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10/30 - 11/01 Rug Road, Klondyke to Mammoth

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This was a run posted up by Tom (TNAPicard) on Savage Sun, and he was nice enough to share it with us over here on OffroadPassport as well. Here's the original thread: http://www.savagesun4x4expeditions.com/showthread.php?t=673





The Rug Road is a 20+ mile rough trail that connects the ghost town of Klondyke, AZ to Mammoth, AZ. Supposedly this route was created in the 1870’s when gold and silver mining were prominent in the area. Before this route, it took a 150+ mile trip on multiple roads, in a round-about fashion, to get between the 2 towns.





The road gets its name from one of the most difficult sections – Carpet Hill. This portion of the road ascends around 700 feet in only 3/4 mile, and contains remnants of old carpets and rugs that were put in to help control erosion.


The BLM website says “This is a serious four-wheel-drive road“, and so it was, as we used 4-Lo for a majority of the trip. It’s also not for the faint-of-heart, as near the begining there are many loose, steep climbs on very narrow shelf roads with deadly drop-offs to the side. Near the end, there are also many places where washouts eat into the already narrow road. This causes you to choose carefully between running a tire a little up onto the mountainside to avoid the washout (which pitches you off-camber towards the drop-off), or letting your tires half-cover the washout and hope it holds.



The Plan?


So, when you Google Map how to get to Klondyke from Phoenix, it tells you this: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=phoenix+to+klondyke,+az&sll=40.881096,-55.897218&sspn=111.512888,270.527344&ie=UTF8&ll=33.08924,-110.423584&spn=1.06312,2.113495&z=10


But if you ask anyone else how to get there that’s actually been, they’ll tell you this: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=phoenix&daddr=33.024785,-109.955292+to:klondyke,+az&hl=en&geocode=&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=10&via=1&sll=33.08924,-110.423584&sspn=1.06312,2.113495&ie=UTF8&z=10


After consulting more maps, it looked like Google’s way might be possible, but with a high likelihood of ending up in a washed out or otherwise impassible road. I decided to go that way anyway, as I wanted to explore the San Carlos Lake and Coolidge Dam, and might as well try out some back roads if I was going to be down that way anyway. Mike (gearhead) posted up that he wanted to join me, so we set a meeting time of 7am to allow plenty of time for exploring. I also posted up for no-one to wait for us at the Klondyke store since we had no idea when we’d get there.




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First view of the Coolidge Dam



The gates to the back side of the dam were open, so we took the opportunity to explore! The backside of the dam is actually more impressive than the front






Just before we got to where you could actually drive up inside one of the domes, a guy came out of the old powerstation to let us know that we were illegally trespassing. We told him we were just exploring and the gate was open, and he told us there were at least 2 signs… we must have missed them while looking at the dam ;) Anyway, he complimented our lifted rigs and told us we should get out of there before his supervisor arrived, so we quickly obliged.



Some shots from the top of the dam…





As we left the dam you could get a good view of San Carlos Lake



Then we turned off of Coolidge Dam Road and onto County Road 530, at which point we aired down since we would be on gravel/dirt for the rest of the journey





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Mike mentioned that he had smelled gas, but we didn’t see anything leaking, so we continued on. A little later we stopped and Mike realized he had left the gas cap at the station… d’oh… this was to be the first of many run-ins with bad luck that poor Mike would have this weekend.


I gave him a Ziplock bag, and we stuffed it full of paper towels and then crammed that into the filler neck, the bag seemed to make a good seal as he didn’t smell any more gas the rest of the trip, even after hitting the rough bouncy roads.




We soon entered a neat canyon where some of the largest Saguaro I’ve ever seen grew



We even found a little water in one canyon



Suddenly, upon entering a new valley, the road became virtually non-existent. It went from little-traveled...



...to completely washed out in just a few hundred feet...



We braved on in 4-Lo, back and forth between a wash and remnants of the road. After about a mile we decided that this would take us all day and maybe still never turn back into a real road, so we turned around. This put Mike back in the lead and that’s when his second turn of bad luck hit. He mistakenly thought we went down this one bank when in reality we had gone down another. Anyway, this is how his Jeep suddenly found itself…




Part of his rear tire and fender flare was all that was saving him from body damage. So, I managed to get oriented perpendicular to him and tie off to his rear bumper corner. Then I pulled him away from the boulder at the same time as he pulled forward. In the end this resulted in him getting off the boulder and precarious bank with no damage and without rolling. It also nearly pulled me into a tree, but hey, no harm – no foul ;)


Once we got out of the non-road, we saw on the GPS and maps that we could connect over a couple miles to a parallel trail and evaluate if it went any further south towards Klondyke. Climbing this trail rewarded us with some mountain views.






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Not long into the new road, we came upon a shelf road with a fairly rutted out center section. This put you in the predicament of choosing to have your right tire in the rut which would mean leaning your Jeep towards the shelf, or putting a tire between the rutted section and the ledge which was very narrow. About a mile down this fun little portion of trail and suddenly we encountered a huge washed out section of the road.


There between us and what looked like a perfectly good continuing road was a 10 foot deep by 20 foot wide wash out. It would have taken a team of guys probably half a day to dig out the drop-off to anything resembling a ramp that could be descended, so we looked around at the other edges of the road. Everything near here was still a very steep bank, wich would have required tree cutting to clear enough room to descend, and even then we weren’t 100% sure we would be able to get back up the bank, nor if the road would continue or just have more washouts.


And so that was the end of our exploring! But before re-tracing our route back to Coolidge Dam Road, we had the challenge of backing out of the shelf road. Backing my big black schoolbus proved much slower than mikes short wheelbased YJ, but soon we were out and headed back to highway.


Somewhere down on this road now lays Mike’s CB antenna, ambushed by the many low tree limbs, and so there was his third turn of bad luck.



Once back on the highway, we decided not to air back up, as we where only doing 55 or so MPH since Mike’s YJ gets a bad vibration at 60. We also decided that we would have to pass the Klondyke Road a bit and go into the town of Pima for gas before heading out to meet everyone else for camp, as we had explored some 60 miles of backcountry and eaten up much of our tanks.


Soon night began to fall, and the sunset was in our rear view mirrors.




Once in Pima we gassed up and got some grub. At this point Mike decided he would rather get a hotel room than continue on in the dark for another couple hours to get to the group. He told me he would catch us on the trail the next day and so we parted ways (he had both his laptop and a handheld GPS with the route, so I wasn’t worried about him finding his way).


I continued on in the dark, using the GPS track that Mike had laid out by tracing the path in Google Earth. This led me into the Aravaipa canyon through several water crossings and past a few houses with only dimly lit windows. Considering the water looks black at night and the canyon walls made everything dark even with the full moon, it was a bit spooky alone. Add to that the fact that these houses where out 50 miles from anything at all and you got sort of a Deliverance vibe going…. I was eager to find the others ;)




I soon rounded a corner and came face to face with a wild man waving his arms… it was Tom (TNAPicard) ;) letting me know I was “there”!


After the “hello”s, the tent was pitched in the dark, many drinks were had, and everyone started heading for bed before too late. It was cold, probably close to freezing. For some reason my toes were freezing all night, but the rest of me stayed fairly cozy in my mummy bag, with the hood drawn tight.


Suddenly I heard voices and opened my eyes to a lit up tent… welcome to morning a bit too soon!


Here’s some pictures of the camp as we got ready to leave…







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We made a quick backtrack up the canyon to see some Indian Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings are remarkably well preserved and still have almost all of the wood as well as the “cement” holding it all together.



We traveled just a few miles further in the canyon before ascending a sketchy little road that weaved its way seemingly all over the map before finally being completely out of the canyon.






Then much of the rest of the day was spent in 4-LO due to the roughness of the road. It alternated between sandstone type slab and extremely rough large natural “gravel” type conditions.



We stopped near a spring and old cabin for lunch, and just as we were finishing up, Mike caught up to us!





I had been tail-gunning till then, but as we left I asked if Don (SavageSun) would mind picking up the rear for a while and he said “sure”. So off we went towards the infamous Carpet Hill.


We stopped at a mine with a large amount of equipment still intact. There were also tons of rocks with a bit of copper ore laying about, as well as a large area where it looked like molten slag had been poured.





After some more trekking, we rounded a corner and were greeted with the other side of the mountain which we had been slowly climbing all day. Off in the distance was Mammoth, and a bit closer you could make out Carpet Hill. Time for a group shot…



Here you can see the road “smoothing out” near the top of Carpet Hill, I didn’t get any actual pictures while climbing the hill… I was busy driving and watching Tom’s Military trailer dance in front of me while I said little prayers in hopes that the trailer would not suddenly stop Tom’s forward progress and put us all at a dead stop on such a steep, rough area.



Once Tom, Myself, and Dave (TripWire) made it to the top, we heard over the CB Don and and Dennis (DNCCox) talking about had anyone seen Mike lately? Somehow Mike had ended up at the back of the group with no working CB. I don’t know at

this point if Don backed down some or turned around at the only turning spot about ½ way up the hill… but somehow he got to the point where he could see Mike waving his arms, standing in front of his Jeep laying on it’s side, in the middle of the road, right at the bottom of the hill.


Don told us the situation over the CB and pretty quick Don and Dennis were back at the base of the hill to start a recovery operation. It was made clear that Mike was OK and so we all breathed a sigh of relief, but then the rest of us decided to walk down the 3/4 mile and see how we could help.




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At this point I was able to grab a few photos of the actual Carpet Hill.





At the base of the hill we found the poor YJ laying on it’s side, weeping some of it’s fluids, and this brings us to Mikes’ fourth run in of bad luck, and obviously the worst. The only good thing was that he had his arm inside the vehicle and seatbelt on and therefore wasn’t hurt in any way.


He had apparently been backing up to try a new line when the passenger rear tire just got too high on the bank and flipped him over on his side. Fenders mangled, cracked fiberglass top, but no glass broken, and nothing that can’t be replaced or repaired.




Due to the terrain surrounding the Jeep, recover wasn’t easy. We had to loop a tree strap around a boulder above the Jeep, then run the winchline through a shackle to in order to pull at a 90* angle (we didn’t have a snatch-block handy, fortunately Don was running synthetic line so it didn’t permanently kink his line ).


This pull was at first only dragging the fallen YJ on it’s side, so 4 of use ended up having to lift the jeep while the winch pulled. All the while, someone stayed up near the boulder to make sure it didn’t start to come loose.


In the end we got the jeep back onto the edge of the road, leaned up against the mountain side, still sitting precariously. The boulder had already moved an inch and now we had to slowly release the winch and still hold up the jeep while trying to turn the wheel and let it back down the hill until it was level.


All in all a scary recovery, but engineered as best it could have been with limited options and equipment.


After this Mike had to pull all the plugs and turn over the engine to shoot out all the oil that was hydro-locking the engine.



After the grueling little hike back to the top, the moon was already in full swing, so we quickly Jeeped-up and headed out to search for a camp spot.



We camped on a hill after not being able to find the nice cottonwood filled canyon that we wanted in the dark. Everyone slept well I think after such a long hard day!


The next morning Don had to leave early, but the rest of us stayed to explore more mines and old cabins.




We found one dead end road in search of a mine, but it put us next to a neat little Canyon where we had lunch.





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After some more mines and a few wrong turns, we eventually headed out towards the highway.



I rounded a corner as we headed out the main gravel road and there was Tom stopped and looking under his 07 JK… he had torn the area where his trackbar mounts to the frame and this was causing some seriously sloppy steering. He decided it would be OK if he took it easy and so we continued with little we could do to repair it short of having a welder.


Once we got to the exit, we aired up, said our good-byes and everyone for the most part headed in different directions (Tucson, Show Low, Phoenix).




On the way home, I passed a sign that said “public viewing area for ASARCO pit mine”, so I pulled off to investigate. This was a huge pit mine and kinda kewl to see in contrast to how all of the old mines we had seen earlier operated.





I got back home to Phoenix in time for dinner and partially unloaded the Jeep.


Found out the next day that everyone made it home without incident except Mike. In his final run of bad luck, his clutch gave out in Tempe and he had to be towed home by a friend with a pickup.


Mike, I Hope your luck is improving now that you’re completely home!


Overall it was a great trip on a neat trail with some unkowns thrown in for adventure and was really good to see several friends again!

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Great report K. George:cool::D

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Kristoffer, that was an awesome trip report! Thanks for putting that together for us. Poor Mike! Probably not his best weekend. Thank goodness you guys noticed he was missing and found him at the bottom at carpet hill. Nice job on the recovery, given the precarious condition of the trail and lack of proper equipment.

We missed seeing everyone, looks like it was a great time in spite of the difficult spots.

Now tell me, what is this?





d :rolleyes:

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Kristoffer, that was an awesome trip report! Thanks for putting that together for us. Poor Mike! Probably not his best weekend. Thank goodness you guys noticed he was missing and found him at the bottom at carpet hill. Nice job on the recovery, given the precarious condition of the trail and lack of proper equipment.


We missed seeing everyone, looks like it was a great time in spite of the difficult spots.


Now tell me, what is this?


d :rolleyes:


that would be where they mined out a vien of something. i believe this was at the BlueBird mine, which also had a shaft that was blocked off, several old foundations of cabins, and a concrete tank of some sort. more info on BlueBird here: http://www.mindat.org/loc-44361.html





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