3:10 to Wickenburg
Since the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was going to be too hot for my tender sensibilities, I decided to stay the one night and the next morning, and then move on to my principal stop at a higher, cooler elevation. I was surprised that the overnight low at 60 degrees felt cold to me, and realized that I’d need to break out a wool blanket or two when I camped in cooler Wickenburg. The warm sweats and flannel sheet weren’t cutting it in the way I’d expected. Maybe it was just me.
I had noticed some guy in a new Toyota pickup wandering up and past my site on the trail to Queen Canyon fairly early in the morning, and was pleased to find him driving past on his return just as I was finally wheeling out in late morning. See, I knew I’d be going back down the trail much too slowly for anyone following, and areas large enough to pull the 27′ Intrepid over are far and few between on this trail. As predicted, he quickly put distance between us, and even had time to get out and take a few holiday snaps without my being able to catch him. That’s the difference between running an empty 1/2-ton with low-pressure tires down a rough trail, and lumbering down in a loaded 3/4-ton with twice the tire pressures.
About a third of the way back down, he was long gone, but I noticed another vehicle ahead on its way up. Fortunately for me, he followed the unwritten rule to allow the descending vehicle the right of way, and pulled over. That keeps the driver going downhill from having to drive backwards up a slope, which is never a good thing. Turns out that it was actually two old Suzuki Samurais parked snout to tail, and I naturally waved and thanked them as I idled past. They weren’t smiling or friendly-like as I expected and is customary, probably because the closing 100 yards was closed more slowly than they’d like. Oh well. Not everyone is able to mountain goat down boulder-strewn trails as quickly as you can. Pump your tires up to 70 PSI, put some real springs in those things, and see how fast you now want to go!
I’d considered airing down my tires to soften the ordeal of course, but that’s more of a comfort thing than a great improver of speed. Not quite as much tendency to scramble the camper’s contents or one’s innards. In retrospect, I probably should have aired down, considering the distance and washboard ahead on the main drive in, but any speed gain would be erased by the 1/2-hour airing up procedure before hitting the highway, and I was a bit wary after looking at the tire shoulders after the climb up the day before. As best I could, I had followed the policy of either missing projecting rocks entirely, or centering right over them, but the tire shoulders had been thoroughly scuffed on the way up, regardless. Made me grateful that the Coopers have some pretty aggressive sidewall protection. Mental note: don’t consider going back to longer-wearing street tires. For all its virtues, airing down has the downside of presenting more sidewall to a rocky trail, which made me skittish about doing so on this one.
If you’re into excruciating detail, as I apparently am, you can also note that I took the 4-mile slope in 4WD-Low, second gear. It became pretty obvious early on that I’d be riding the brakes the whole way down in 2WD-High, first gear, so switching to low range let me lift off the gas pedal to automatically slow when needed for the nastier rocks and gullies. The brakes became redundant. I started out locked in low-range first gear, but that was just too slow, and there was no way to smoothly modulate power when needed. There’s too much instant torque even at idle to be able to roll on just a little throttle, and a bumpy trail doubles the problem. The gas pedal becomes more like an on/off switch. Second gear was tolerably better. This fine-control off-roading in low range issue is pretty common to diesels, since they don’t have the spongy off-idle power that gas engines generally do. That may be a brag point when pulling out tree stumps, but it’s a liability in some trail situations.
I dragged the cargo box once during my escape, which let me affirm that putting down a deposit for air lift bags on the rear was a good decision. Just a couple of inches more ground clearance back there would be a good thing, putting the ride height back where it is supposed to be. A cheaper alternative would be to jettison the cargo box or load only blankets and pillows in it, but that’s sure not going to happen. It took maybe an hour and a half to make it all the way to Arizona 95 northbound, gratefully throttling up to 65 on the cruise control. After a food and propane stop in Quartzsite, it was on to the Wick.
Once there, I was able to go directly to a spot on State Trust land, and the place was comparatively deserted. I had what I consider to be the pick o’ the litter, on a low bluff overlooking a long valley. The closest rig is over a football field away – and I haven’t heard a peep out of their sizable-looking mastiff-type mutt. In an absent-minded moment, I had routed myself to a completely isolated spot a couple of miles down a challenging trail, but in doing so had forgotten that, hey, I would need that extra ground clearance that I do not yet have. Duh. So conventional campsite it is. With adequate but not great sleep the night before, Project #1 after the non-arduous ten-minute camp set up was to nap, which I took on and accomplished with great vigor. Thus restored, I broke out and arranged enough crapola for an extended stay. Life is good. It’s supposed to be inconveniently windy today and tomorrow, but not enough to keep one inside all day. Every aspect of the Grandby is working perfectly, and even the battery pack is showing an unusually low draw after my typically heavy evening use. Perhaps the long drive up made it particularly happy. With absolutely nothing to worry about, I have to improvise as best I can, and that will be to wonder how the flagging battery on the Evelo e-bike will hold out on the long four-mile climb back from town. Since I won’t have to make a supplies trip for quite some time yet, it’s hard to care much right now. It’s nice here.