Escapito #6: Summer Sequel …. A Desert SW Escape       Part 2: Luna Lake, AZ to Clifton, AZ

October 20/21, 2022

Even though we had a mere 97 miles to travel today, we knew the road would be long and winding, up and down, as we dropped over the Mogollon Rim at 8000 feet to the Northern Chihuahua desert at 4000 feet.  And yes indeed, it was a slow go, but worth the drive as we passed through the Apache-Sitgraves National Forest.  This dry forest, dominated by old growth ponderosa pine, had recently burned in many places turning visually impenetrable mountains into scenic, long distance views. As we neared the town of Morenci towards the end of our day, the country literally fell apart due to a gigantic open pit copper mine. We passed by the remains of leveled mountains reconstructed with overburden, impossibly deep terraced pits, and parades of the largest dump trucks ever, carrying freshly blasted raw materials to be processed into copper plates. Morenci is Freeport’s flagship copper mine (Freeport is part of a gigantic international mining conglomerate) and at 62,000 acres in size, there’s every indication of continued expansion. Wow.     

Rugged country north of Clifton

It took about 45 minutes to wind through the countless open pits before we actually reached the town Morenci with Clifton just 10 minutes beyond.  We had arrived; surrounded by desert, with the forest of trees behind us just a memory.

Roy and Luna showing the tire size from one of the dump trucks used at the mine

We stayed at a very nice RV park in North Clifton, being lucky to snare the last available site (all other sites were occupied by miners and their families). The park is advertised as being along the beautiful San Francisco River, which looked like rapidly flowing chocolate milk, but the canyon provided plenty of hiking opportunities …. and we spent the afternoon and following morning exploring, before journeying deeper into the desert.

San Francisco River
Date palm growing beside the San Francisco River
Velvet mesquite growing alongside the San Francisco River

Stay tuned for Part 3: Clifton, AZ to Indian Bread Rocks, Bowie, AZ


  1. Beautiful country and wow, the size of that tire! Love following your journey, and it must have been so exciting to wake up (in the last blog post) to the sound of elk bugling! We have been going to sleep this week with the sound of coyotes yipping and a Barred Owl visiting the back fence and calling at night. And, a young buck just strolling along the back fence in mid-day — as announced to us by the dog barking and dancing around inside when he saw it through the window! 🙂


    1. It was beautiful country, emphasis on “was” as we passed through the mining areas. The elk bugling was so haunting … and I think the owls were great horned. Your backyard sounds like ours …. Coyotes and deer, and Luna announces their arrival too. No barred owls tho! Thanks so much for the wonderful comments Karen!


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s