Rocky Road: Desert (Not Dessert)!

It was a very different invitation when my wife and I were invited to join in an off-road experience. We had never done anything quite like this, but through social connections we received this interesting offer. We love nature, hiking and experiencing the wilderness, but I wasn’t sure about the roller coaster-like Jeep part.

Well, what is living if it isn’t an adventure? So we enthusiastically accepted the invitation. I have to admit total ignorance of the whole thing so I was wide-eyed the entire way.

We were heading for the remote town of Crown King, Arizona via N Castle Hot Springs Rd. which skirts by Lake Pleasant.

I didn’t know the plan, but as it turned out, off-roading is not a single-person adventure. Like most endeavors where danger is a tease there is safety in numbers and so I learned that most off-roaders don’t go it alone!

We connected with three other vehicles. The lead was taken by the driver of this Jeep.


Apparently to outfit a vehicle like this is a major investment so I got the joke. This Jeep was filled to the brim with tools that might be called into service including that air tank (on the left).

Why might they need an air tank? I discovered that many drivers let some air out of their tires when they arrive at the start of the wilderness so the Jeep can better grip the rocks and uneven terrain. Of course, air then needed to be replaced once again when pavement was reached and normal speeds were resumed.


The day had many ups…

and many downs!

Notice the pile of rocks on the right side.
Eyes had to see everywhere as there were potential hazards waiting to cause havoc.


Photography was a challenge with much of the traverse being a jostling experience.

While this was a remote desert location, there were a surprising number of homes along the trail. Where they did their grocery shopping or what kind of water supply they had was just one question to ponder.

Nevertheless, we would come across some relatively level areas.


This was the greeting we received as we passed one homestead. It might be difficult to figure out, but it is a “statue” of a hunter holding a gun. The sign says: “Redneck with a Riffle!” [I think they meant rifle!] The other signs on the fence were no trespassing warnings.


From a first-timer’s point of view, it was immediately apparent how easy it would be to get into trouble of one sort or another without experience.

This was one intersection we approached. The uninitiated might have missed that large rock on the left. Even after seeing the boulder, it might no register that the initials CK, followed by a stubby directional arrow was an indication that one should hang right to get to Crown King.



Normally, I don’t like to get into a rut, but when off-roading, there are lots of ruts. It is hard to appreciate from the pictures how narrow the rut was and the steepness of the walls. This would not be a good place for a standard SUV!


Care and skill is definitely needed. Once again, it is hard to see, but just ahead those are huge boulders buried in the dirt and over which we needed to travel!


In the picture below, notice that one Jeep (arrow) is just beyond the bend. Spacing is an interesting nuance of this sport. Each vehicle had a radio and there were communications back and forth indicating where the road had changed because of cave -ins or other obstructions.


So why go through all of this to go off-road?

For one thing, the solitude is wonderful. It is a treat to be so far away from what we consider civilization…becoming the proverbial pimple on the face of the earth surrounded by beauty.


I guess it is the same inspiration felt by those who climb mountains or go scuba diving. Nature is wonderful and is best viewed in its own frame.

Imagine my surprise when we came across an area under development out in the wilderness.


This was a mining operation and there was no actual road so we had to travel in the stream.


From time-to-time we would come across a sober reminder that this can be a dangerous endeavor. There might be a car at the bottom of a ravine or perhaps a more striking warning…


It was obvious that all of the riders this day were very cautious, but also adventurous. When there were two choices to be made between a smoother pathway or one that was more extreme, we often took the exciting route.

The main draw however was the beauty.

There was a section of mountains that had elevated radial walls made of large rocks. Apparently nature was building its own version of the “Wall of China” right here in the Sonoran Desert.


Without hiking for a significant number of miles, it is hard to enjoy these scenes of nature’s panoramic beauty!


Crown King

Crown King has a very small town center; don’t blink.

The General Store is the only place to fill up if you need fuel!


We had lunch at the Crown King Saloon & Cafe and I can give it an enthusiastic recommendation.

Picture courtesy of Trip Advisor


And of course, there are generally local dogs nearby!


We certainly enjoyed our first off-road experience and we learned a lot. With one trip under out belt, we are hoping for another adventure in a different wilderness area.

Read more miscellaneous stories on JBRish HERE


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