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