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Feb 19 2021
Oregon_Hiker
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 Guides 9
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75 male
 Joined Dec 07 2010
 Phoenix, AZ
4x4 Scenic Drive to Thompson Mesa - S. Ancha, AZ 
4x4 Scenic Drive to Thompson Mesa - S. Ancha, AZ
 
4x4 Trip avatar Feb 19 2021
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Grasshopper
Grasshopper and I have been planning a 7 day camping/hiking trip for late March to Thompson Mesa in the western Sierra Ancha Mountains. We had spent weeks of off and on planning including creating detailed gps tracks for hikes and searching Google Earth for ancient ruins and possible campsites in the area. Then we decided maybe we should do a day trip ahead of time to make sure the 4x4 roads are drivable for our vehicles and to find a campsite big enough to accommodate GH's sizable camp kitchen. So off we went in GH's worthy 4-Runner to check it out - it turned out to be a wise decision.

The A-Cross Road from the Young Highway #288 to the turnoff to FR895 was in great condition - it had just been graded. FR895 is the preferred route to Thompson Mesa and the historic Boyer Cabin from A-Cross Road. The road was 2WD capable for the first 1.2 miles, then it got nasty steep with exposed rock outcroppings that posed some major clearance issues. At the worst spot it took much deliberation with both of us out of the vehicle pondering the best track to avoid getting high centered. I was ready to call it quits but GH got his 4-Runner through it. Looking back at that obstacle, GH decided that attempting this road when his 4-Runner was loaded with 7 days of camping gear including 26 gallons of water (he washes a lot of dishes and insists on taking a daily bath :roll:) was out of the question - we would have to give up on our planned March camping trip to Thompson Mesa. We decided to continue on to the Mesa since it would probably be my last opportunity to see that area - GH had been there a couple of times in the distant past when the road was in better condition (or he was driving his Grasshopper Jeep with extreme off-road modifications).

Many more challenging road conditions were encountered on the drive to our destination but none as bad as that first one. On the way we checked out several prospective camp sites that I had spotted on Google Earth. None turned out to be viable for a Camp Grasshopper. The last one we checked was one GH had spotted on GE. It was a good campsite with great views but didn't have large enough rock free clearings protected by trees for both GH's kitchen and his tent. Another reason to cancel our March plans. On the way to this last prospective campsite we took a short side trip to check out the Thompson Mesa ruin on a low hilltop near the road. It is fairly impressive with a number of rock walls still standing 3 to 5 feet tall but there appears to have been considerable restacking of the walls in recent times. It's been heavily visited over the years, you can drive to within 30 feet of the external walls. A brief search for pottery sherds was unsuccessful. But the views from this knob protruding above the mesa were impressive.

We decided to take FR97 on the return to A-Cross Road - it couldn't be any worse than FR895 and would provide new scenery. The start of this route off FR895 is actually FR895A based on the new signs marking the roads and joins up with FR97 about 3 miles down the road. This route turned out to be worse than FR895 with a number of obstacles having significant clearance issues. The last such obstacle caused a large bang on the underside of the car as we dropped off of it - fortunately no damage was done verifying the ruggedness of the 4-Runner's trailer hitch. Surprisingly it was a man made obstacle - a cattle guard. But probably the worst was a long steep downhill stretch covered with a deep layer of loose softball to football size rocks which were not so challenging on the way down but probably would have been impassable for the 4-Runner going up the hill. Off-road worthy vehicles with locking differentials might be able to climb this road but certainly not a fully loaded 4-Runner. We did encounter a couple of ATVs on the mesa but no full sized vehicles like the 4-Runner.

Although disappointed at having to abandon our plans for a week long camping expedition to Thompson Mesa it was a good day with beautiful clear sunny weather and amazing views. Very little hiking was involved but I did get a good upper body workout clinging to the passenger hand hold as we bounced over these rough roads.
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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.

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