Back to the High Country...


That’s a LONG ways down!

Such BIG saguaros!
half way to 
Show Low!

We left Thursday, 18 October 07 for our fall visit to Fool

Hollow Lake State Park near Show Low, AZ.  We

try to go up for a week in the fall and a week in the

spring… they have a special winter rate from

15 October through 31 Marcy—7 days for the price of

5 days—can’t ignore this deal, can we? 

This is a 4-hour trip, so we were on the road by about 10:15 AM. Our route takes us north out of Tucson on Oracle Road (route 77). On the northern reaches of Tucson on Oracle road is Catalina State Park…a good camp ground if you need to be close to Tucson. It’s great for hikers interested in  Catalina Mountains trails in that area, and is also an equestrian park. There are 120 sites, 95 of which have water and electricity. There is also a dump station. In the summertime beware…it’s typical Tucson hot and dry.

The next town up the road is Catalina…it used to seem far from Tucson, but now you hardly get out of Tucson and you’re in Catalina…it’s quickly becoming a bedroom community of Tucson…supposedly cheaper property, not that far from Tucson, and growing in services and population.

North of Catalina is Oracle Junction…a wide place in the road built around a junction…where you can take a left onto highway 79 and go north to Florence (and a state prison) and further north to catch highway 60 west to Apache Junction and the Phoenix metro area or east to Globe, AZ.

For this trip, it’s more direct to stay on 77 at Oracle Junction, which takes us east to Oracle, then north through one of Arizona’s vast mining areas stretching up the San Pedro River Valley and beyond...and the mining towns of Oracle, Mammoth, Dudleyville, Winkleman and on up to Globe. Between Oracle Junction and Oracle lies Biosphere 2 which is a “...unique facility dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues...” so they say, under management of the University of Arizona in Tucson. It’s had a tumultuous and controversial history, with a couple of scandalous events and multiple ownerships. Besides having a colorful history, it’s an interesting place and has tours open to the public.

Further east on 77 lies Oracle, AZ, home to Oracle State Park…there is no camping in this park, but it has a picnic/day use area, lots of hiking trails on the northern face of the Catalina Mountains, and access to the Arizona Trail which is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

East past Oracle is a junction where you can go south to San Manuel, another mining town a bit further south in the San Pedro River Valley…but we continue north on 77 to Mammoth, along the San Pedro River to the east.  There are 2 gas stations in Mammoth and the gas prices there are at least as good as Tucson and sometimes less…odd, since it seems as prices would be higher in this area because they have to haul it further. There’s also a small city park on the main drag that’s good for a rest stop if you need to have lunch (don’t know if they’ll let you overnight there or not)…

Going north out of Mammoth we cross over the San Pedro River and are soon in Dudleyville…(last gas opportunity until Winkleman). This area is still high

                          desert and has astounding stand of saguaro cacti…some of the

                            largest we’ve seen anywhere…they seem to thrive here…

                           probably less pollution and more water as they are on the hills

                             and slopes of the San Pedro River Valley…now west of the highway…you can see the riparian vegetation along the River’s banks though you never really leave the desert terrain and flora.

As the highway approaches Winkleman, you become much more aware of the mines, as the huge smoke stack in the distance gets bigger as you get closer…and the trailing dumps come into sight. At Winkleman, you once again cross the San Pedro River. There is a trailer park right at the bridge where you can see two Airstreams as permanent residences. The River is to the east of the road now, which travels along the eastern edge of town along the River. If you turn west onto 177 you will see more of the town, and you’ll be heading northwest up to Hayden, Kearny, and Kelvin, (more mining towns) and finally Superior on highway 60 between Metro Phoenix and Globe. 

Highway 77 follows the San Pedro River for several miles, and we leave behind the saguaros…now in a bit higher elevation and some interesting canyon formations along the River…  Eventually the River takes off to the east to Coolidge Dam and San Carlos Lake while the road continues due north toward Globe along the western side of the Pinal Mountains south of Globe and we enter the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Just outside Globe we go through Pinal Pass (4,875 ft). This route is a 2-lane highway for the most part, but there are convenient passing lanes sections in both directions so it travels well and folks don’t seem to get too impatient. You’ll see a lot of RVs and boats on this route, heading north to cooler climates.

We connect with highway 70 about a mile east of Globe (which is roughly 100 miles from Tucson…the half-way mark to Show Low and the largest town in this area).  We jog onto highways 60/70 for a mile or two to the

junction where 60 continues north from Globe to Show Low,

which is another 100 miles. If you go west through Globe on 60,

you are heading back toward Phoenix through Miami and

Superior…more mining towns…and if you head east on 70 you’ll

be heading southwest toward San Carlos and Safford (home of Roper Lake State Park…see our trip log to Roper earlier this year). We top off the gas at the junction where 60 heads north out of Globe on the eastern edge of the Tonto National Forest, along the western border of the San Carlos Indian Reservation…and the last big leg of the trip to Show Low, the Mogollon Rim…and the high country of the White Mountains…

The biggest attraction of this part of the trip is the Salt River Canyon…this is a serious, rugged canyon along the Salt River whose course meanders west and eventually feeds Roosevelt Lake several miles to the west (and northeast of the Phoenix Metro area). The Salt River Canyon is sometimes called the “Little Grand Canyon” because of its deep, dramatic and rapidly descending/ascending switchbacks (potential white-knuckle county). It’s definitely a test for a

                              tow vehicle, but happily, we’ve made this trip several times

                                  and the Tacoma performs nicely with the Bambi behind it,

                                   and again, there are good passing lane areas periodically

                                 in both directions. We did stop to take pictures of the

                                    Canyon this trip (but it’s hard to capture the depth—kinda like taking pictures of the Grand Canyon...they just never do it justice.

At the bottom of the Canyon is a graceful red steel arched bridge that takes you across the Salt. There’s also a nice rest stop with photo ops and where the local Native Americans spread their hand-made jewelry on blankets to sell. The climb out of the Canyon is no less a feat than the descent. There is an overlook on the northern side where there is a single lonely palm tree…probably the last palm you see until you head south again. It’s sort of a signal that the lower elevations are now behind you. Once you  haul yourself out, you know you are in a different class of terrain. Scrub pines begin to replace the high desert vegetation and you know you are climbing higher…eventually the scrub pine give way to pine forests mixed with piñon pine...  Now on the boundaries of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, we pass by road signs pointing to Cibecue to the west and White River to the east. There’s a gas station at the intersection that takes off toward White River…not a great place to get gas unless you have to—the highest prices we saw on the trip.  It’s out in the middle of nowhere...whadya want?

As we climb up onto the Rim and come into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, we are not far from Show Low. We see a lot of smoke in the sky to the northwest and wonder what’s going on…hoping that we are not driving into a forest fire! That would not be a good thing...

We are now in full-blown pine forests and the air feels cooler, but we can smell the fire in the air as we approach Show Low, we are struck with the amount of home construction that is going one... Show Low is becoming a retreat for city dwellers to escape the summer heat...lots of high-end gated communities with lots of big homes springing up on all sides, it seems.  It’s probably still possible to find reasonable property in some places, but I’d venture that it won’t be the case for much longer.  There is a private Airstream park in Show Low, by the way....the type where you buy membership and have a spot that you own.  We checked it out on a previous trip...there are lots for sale and even some Airstreams.  It’s not a year-round situation, however, and closes down in the winter.

We come to the first traffic light on the main drag of Show, turn west onto highway 60. The entrance to Fool Hollow is a couple of miles east on the right and only minutes from town. We drive through a residential area to get to the park...and another area of development underway, and suddenly we are on the park property checking in at the ranger station. The Girls come alive from their naps in the back seat, glad to finally be there and excited to greet the ranger. We ask about the fire and learn that there is a “controlled burn” taking place that week just south and west of Show Low... The ranger asks us to disconnect the water at’s been getting below freezing periodically, and they want to avoid their water supplies freezing. We make our way to the “Readhead” loop where we usually’s sparsely populated (just the way we like it) and we are pleased to find that our favorite campsite is free. We back the Bambi’s level, so no need to add blocks...unhitch, and get the Girls out for their mandatory walk to “water the lilies.”  We have arrived! 

Click on “Fool Hollow” below to go to the next part after you take a peek at the pics from the trip to Show Low. “Homeward Ho!” will take you to our trip home.

>Fool Hollowfoolholl_oct07.htmlfoolholl_oct07.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0
>Homeward Ho!foolholl_hm_oct07.htmlfoolholl_hm_oct07.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0
Anything for a bargain, right?