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Ironwood Forest NM - Drive Thru, AZ
mini location map2014-05-07
12 by photographer avatarblack_toes
photographer avatar
 
Ironwood Forest NM - Drive Thru, AZ 
Ironwood Forest NM - Drive Thru, AZ
 
Diving avatar May 07 2014
black_toes
Diving16.00 Miles
Diving16.00 Miles
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Having seen the gorgeous blooms of the ironwood in North Mtn Park the day before, I couldn't resist a trip south to see a "forest" of the purple-flowered trees. I couldn't imagine what a wonderful sight that would be, a concentration of all those flowers set against the Monument's "jewel," jagged Ragged Top Mtn. It was an unseasonably cool day, the winds had settled some and I thought I had it made.

I peeled off I-10 at the Red Rock Exit (#226) south of Picacho Pk, did a few turns and finally steered west on paved Sasco Rd, passing a housing development, large cultivated fields and a giant feedlot operation, Red Rock Custom Feeding. The pavement ended after 3.3 mi and a washboard dirt road began. A sign called it a "primitive road" but it was wide, fairly straight and nicely maintained. I soon came across the dry low-water crossing of what I assumed was the Santa Cruz River. Stopped to take a look at the heavily-wooded stream and a large pool of greenish water that had gathered on the south side. As I did, two men in a cream-colored suburban passed also going W. Never saw them again. I saw only one other vehicle, a gray pickup with a friendly driver, until I hit pavement again on the Monument's south side.

A certain edginess came over me as I continued. Not only is this a lonesome land, it is well-known for drug smugglers and a route for illegal immigrants. Last year, the BLM's Southern Arizona Project hauled off tons of debris left behind by these undocumented travelers as well as cars, tires, you name it, and set up barriers, trying to keep land damage to a miniumum.

My low-slung Civic had no trouble with the road itself but quickly gathered a thick coating of dust as I passed the dark and barren Samaniega Hills on the S. Stopped numerous times to shoot photos: ruins of a stone building, flowering prickly pear and saguaro, and the "Ironwood Forest National Monument" sign. A large wash, Los Robles, I think it is, crosses about a half-mile W of the Santa Cruz.

I began looking extra hard for ironwoods after hitting the Monument sign, which rests about 7 mi W of the Santa Cruz. But I saw few ironwoods. Maybe there were more but I paid attention only to the ones in bloom. A mile past the sign is the junction with Silver Bell Rd, and I was encouraged because I'd read the Silver Bell stretch was the best route to see the ironwoods. The road rises up there to a divide -- at 2,258' el according to my GPS -- and Ragged Top pokes up high with a jeep road or two leading in that westerly direction. The air was cool, 64 is what my car gauge said, and that was nice compared to 75 on I-10. But I saw only scattered ironwood in bloom among the much more abundant palo verde, mesquite and saguaro. Certainly no "forest" of ironwood along these roads.

It was disappointing. The Monument was established in June 2000 by the Presidential Proclamation of Bill Clinton. It's hard to imagine why "ironwood" was chosen as the name. I would discourage anyone to visit Ironwood just to see the blooms in the warm months of April and May when you can find them just as numerous in other, more travel friendly places.
Named place
Named place
Ragged Top
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