, Niland, and Slab City. The Salvation Mountain is open for visitors, so we take our time taking photos of the area.
From there, we head out to desert. A general confusion arises about which roads we're allowed to be on and which are not, and tweaks our plans for the first day; the “Unexploded ordnance” signs weigh heavily onto our decision-making. We end up driving a completely different part of Bradshaw Trail, and stop for the night about an hour and a half short of Swansea.
On the next day, we make it to Swansea and take our time to explore it. Then we move on towards the river crossing, with the road becoming progressively more less-travelled and less-defined.
The Bill Williams River offers us a formidable obstacle - several hundred feet of sticky black mud bottom, so we punt on the crossing, reroute our trip towards the Lake Alamo Road, and skip a large off-pavement section from our plan. We only make it to the outskirts of Prescott before dark, and camp somewhere in Sierra Prieta mountains.
On day 3, we rack up some dirt miles bypassing Highway 89, parade through downtown Prescott, and make our way to Coconino National Forest. It takes us close to three hours to cover about 30 miles to Sycamore Point - where we take some time peering into the abyss and having lunch. Then it is another 27 dirt miles to pavement, and we camp in pine forest near the Eastern end of Schnebly Hill road - with weather worsening quickly.
By our last day on the trip, we know that a large brush fire near Crown King nixed the end to plans in this area, and the last dirt we see is on the red rocks of Schnebly Hill Road above Sedona.
All nine vehicles made it home under their own power, and the toll collected by the desert was limited to a flat tire and a broken sway bar link.
A Gaia GPS map of our trip:
Our crew (alphabetically):
A few memorable photos, hopefully, correctly attributed to the authors: