Looking Back and Forward at the Same Time

On leaving Tombstone, we headed generally north, eventually finding ourselves in the Coronado National Forest, more specifically in a dispersed canyon campground known as Cochise Stronghold.

Cochise was a chief of the Chiricahua Apache known for their resistance to European and later American encroachment into Apache territory. After years of battles and raids, Cochise and his band were gradually driven back into the Dragoon Mountains, which became a natural base and fortress for the Apache. It’s said that Cochise himself is buried somewhere in the canyon, though the exact location remains secret.

Cochise Stronghold, AZ 15 (2)
Welcome sign
Cochise Stronghold, AZ 07 (2)
View from the back of our campsite.
Cochise Stronghold, AZ 08 (2)
The canyon walls

The road in was quite rough, with deep washes cut into the dirt track in several places. But once in and settled, it was a beautiful spot, with more trees and vegetation than we’ve seen in a while, alive with birds and other wildlife. We were far enough from any civilization that there was absolutely no light pollution at night, making star gazing quite the sight to behold.

Cochise Stronghold, AZ 16 (2)
The road leading into the campground
Cochise Stronghold, AZ 17 (2)
Mike’s new pet rock

Heading Them Off At the Pass

After spending a few days at the Cochise Stronghold, we were running low on supplies, so we decided to move on. Near day’s end, we found ourselves in Tonto National Forest, high on a mountain pass, overlooking what has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen: Salt River Canyon.

Salt River Canyon, AZ 01 (2)
Approaching Salt River Canyon. At this point, we had no idea what we were about to see.
Salt River Canyon, AZ 07 (2)
Our first view of the canyon
Salt River Canyon, AZ 08 (2)
A closer view of the canyon wall.

Having never heard of it before, the canyon came as a surprise to both of us, but we couldn’t have timed it better. The warm light from the near-setting sun lit the canyon walls like they were on fire, and the view had to be seen to be believed. The photos don’t come close, trust me.

Salt River Canyon, AZ 09 (2)
The light was fantastic.
Salt River Canyon, AZ 19 (2)
Another view of the canyon
Salt River Canyon, AZ 11 (2)
Taken from the Visitor Center
Salt River Canyon, AZ 15 (2)
The view from under the bride
Salt River Canyon, AZ 12 (2)
Down by the Salt River

The road down to the river and visitor center is a tangle of steep downgrades and switchbacks, but Hank (and Mike) handled it like a pro.  You can look at the map for yourself here.

Salt River Canyon
Satellite view of the switchbacks leading down to the Salt River Canyon Visitor Center.

Water Will Have It’s Way

Our next adventure found us a couple of days later at the Petrified Forest National Park, which is one of the more unusual spots we’ve come across. At first glance, it looks like a logger’s yard, with pieces of tree trunks laying this way and that. But as you approach the trees, you start to see colors emerging and reflecting, and you realize it’s not wood at all, but stone.

Petrified Forest NP, AZ 05 (2)
The Rainbow Forest
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 03 (2)
Close up of the quartz coloring

The formations were living trees about 225 million years ago, when Arizona’s climate was actually humid and sub-tropical. Most organic material biodegrades naturally, but these trees were buried quickly enough that they remained intact, allowing groundwater rich in dissolved solids to surround and soak into the wood, eventually replacing the plant cells with minerals and other inorganic material. As a result, the ‘wood’ we were looking at was actually a combination of silica, calcite, pyrite, opal, iron oxide and more that formed quartz crystals which give the wood its stunning color and it’s nickname, The Rainbow Forest.

Petrified Forest NP, AZ 22 (2)
Mike having a rest on “Old Faithful”
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 25 (2)
The Agate Bridge. The concrete support was added in 1917, but eventually the water that created the bridge will ultimately destroy it.
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 31 (2)
Hoodoos at Agate Bridge
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 36 (2)
The Giant Tepees. The visible layers are made up of iron, manganese, volcanic ash and other minerals.

Toward the center of the park is Newspaper Rock, a site that features more than 650 petroglyphs created by ancestral Puebloan people inhabiting the area somewhere around 2000 years ago.

Petrified Forest NP, AZ 39 (2)
One of the petroglyph stones at Newspaper Rock
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 40 (2)
Another series of petroglyphs

At the northern end of the park we found the Painted Desert, a stunning landscape in the badlands known for its beautiful colors and formations. Iron and manganese present in the soft layers are highly visible between the layers of volcanic ash. Natural erosion have exposed these layers, making for an incredibly vibrant scene.

Petrified Forest NP, AZ 44 (2)
The Painted Desert
Petrified Forest NP, AZ 48 (2)
A closer view

A Bit of Down Time

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been more or less sitting still, enjoying a bit of a break from the road and making plans for next year. Currently we’re at a pretty little BLM campground not far from Phoenix. It’s lovely and quiet, nestled right up against Saddleback Mountain, with lots of hiking and places to explore.

Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 01 (2)
The view from our Saddleback Mountain campsite
Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 12 (2)
Canyon view
Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 14 (2)
Our hike along a wash
Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 16 (2)
Saddleback Mountain
Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 18 (2)
Trail leading back the canyon

It was here we were lucky enough to meet Doug and his dog Yuma from Miss Adventure Travels. Doug was kind enough to give us a few pointers about hiking in the area, including a tip on where to find petroglyphs. Thanks so much for the info Doug. You rock!

Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 04 (2)
Petroglyphs at Saddleback Mountain

Saddleback Mountain, Tonopah, AZ 05 (2)

On A More Serious Note

With winter winding down, we’re thinking more and more about our return to Canada in April and where we’re going from there. We have our daughter’s wedding in June to look forward to, and we’ve decided we’ll be looking for seasonal work to replenish some of our travel expenses, although we haven’t quite made up our minds if we’re returning to our hometown or if we’ll find somewhere else to settle for summer. We’ll return to our southern exploring once the northern weather turns cold again.

The one major decision we’ve both agreed on, is that once we’re home, we’ll be putting Lonestar up for sale. He’s a terrific little trailer, tough as nails, and has served us well, but we’ve come to realize that what we need for storage is just more than he can provide. We’re sure he’ll provide years of service for whoever is lucky enough to own him next. Anyone interested can reach out through our Contact Page on the blog. In the meantime, we’ve started shopping for an RV that will better suit our needs. That should prove interesting.

`Til next time. 🙂

We’d love to hear from you!
Your ideas, your questions, your thoughts, your suggestions.  What topics would you like to see us post about?  C’mon guys, I know we’re not alone out here.  Let your voice be heard!!  Comment below or message us here!
All content on this blog © (2016-2018) 2heartsand2wheels.com and Kelley and Michael Delano, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.  Should you wish to obtain permission to use any of this content, please feel free to contact us at 2heartsand2wheels@gmail.com.


6 thoughts on “Looking Back and Forward at the Same Time

Add yours

  1. I am learning more history via your travels than I’ve ever known!!! 🙂 This is wonderful. Where is your baby girl getting married in June? Hope we connect when you do get home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike & Kelley. You guys are sure making us jealous while we endure the snow and cold up here, LOL. Well we are on the home stretch now with less than 30 days to retire and 45 days until we hit the road.
    Let us know some of your travel plans back in Canada so we can try and meet up somewhere on the road.
    Late April/May will be BC heading north towards Dawson Creek, then Alberta for much of May early June. Sask for what is left of June. After that keeps changing, all we know is we cross into Maine late October.
    Keep safe, enjoy your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi guys, so glad the countdown is getting close for you. Hang in there, it won’t be long now.
      Our daughter is getting married in New Brunswick the first week of June, so we’ll probably be hanging around the East Coast at least until then. Not sure where we’ll end up after that.
      Would love to meet up with you again on the road somewhere. Stay in touch and I’m sure our paths will cross somewhere in our travels.
      Take care


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