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AZT #16/17 Water Caching, AZ
mini location map2014-04-05
12 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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AZT #16/17 Water Caching, AZ 
AZT #16/17 Water Caching, AZ
4x4 Trip avatar Apr 05 2014
4x4 Trip51.30 Miles 9,471 AEG
4x4 Trip51.30 Miles   5 Hrs   19 Mns   9.65 mph
9,471 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Warning... better grab your favorite beverage & snack, find yourself a comfortable spot, put on your reading glasses and you're all set for the rough ride...

Tracey had a day off on Saturday and we were undecided... until Saturday morning Sirena PM'ed me to ask if I might be able to cache some water for a group of eight who would be traversing Passages #16/17 sometime late next week. Well, I guess we now had a mission, although Tracey wasn't quite as enthused when she realized it would be an all-day trip in the Jeep. To that I replied we could do a short hikes from each of the three cache locations to stretch our legs a bit. (Yeah, sure, so much for plans...)

So the plan was to mark & place 12 gallons of water at each of three locations:
1. The AZT #17 TH (out in the middle of nowhere)
2. The AZT #17 junction with Telegraph Canyon Road (FR#4)
3. The AZT #16 junction with Battle Axe Road (just up the hill from the Gila River)

A quick trip to Quick Trip to fill up the Jeep's 30 gallon tank ($$ ouch!) followed by a quick trip to Winco for 36 gallons of water. (Wouldn't it be nice if gas was $.60 a gallon again? Yes, I DO remember when)

Since the drive to the AZT #17 TH would take us where vehicles seldom travel and we probably wouldn't see another soul, I made sure to throw in the winch, tools, basic spares along with all our hiking gear. Needless to say by time we added the 250 lbs of water it's probably the heaviest load this Cherokee has ever experienced. Ok, now loaded for bear we hit the road.

A few miles east of Florence Junction we turned south onto N Mineral Mountain Road and I was about to stop and air down the tires for a day of rough driving, but seeing a large group of ATV's just about to set off in the same direction, I kept going to get far enough ahead of what would become a wall of dust to air down and get going before they caught up. Thankfully it worked out and we were on our way. At the Box Canyon/Ajax Trail road junction we headed east, climbing up past the Ajax Mine until the road became Telegraph Canyon Road (Forest Road #4) where we would descend down FR #4 to the old Forest Road 976 junction.

On old FR #976 the real fun begins. Barely a quarter mile of zig-zagging up the hill and Tracey yells out "Gila Monster!" to which I'm wondering "Where?" By then I had already driven over it. I stop, jump out and run back expecting to see blood & guts but am pleasantly surprised that it appeared to be none-the-worse-for-wear other than probably thinking, oh man, I feel like I've been run over by a truck... which of course he has been. I shot just enough video of it to make sure it was ok, then we were off again on our mission.

The rest of the drive out to the AZT #17 TH was uneventful... for me anyway. For Tracey, well she got more concerned the farther we drove, as the conditions were more than a bit worse than when I drove out here with JJ back in December 2012. Of course the worst washout was on the side of a hill with a steep ravine... But with no way to carry 12 gallons another mile, I just locked in both axles and made judicious use of the loud pedal and we were past. Who knows what fun it will be when going back uphill? :scared:
As we neared where the AZT #17 crosses the wash we had to drive over a few boulders but luckily the tires made it through without picking up any spikes or tears in the sidewalls. While the sidewalls are Kevlar, from experience I can attest prickly pear spikes are like honey-badgers to Kevlar, they don't give a :pk:
After that there was only a few rough spots/washouts to contend with and we were at the AZT #17 TH. It took more time than expected to label eight gallons for the expected group and four for public use along with a note to crush when empty so they don't get blown around before the can be retrieved. After gathering the previous empties and taking a quick PB&J break, as rough as we'd had already and with another rough drive ahead, neither of us felt like hiking so it was jump in and on to the next cache.

On the uphill I used the same strategy as before, lock and loud pedal and no worries. Back on Telegraph Canyon Road the going was pretty easy and it wasn't long and we were at the AZT #17 junction. A little less time here as we got our system of marking & placing going and with no empties we were quickly back on the road. The closer we got to Superior on FR #4, the rougher it gets. I hate this road! Just in case you didn't catch that, I HATE this road! It is SO bumpy there is NO speed that will make any difference... it's no long and you feel like a rag-doll. I'd much rather drive twice as far from the Mineral Mountain/Ajax side than this, but what can you do?

Finally! Out to SR 177 and south to Battle Axe Road. Back in 4WD again and within minutes we are behind another Jeep... it was soon obvious the driver knew the road well, knowing which ruts were where and such, but still, he was going a bit slower than I wanted to go. I didn't dog him but kept just close enough he would realize I wanted by. Thankfully he pulled to the side just before entering the wash and let us by. We gave him the Jeep thank-you wave and he was quickly out of sight behind us. Now it's just a matter of watching for all the newly tagged calves along the wash. All Tracey could keep saying is Oh, how cute! That they were, although not cute enough because Tracey didn't even bother to pick up her camera.

As we reached the saddle just below and west of Battleaxe Butte we were presented with an eclectic 4x4 group (Jeeps, Fords, Chevy's, Toyota's) none of whom cared they were blocking the road. Quickly realizing that none had the least interest in moving aside for us, I did as usual and just headed right on by slightly off the road on one side and mere inches from there vehicles on the other and just blew on through. Thanks guys! Tracey wanted to give them a single digit but the look on a few faces as they feared for their vehicles was satisfaction enough for me. (Thankfully by time we returned over 90 minutes later they were gone.)

The rest of the way out to the cache location was rough but no scary stuff so we made good time. After dropping off the last 12 gallons we wondered, hmmmm.... One person we met just before we got to the cache said the riverbed was dry, so we thought, let's cross the river, shoot straight up the easy wash south to Florence/Kelvin Highway and have a smoother trip out. Just as we were buckling back in an old Toyota Tacoma 4x4 drives by heading down toward the river. Ok, we'll follow them. But when they reached the deep bowl before the 4' boulder step, they were no about to try it. In a moment I saw they would take more than a few minutes to get turned around so we quickly backed up about hundred yards, jumped out and hustled through a game trail to the river to see if it was worth climbing the step once they got out of our way. No such luck! It was deep and flowing fast.... so much for a dry riverbed. ](*,)

Ok, so it's one last long slog out Battleaxe Road and we're done for the day! Not quite... I took just a minute too long to air the tires back up and get back on SR177... a fully laden tanker tractor-trailer crawls by along with a train of cars behind. Three or four miles at 20 mph on pavement gets old fast... but thankfully the truck pulled over at the first opportunity and we were home free! Once out of Superior I set the cruise at 65 and sat back to enjoy the last 40 miles back home.

Whew! After factoring in all the drive time (pavement included) as well as marking/placing the 36 gallons of water we ended up with a day-trip over 8 hours... Wow, sitting in the Jeep that long wore us out way more than if we'd done our normal 6 hour 8-9 mile hike.

But it was fun, it was for a good cause, and it reminded me how much I want to get back out that way again soon.

Ok, enough for the novel... where's the evidence?

I posted a dozen photos here on HAZ, the rest are on my web site as usual.

The Gila Monster video is here:

A 9-minute video medley on the roughest part of the drive is here:
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