Out for a drive - offroad exploring

July 2, 2006

So I decided to go for a sunday drive. Thought I'd just go out and about to see some of the desert views on the east and south sides of town. So I headed east on I-10 just to get to the edge of town. As I'm motoring along I see a sign that points to State Route 83 to Sonoita, so I decide to head that way, after all, I haven't been out there yet.

Just a short distance south there is a turn-off onto Old Sonoita Hwy, an old two-lane road that winds through the hills and eventually reconnects with SR83. It's a nice drive, but then I always prefer the route that is not the main highway. Only problem is it is too short of a side trip. Anyway, I'm back on SR82 heading south and eventually see a sign that points to Madera Canyon. Ah hah! That sounds promising. So I turn off on Madera Canyon Rd (FR62). Now here is something to keep in mind - I have looked at several printed maps and online maps and they do not agree on what to call some of these dirt roads. But, FR62 and Hwy62 seem to be consistant for this road that runs east-west between SR83 and I-19.

Madera Canyon Rd (satalite image) runs westbound and winds around alot, through Box Canyon, and at some point the road is called Box Canyon Rd for a ways. It's a very nice drive through a very tight canyon where the road is cut into the side of the canyon wall. This road has many other side roads off it, you'll want a map to know where you're going and which ones are dead-ends. You'll be driving through the Santa Rita Mountains as you progress along Hwy62 (aka Madera Canyon Rd, Box Canyon Rd, Greaterville Rd).

These roads are well maintained, dirt roads, some places are very washboarded. But they are passable in a SUV, pickup, or even a family car. Watch the weather so you don't get caught out there during a monsoon.

Hwy62 connects to Continental. On the map it appears to be a town, but I'm not sure if it is a town or just an area with a name. From there you can drive on over to the town of Green Valley (on pavement), on I-19.

At this point I then headed south on the siding roads as much as possible, all the way to Nogales, where I caught SR-82, Patagonia Rd. This will go northbound to Patagonia, then Sonoita, where it continues east, or you connect to SR-83 and drive north to I-10. After a stop and look at Patagonia Lake and the campground area I visited the town, a very small town, of Patagonia.

From here I found the road Columbia Rd which heads east out of town into the hills. Harshaw Rd (satalite image with route highlighted)is a fork off of Columbia Rd and it proceeds more to the south. I headed this way because the printed map shows a ghost town of Harshaw, and Mowry a bit more south. Following Harshaw Rd which winds through the forests and hills I eventually find the location of what was Harshaw - all that's left is a cemetary and a house (more or less). The cemetar is interesting - it is terraced into the side of a steep hill. Many graves date back more than 100 years.

From here I continue south to what the map shows should by Mowry, but there is nothing at all here. I proceed on eastward, connecting to Apache Rd then furthor on I take a left onto Patagonia-San Rafael Rd. Now I'm heading out of the mountains in to the valley, all grasslands and ranches. What a beautiful place! This area is called Meadow Valley Flat. I continue onwards and then turn south, still on Patagonia-San Rafael Rd. Continuing east would be on Canelo Pass Rd.

I am now heading south through the San Rafael Valley, the Patagonia Mtns on the west and the Canelo Hills on the right. All of this area is in the Coronado National Forest. I am heading to the town(?), at least on the map it is indicated as a town, of Lochiel. It is right by the US-Mexico border. It is not a town, just a few ranches. This road turns west and becomes Duquesne Rd and heads back to SR82, winding through the forests of the Patagonia Mtns again.

I got back to Nogales in time for dinner at the Los Vigas Mexican Steak House (very good). And took the freeway back to Tucson.

The drive through the Patagonias and Santa Ritas is beautiful. The roads are very well maintained and drivable in just about any vehicle.