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Ajax Mine via Cottonwood/Telegraph Rds, AZ

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Guide 3 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Superior SW
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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 21.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,928 feet
Avg Time One Way 3
Interest Ruins, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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30  2016-02-20
Cottonwood Canyon Petroglyph Site
30  2014-11-16
Ajax Mine area exploring
41  2011-12-13 CannondaleKid
30  2011-07-01 CannondaleKid
Author CannondaleKid
author avatar Guides 43
Routes 137
Photos 20,492
Trips 1,900 map ( 15,617 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Apr → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:09am - 6:29pm
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The Road to Pb-Cu-Ag-Au
by CannondaleKid

Yes, you are absolutely correct, the TH coordinates are for neither the east or west TH but the actual mine location itself.

The Ajax Mine was an underground mine only in use for two years from 1915 to 1916. It produced Pb-Cu-Ag-Au, which is lead, copper, silver and gold for those who don't remember (or never learned) the element table.

The distance to the mine from Superior is only 10 miles but it will take about 2 hours to reach it. Entering from SR 79 the distance just over 11 miles but take much less time at around 45 minutes due to the first 5 miles being on a wide and relatively smooth dirt road. I prefer east to west to pass through the roughest terrain first and leave the easy stuff until the end. Although driving instead of hiking it can still wear you out, especially due to the mental energy required to navigate the roughest terrain, which is why I recommend east-to-west. Unless of course you either don't have as capable a 4x4 and/or you'd rather do the trip as an out-and-back from the west. But just remember, by doing so you will miss the most scenic part of the drive.

NOTE: Since I usually start in Superior this description will begin at the Superior High School and all mileages listed will be the distance from there.

Drive south 1.4 miles until you come to a fork in the road. Bear right at the fork and you will now be on Telegraph Canyon Rd. Shortly after turning onto Telegraph Canyon Road you will come to another fork. Either way can be used but on this occasion I took the right fork and found to our delight it avoided the deeper and rockier wash which probably would have been impassible with the Pathfinder I was driving today. You will travel by a large bowl in the hillside to your left where it is a favorite of the shooting. Now begins the rough and rocky road that you will be ascending or descending almost constantly until you reach the Ajax Mine.

3 Miles: The road passes over the first of a number of cattle guards, this one requiring a bit of extra clearance due being a stepped one. Right after the guard the road starts winding around the 'back' side of Picketpost Mountain and all along this part of the drive you will be treated to constantly-changing yet ever-beautiful views of Picketpost. Along here you will fexperience a completely different perspective of the familiar peak.

3.5 Miles: Another great vantage point of Picketpost. With the sun momentarily peeking through the overcast we were treated to a wide, almost flat rainbow across Picketpost.

3.6 Miles: The road descends into and travels concurrently along a wash before starting to turn southward away from Picketpost. On this rainy day (with rain the day before as well) the wash was running but with rocky ground we had no problem with traction.

3.9 Miles: This is the closest you will get to Picketpost on the whole trip, so if you want some close-ups this is the spot. As the road leads south away from Picketpost it follows a wash with ever-larger rocks to navigate around and/or over. My Samurai ate this section up like nothing back in July, but the Pathfinder being lower, longer and wider made for a real challenge.

4-5 Miles: This area will be a constant challenge of picking your way through washes, around and/or over rocks but the ever-changing scenery is well worth it.

5.1 Miles: Looking back behind you this will be the last opportunity for a shot of Picketpost for the next 3 miles.

5.5 Miles: Right where the road crosses the center of the wash be sure to take a look at the 'blood' rock in the wash.

6.5 Miles: As the road climbs along and above the wash if you look down to the wash you will see a rectangular concrete water tank.

6.8 Miles: The Arizona Trail crosses the road on its way between Picketpost and the White Canyon area.

7-8 Miles: The road will meander through rough and rocky terrain along with some steep climbs. On this rainy day (and after the previous day of rain) there were a number of rock slides we had to stop and clear before passing .

8 Miles: At 3773' this is the highest point of the drive where you will be treated to an awesome view north to Picketpost. Within 600' of the height of Picketpost just 3 miles away one feels like we are at the same height. On this overcast day we caught a glimpse of bright sunlight hitting the pure white snow on Four Peaks. Weaver's Needle could also be seen over to the left. From here the road gets very narrow so some of the sharp turns with steep drops just feet from the vehicle makes you pay close attention, so let the passenger so the sight-seeing and to tell you when a good shot presents itself.

8.2 Miles: Now begins the steep descent down to the Ajax Mine. After the rains over the last two days this section was in pretty bad shape with large washed-out sections that made it necessary to straddle the center of the 'berm' that was left usually on one side or the other of the original road.

8.7 Miles: The Ajax Mine finally comes into view, albeit about a mile-and-a-half away. With a good zoom on your camera you can get a pretty close shot of it from a point some 800' higher than the mine. Take your last shots of Picketpost, Four Peaks, Weaver's Needle and the rest of the Supes now because the descent happens fast.

8.7-10 Miles: Very steep, winding down a rough and treacherous narrow road to the mine.

10.1 Miles: Ajax Mine. Upon reaching the mine it's time to take a well-deserved break to get out and stretch your legs. One tips, if you don't drive up the last 300', you definitely will be stretching your hammies. The climb may be short but it's steep. Take your time to wander around the mine but be careful, between people shooting at the walls and the wear-and-tear of time they could fall at any moment.

10-12 Miles: Again the rough narrow road winds along through a number of washed-out areas where careful tire placement is in order.

12 Miles: The road passes by a windmill and large water reservoir. Although the windmill is old, the well is new, being drilled when I passed through here in July of this year. Once the well was drilled a new concret pad was poured and the old windmill was set on it and put back in use. The windmill blades are pretty well shot-up but it was spinning nicely in the wind on this day.

12-21 Miles (The end at SR 79): Due to the road being graded and filled in to allow the large well-drilling truck out this far, the rest of the road out to SR 70 is still pretty decent. If it isn't wet or muddy you could probably make it in a 2WD with reasonable clearance.

13 Miles: You are now on Cottonwood Canyon Road. Unless you are in a rock crawler or don't care about body damage, stick to the main road.

14 Miles: The road passes a kiosk overlooking petroglyphs on the canyon walls across the wash below. When rock crawlers are about, this provides a great vantage point to watch them break their machines. The first time we were out here over a year ago that's exactly what we saw... vehicles breaking in the worst spot.

16-21 Miles: From here out to SR 79 the road is wide and flat so it's a matter of how fast you are comfortable with on a dirt road. On this day with no dust to be raised 45-50 mph was just about right.

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2011-12-13 CannondaleKid
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Ajax Mine via Cottonwood/Telegraph Rds
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Ajax Mine area exploring
As mentioned in yesterday's AZT#17 triplog the deep base beat we heard until at least 3 am Sunday morning appeared to be the folks camping in the wash below the AZT#17 a mile or so south of Telegraph Canyon Road, but north of our campsite. Well, since we seriously doubted it was the AZT clean-up gang camped at Telegraph Canyon Road that provided the bass-blast, it pretty much had to be the folks between our campsites. So we made sure to provide them a courtesy air-horn wake-up call as we drove past the likely offender's campsite about 8:45 am Sunday.
But that part came before the biggest challenge of the weekend... the drive back to FR4 from the AZT#17 TH. As bad as the drive through the wash heading to AZT#17 TH was yesterday, going in the wash against-the-grain on the drive back out was decidedly more challenging. But that still wasn't the worst of it... driving back up the steepest hill took three attempts with both front & rear diffs locked before we made it over a step almost four feet high.

After two failed attempts Tracey wondered aloud if we should get the winch out, to which I replied, only problem with that is there is no immovable object within range to hook it to. The third attempt had to be successful so I never let off the gas but kept turning the wheels back and forth until we were almost sideways before something grabbed enough traction to get over the step. Upon later inspection a few tires lost some big chunks of tread, but we made it!
So... whether I ever decide to drive back out to AZT#17 or not, Tracey stated pretty forcefully should wouldn't be along for the ride.

Come to think of it... I did notice her pulling the racing harness belts as tight as she possibly could before the last attempt. When I asked her about it later she said she wanted to be belted in tight when we rolled over. No, she didn't say, if... but when!

After that step (along with a deep washout just above the step), everything else was mere child's play. Once back to FR4 we set our sights on the Ajax Mine. Although an area I've been out to many times over the last 3-4 years, Tracey had been along only a few times so it was time to do some 'splorin'.

After perusing the Ajax Mine mill complex, we wandered to wherever we saw mine tailings. Some were deeper than others, but nothing deeper than maybe 15 feet, so it appeared most had been filled in.

When Tracey pointed out a track going up a hill north of Ajax Mine Trail, knowing she wouldn't be too happy if we drove up it (it was pretty bad when I drove it in the Samurai 3 years ago) I suggested we hike it. On the way up we saw a pile of tailings I hadn't been aware of before so we took a jaunt over to check it out. Upon closer inspection it appeared the deepest of anything yet encountered, but neither of us was about to look over the loose scree edge to find out. Dropping rocks gave me the idea of maybe 25-30 feet down, but I believe the shaft angled farther down so we really had no idea how deep it went.

Not wanting to hike back down the steep trail, we continued long the ridge until catching a game-trail that would loop us back down, covering new ground on the way. By doing so we spotted another tailing pile, only to find a simple depression... it had been filled in already. I know BLM has been reasonably active over the last few years filling in many of the unused mines for public safety... which is probably a good thing in most cases. (Brings back memories of my Columbia and Silver Bell mine explorations back in early 2012.)

Again, not much for distance, but then it wasn't so much a hike as it was soaking up the ambiance of the old mining area, enjoying time away from the sights, sounds and stresses of daily life.

No video, just photos, including a few very similar to each other, which I took for comparison as the cloud cover was changing quickly... one moment in the sun, the next in the dark.
Ajax Mine via Cottonwood/Telegraph Rds
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We planned this trip before the weekend so with all the rain yesterday, last night and this morning I wasn't sure if the road would be passable. But Tracey and I both had the day off and she didn't really look forward to hiking in the rain so I figured why not give it a shot. With the transfer case of my Samurai out for modifications we'd have to rely on the Pathfinder. Although the M/S tires on it provide good clearance it has no differential or transfer case lockers so getting a wheel or two in the air and we'd be like an up-side-down turtle, spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. But not one to be dissuaded easily I thought let's go for it, we can always turn back... IF we're able to turn around, that is. But being the optimist I was confident we'd make it.

The first thing to chip away at that confidence happened within minutes of turning off the US 60 in Superior. We hadn't gone a quarter mile and already there was a road closed sign and chain blocking our way due to a running wash. Running?? There was barely a trickle across the lowest point but I suppose over night it was probably running pretty high and someone might drive in before seeing how deep it was. Ok, now what? We back-tracked to the 60 and tried the next road south. Within a quarter mile there was a sign saying no through street but right next to it was a School Bus Stop sign and I remembered the High School and Junior High Schools were out that way somewhere so we continued on. At the end the street we could see the road that I knew led to the high school not a few hundred feet across the wash so we turned around and followed a one-way alley until we came out a block from the road to the high school. Great! One right turn and we were on Mary Drive heading toward the high school. Turning left onto Golf Course Road we were back on track albeit after 15 extra minutes of wandering around.

One obstacle out of the way, unbeknownst to us we were already on the way to the next. Barely a mile out we passed by a pickup facing us sitting with the motor running on the other side of the road. At first I wondered what he was doing there but as we came up to the next corner I had a good idea... he was turning back! Although the road appeared reasonably smooth and solid, when I turned the steering wheel for the corner the Pathfinder had enough mass going straight ahead that it wasn't about to make any quick change in direction. Touching the brakes did nothing to slow us either. :o Eventually the resistance of the mud slowed us enough to make the corner. Still, that short episode of momentary heart-in-mouth :scared: and Tracey was already doubting my belief we could make the full 20+ mile trip over rough, rocky, muddy, steep and winding terrain without befalling some sort of treacherous calamity.

Enough doubt! No matter that the rain is coming down hard still we ARE going to continue! At that moment I'm keeping silent about the upcoming rough entry into the first wash that I had issues with back in July... and that was back when it was dry! But moments later came our first spot of good luck. :y: By taking this route although we had to pass through a deep puddle that Tracey didn't think I should drive through, we by-passed the rough patch and had dodged another bullet. From here on I knew that for the most part the ground would be rocky with good traction for the next 6-7 miles.

At 3 miles we came to a high, stepped cattle guard that we took slow and easy. Immediately after that came our first of many awesome photo opportunities of Picketpost on this trip. On our second Picketpost photo stop the sun was working hard at pushing through the clouds, which it did just enough to provide us with a wide, flat rainbow. Although it was more apparent with the naked eye it did show up reasonably well on the photos.

About 3.5 miles out the road descended into a flat section where the water ran along it for a hundred yards or so before pooling in a large puddle before dropping down into a lower wash. When were about to stop for photos I could hear waterfalls just off to the side so we stopped long enough to take the following video:

At 3.9 miles we are as close as we will get to Picketpost for the whole trip so we took a few close-up shots. From here the road follows a wash with ever-larger rocks that took much more careful tire placement for the lower, longer and wider Pathfinder to negotiate than my Samurai last July, but by being ever-vigilant we made it fine. But the constant challenge of picking our way through washes, around and/or over rocks was well worth the ever-changing beautiful scenery.

At 5.5 miles the road crosses a wash with blood rocks right next to our path. At 6.5 miles as the road climbed along and above the wash we looked down into the wash and Tracey took a photo of a rectangular concrete water tank. At 6.8 miles we passed by where the Arizona Trail crosses the road on its way between Picketpost and the White Canyon/Red Mountain Mine area, where we hiked a short section of it 6 days ago. For the next few miles the road meandered through some rough and rocky terrain along with a few steep, angled climbs. In this area we came upon a few rock slides where we stopped and cleared the road before passing.

Eight miles out we arrived at the highest point of the trip with an elevation of 3773 where we were treated to an awesome view of Picketpost to the north. Within 600' of the height of Picketpost and just 3 miles away we felt like we were at the same height or even higher. From here we caught a glimpse of bright sunlight hitting the pure white snow on Four Peaks. Weaver's Needle was visible off to the left. From here the road got very narrow and with the sharp turns with steep drops just feet from the vehicle it was hang on to the Oh pumpkin! handle for Tracey. Hitting a hole I didn't see and Tracey said shut up and watch the road so I let her do the sight-seeing in this area... not that she actually wanted to look down!

At 8.2 miles we begin the most treacherous part of the ordeal with the predominantly steep descent down to the Ajax Mine. With the last two days of rain this section did not look like anything we wanted to traverse, but we were almost halfway now and once past the mine I knew it would be much easier. In some long washed-out sections we had to straddle the center of the 'berm' that was left on one side or the other of the original road. This is where we came to the one spot on the whole trip that gave the Pathfinder a real challenge. Just before a short but steep uphill there was a tight turn to the left at the same point as a wash-out both across and along the road. Because of such a deep rut I took it slow, a bit too slow... just in the deepest part we ended up teetering between on front tire and a rear tire on the opposite side. In such a precarious position and with no locker on either axle the other two tires were spinning with nowhere to go. Ok, I don't have a winch on this vehicle and with this being one of the softest sections of the trip the traction was almost nothing so now what?! Well let's see... if I pull up on the parking brake maybe I can even out the side-to-side torque demand and gain enough traction to get us out of this predicament. It worked a bit, but only in reverse. But if I backed up too far I'd be farther back down in the hole again. So I got out, took a glance under the car and weighed the options. I figured that if I turned the wheel sharply toward the steep drop and backed up just to the edge of the hole I'd have both rear tires on the ground and no immediate obstacle ahead of the front tires. I did just that, then put it in 1st gear in low-range, got it just barely moving then gunned it and with a few seconds of spinning wheels we were again climbing the steep grade. Whew! At the top of the hill we were able to take a deep breath. That's when Tracey asked is there another way out? Nope! It's continue on west and hope we can make it all the way, or turn around and go back through the what would now be the worst uphill sections. So we continued on. Again in the back of my mind was one more section past the mine similar to what we had just conquered that had given me trouble in the Samurai in July. But I kept silent. (It turned out when we would reach that part that it had washed out much wider and was much easier to traverse than expected.)

At 8.7 miles we stopped when the Ajax Mine popped into our sight for the first time today. About a mile-and-a-half away and 800' below us I got a pretty good shot on full zoom. Looking toward the north we took our last shots of Picketpost, Four Peaks, Weaver's Needle and the rest of the Supes before the final descent of about 600' per mile.

Just over 10 miles and we're at the Ajax Mine. Rather than stopping below it and trudging up the last steep on by-now stiff legs from sitting so long I drove up the last 300' to the lowest concrete pad at the mine. Since I'd spent plenty of time on two occasions exploring the mine last summer, we didn't spend much time there and began the drive out to SR 79.

At 12 miles we passed by a windmill and large water reservoir named Dos Vaqueros Volanta, or Flying Cowboy. On my trips by here in July the well was being drilled and a new concrete pad poured before setting the old windmill on it and putting it back in operation. The windmill wroks pretty good for how shot up the vane and blades are. from here on out the drive was a piece of cake due to the road being graded and filled in back in July to allow the large well-drilling truck out this far. The rest of the drive was completely uneventful, to Tracey's great satisfaction.

Overall, a challenging and mentally taxing drive, but well worth the great scenery! I heartily recommend it and will be back out with the Samurai soon checking out the road to Orphan Boy Mine.
Ajax Mine via Cottonwood/Telegraph Rds
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After making a few changes to My Sammy to better handle temps of 115+ I decided to take it out for a real trial by fire on a hot day. My plan was to start in Superior and drive southwest on Telegraph Canyon Road to where the Arizona Trail crosses the road, then hike from there out past Talley Tank to Seep Spring and back, drive on to the Ajax Mine, spend time wandering around there for a while, take the loop road and a short hike to Orphan Boy Mine, continue on around back toward Ajax Mine, take the relatively treacherous side trip up to Woodpecker Mine, spend time there, head back down and west through Cottonwood Canyon then out to AZ 79 just south of Florence Junction. The route would take me around the backside of Picketpost Mountain and up some pretty rough steep climbs.

Although I took over a hundred photos on my abbreviated trip (as you'll see below) if I took a few hundred more I still couldn't hope to capture all the great scenes. I'm sure I'll make a return trip to catch what I missed.

Ok, so much for plans... My Sammy was doing great with no trouble at all making the steep climbs, even with numerous spots allowing only 3 wheels on the ground at a time. It was handling the heat very well, witnessed by temperatures I experienced in the cab. The highest temp I experienced for the day was 127 degrees! Just when I thought all was going well I stopped to take a few photos of an awesome view of Picketpost and when I started up again there was a loud squealing from under the hood. The noise came from the alternator belt, which was squealing because the bolt holding the adjustment bracket to the engine had broken and the alternator was just bouncing back and forth.
It turns out that whoever had replaced the water pump had used too short a bolt when they reinstalled the bracket (it bolts to an ear on the water pump) and it broke, chewing up the threads before what was left came out. I have an auxiliary battery so I could make it home without the alternator charging, but on this hot a day the problem was the need for a fan so I had to make some kind of temporary fix. I had basic tools along without having a new bolt and some way to drill and tap out the hole there wasn't much I could do. So I looked around until I found a rock about the right size and jammed it between the alternator and the engine block until it held the belt just barely tight enough to turn the alternator and fan.

It worked, but just barely so I turned off anything electrical that I could get by without, including the vent fan, which probably had a lot to do with hitting 127 degrees. But I had plenty of fluids along so it wasn't that big a deal for me. By spending so much time outside in the hot weather it doesn't bother me. Besides, I get the road/trail all to myself.

I posted a 30-photo set here and will post the full set on my web site along with YouTube videos of the road in the next day or so. I'll add the links here when completed.

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AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18 ($20.00).

Land Parcel Map

Map Drive
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To 4x4 trip
WEST ENTRY: Take US 60 east toward Globe to Florence Junction. Go south on SR 79 about 5 miles until you reach Cottonwood Canyon Road. Cottonwood Canyon Road is located between Hwy 79 mile marker 144 and 145. Look for the tall flagpole used to signal live artillery in-use at the nearby National Guard range.

EAST ENTRY: Take US 60 to Superior. Immediately after the first 45 MPH speed limit sign look on the right for Mary Drive. The street sign is faded almost completely but it is the first paved road heading south. Turn right and travel south on Mary Drive until you reach Superior High School when you will continue south on what is now Golf Course Road.

NOTE: All mileages in the description begin from the Superior High School.

NOTE: Road closed on Cottonwood Canyon Road and Reymert
page created by CannondaleKid on Dec 13 2011 5:38 pm
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