Saturday, 22 February 2014

The (Why are we here?!) Old Peavine Railroad

On yet another lovely morning, in our trusty Williams guide book we found a drive that looked interesting, along the Old Peavine Railroad.   Now we know our guide book is about 15 years old, and let’s face, it all guide books are out of date even before they’re published!   But the drive was marked as suitable for normal cars and with the exception of one hike where we just couldn’t see the trail as it entered the forest, all the other drives and hikes we’ve ever followed have been exactly as described.
The drive followed the old Peavine Railroad as it wound up the side of the mesa, along the top and then back down the other side where it eventually rejoined the paved road.
We found the road, followed it, part way along it turned to dirt, but according to our trusty guide book it was a good dirt road.   The road was okay, a little rougher than the guide book said but we were expecting that, although I wouldn’t want to drive it in a normal car.
After a while it became quite narrow as we were actually driving on the old railroad bed, the road was built up on each side and every so often we'd go through a cutting as it wound its way along slowly climbing the side of the mesa.  

Driving through a cutting

After about 9 miles, it got narrower and rougher we reached a cattle grid by Wolf Mountain Ranch (yes that is a wolf in the photograph, but a metal one)

leading into Prescott National Forest and onto Forest Road 573, now maybe this should’ve given us a clue as to cross the cattle grid we had to take down the barbed wire fence. 

Still the forest road, although looking rough didn't seem too bad I asked DB if he thought we should turn around.   We thought about it but decided that as we were about halfway through the drive we may as well carry on, so carry on we did.   What a mistake to make!

Once on FR 573 the road got much rougher, the first thing we had to negotiate was a hill, at the top of which we met a small Toyota truck coming the other way, luckily there was space to pass, the truck pulled in we said hello and the truck continued on its way down to the cattle grid.
As the truck had come from the way we were heading we thought, well it can't be that bad!   How wrong can you be!    It got worse, much worse, I suppose 15 years of monsoon rains, forest fires and snow had literally swept the road surface away and we were driving on bedrock.

The forest encroached and the road actually got narrower, I don’t know what would’ve happened if we’d met anyone else coming the other way.   It also got rougher, a lot rougher and despite 4WD and driving at less than walking pace, we were bouncing around like popcorn!   
It definitely wasn’t suitable for a car, never mind our truck, it really was a jeep or ATV road and we were literally climbing over boulders!   We reached another hill, stopped at the bottom, both looked at it and said, among other things, Oh! My! God!

Our Oh! My! God! moment

It doesn’t look too bad does it? But, this is what those boulders actually were like.

We probably could've made it but who knew what we were going to find when we got to the top?   Not only that, but if we had to turn round, could we?  Could we get down without ripping of the exhaust or the running boards?  Besides which what would we be driving into further along, would it be worse?   Who knew, certainly not us.    
I got out and walked up, the views were fabulous, green forest on each side of the road, red rocks, mountains in the distance, sunshine, blue skies absolutely gorgeous but!!!   Looking at the road, knowing we’d got at least another 9 miles of who knew what to negotiate I thought I really don't like this we're on our own out here, probably no cell service so no rescue if anything happens.   Come to that the road was so narrow how on earth anyone would rescue us was another matter, never mind how much it would cost and it was a very, very long walk back.   Not only that but while we drive on plenty of dirt roads, this road was way out of our comfort zone, time to turn around while we still could!  
Looking back down at BT.

Luckily for us, we’d stopped at a slightly wider section of the road, albeit a very rocky section, where thankfully there was just enough room for DB to do a 3 million point turn.   I did plenty of running round the truck giving directions every so often I’d move a particularly vicious looking rock, well if I could, luckily for me most of the nasty rocks were moveable, then off we’d go again.
This is where we did our 3 million point turn.

Eventually we got turned around and I hopped back in the truck.   We hadn't come as far as we’d thought a mile, mile and a half, maybe two at the most, but it had taken us ages. 
This was one of the views on the way back that is Bill Williams Mountain in the distance, isn’t it gorgeous?

We bounced our way back and we were soooo glad to see that cattle grid and get back onto the other road I tell you it felt like driving on the interstate after the forest road!

This is how driving through one of the old railroad cuttings looked on our return journey.   I have to admit I didn’t realise how narrow and steep it was until I saw it from this angle.

I checked on the internet afterwards and someone else driving the same make and model of truck as BT had tried to drive that road from the opposite end looking for boon docking sites.   They'd turned around for the same reasons we did, so we definitely made the right decision.   Had we not, who knows we might still be out there!
Someday I would like to see where that road goes, but only if we we’re with someone in a jeep who knows how to drive these types roads better than we do!
Have fun, we are!


  1. Wow, what an adventure! I'm glad you made it back safely.

    1. Thank you, so were we, I can't tell you what a relief it was to reach that cattle grid. I haven't dared suggest a dirt road drive since!