i was much later than i had hoped for this stop (i got waylayed in greer to see a friend, then found i had a flat tire, and i also discovered that i had left my pack and my poles at the trailhead at escudilla, requiring another little jaunt out that dippy road). regardless, when i finally arrived at the rose peak trailhead, i took a couple of beers up to the lookout, zeyn, in hopes of catching the sunset from the lookout tower. i had wondered how the area was after the fire, and the area around rose peak is still quite lush.
zeyn told me how he had been the first to report the whitewater fire in the gila. apparently when he reported it, it took a while for the guys out in the gila to register that this was a new fire, and not part of the baldy fire. of course now they've merged and become the giant that it is today (6/6/2012) at 259,025 acres. in the right wind conditions, the gila is fairly clear from rose peak, but today, it was so hazy that i could barely make out the smoke plumes.
as for the lookout tower itself, they have remodeled since i was here last. it's an aermotor mc-24, 12x12 cab, so it's really quite spacious. two years ago when i visited, it seemed to have a lot of wasted space because the living quarters were still in a cabin down below. now it is now a live-in tower.
(end trip report, begin driving home saga)
i made it down to the jeep while it was still just a little bit of light, and drove on my way down the scenic (well, at least during the day) coronado trail towards clifton, morenci, and safford. after i had passed three-way, i was going up a bit of a grade and the jeep started rattling something fierce so i thought i had a flat tire. i pulled over and checked, and all the tires were intact. i merged back into traffic and i heard a loud "boom!" again, i pulled over, and checked under the vehicle, where i saw the yoke hanging down.
apparently the u-joint had given up just about 30 miles outside of safford.
lucky for me! i was able to call aaa and get a tow and a cheap hotel room in safford. the next morning i found out that nothing else major was damaged, and the cost for the u-joint and labor was fairly small. i lost a day of work, but things could've been much worse, especially if the part would've decided to go about 50 miles sooner where there was no shoulder to pull over, and no cell phone reception.
all's well that ends well, but note to self (and others): only drive scenic highways when you can enjoy the scenery and there might be other people on the road.