Sunday, 20 April 2014

In search of Oklahoma and John Wayne!

Years ago, after reading an article in Arizona Highways we took a drive through the Patagonia Mountains and San Raphael Valley, it was a great trip that included old mining towns, almost ghost towns and movies.
We decided we’d like to take that trip again, naturally, despite searching through my back copies of Arizona Highways I couldn’t find the details anywhere, luckily for us the visitor centre in Patagonia had a map showing the roads we needed.
From Patagonia we followed Harshaw Road and where the pavement ended we turned onto FR49.
Our first stop was the old townsite of Harshaw at an elevation of 4,850ft, there is very little left.

Across the road is a cemetery which is either very well looked after or still in use, I’m not sure which.

We continued to follow FR49 as it climbed up and around into the mountains, although we saw the side road to Mowry, it was marked as a primitive road, rarely maintained, so we gave it a miss.  Besides which after our experience on the Old Peavine road last year we’re a bit more careful about which dirt roads we drive. 

There are a surprising number of houses and ranches along FR49 so it’s pretty well maintained and we saw several Border Patrol vehicles, every so often we saw tyres chained together on the side of the road.  I seem to remember hearing somewhere that they're used by Border Patrol, not exactly sure why.

Further along the road we drove through Washington Camp, our next stop should’ve been the old mining town of Dusquene.   Would you believe we missed it, we reached a split in the road and I sent us left when we should’ve gone right and driven up the hill.   Ooops!

The next thing knew we were almost in Lochiel.   We only knew this because we suddenly saw the Cross on the side of the road commemorating Fray Marcos De Niza.   When Fray Marcos entered what is now Arizona on 15 April 1593, as a delegate of the Viceroy in Mexico he was the first European West of the Rockies.

There is an old school and church in Lochiel, but I believe they’re not open to the public as both on private ground. 

Lochiel is only a couple of miles from the border and at one time was a border crossing.   The crossing has long since closed, we did wonder if we’d see any sign of the border fence but we didn’t.

Following the road took us further into the beautiful San Raphael Valley, if you want huge skies, wide open spaces and rolling grasslands this is the place for you, it’s also where Oklahoma was filmed.   I entertained DB by singing what I remember (not much) of the theme song but he didn’t seem particularly impressed, can’t imagine why?

San Raphael State Park is further along the road, last time we drove this way it was closed, it’s still closed and not marked, so who knows if it’ll ever be open.   From the road you can see the ranch house which was used in the film McLintock, John Wayne used to throw his hat onto the weathervane when he arrived home.

From here we carried on following the road across the rolling grasslands until we came to a t-junction.   Originally we had planned to turn right and drive over Canelo Pass which would bring us out on the Parker Canyon Road.   Left would take us back into Patagonia.

In the end the thought of coffee won out so we headed towards Patagonia.   This road took us around the mountains rather than over the top.    Driving back we saw deer feeding on the side of the road

and then before we knew it we were back in Patagonia and enjoying our coffee.   We had a great day. 

Have fun, we are!

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