Sonoran Trail team members Josh Miller and Jeff Sharp explored/overlanded Forest Roads 143, 609, and 416 between Beeline Highway and Young Road (FR 288). The end result was miles of amazing geography and another return trip via Miami, Arizona.
Jeff and I were excited to get started. Our third overlanding partner was suffering in Hawaii so this trip was left to just us two. After breakfast in Fountain Hills we launched about noon. First order was to take the Four Peaks road, FR 143, across the range, putting us just south of Punkin Center. We traveled through the Tonto Basin community and headed east on Greenback Road, FR 71, in Punkin. The road turned incredibly muddy but we pressed on; even after being warned that the road was too slick once you arrived on top of the mountain. With daylight left we pulled into a remote camp site, popped a brew, and began setting up camp. Firewood was in abundance, the air had a nice chill to it, and supper was plentiful.
The next morning we continued east on what was now FR 609. It was incredibly slick and since we adhere to the “Tread Lightly” philosophy, our rigs pushed through the deeper and muddier sections of the road to avoid expanding the road itself. The vehicles were caked by now. Looking at the map and then driving upon it, we encountered the “Y” of FR 609 and 416. “Let’s check it out”, Jeff said, and off we went. Slick became slicker and a few hills had me sliding back. Four low and both differentials locked were needed for my “Black Pearl” to ascend without sliding off. The road deteriorated and after several hours we came across a small sign as we approached a working ranch. “Private Drive – No Thru Traffic”, it screamed. Wow…I hate when that happens. Turning around we made it back another hour or so and came across and incredible area to camp for night two. In the middle of a stream we pressed the vehicles to cross onto a small island in between two running brooks. A sheer cliff greeted us on one side and the sound of the water lulled us to sleep.
Day three dawned. Punkin Center locals we met the day before told us about a cave system a few miles up FR 609. We packed up and headed east again after back tracking to FR 416. Jeff found the cave and after a quick exploration we moved on. Night three was not nearly as nice as the one before but Jeff was racked with a head cold and we had driven for almost six hours. A quick fire was built and chow was served up. Jeff hit the rack early to escape his cold misery and I stayed up staring at the stars with the crackle of the fire.
Our real lives beckoned the next day. Day four we were up and on the road again by 0930. After 11 miles Young Road (FR 288) greeted us and we were south bound. We fueled up in Miami and reluctantly parted ways, another incredible time spent exploring and learning about this area. Two locals from Young, Arizona told us about FR 54 south out of Young…looks like that’s our next excursion! Exit – Experience – Explore Josh