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Hackberry and Ripsey Wash: Take Two

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The first trip to Ripsey Wash was so much fun that I decided to go back a second time. We hadn’t had an opportunity during the first trip to visit a stone building and dam/spring in Hackberry Wash that were located nearby. So it was off to the computer again. I wanted to find a different (and possibly shorter) way to Hackberry Wash. At first, this seemed very easy. Google Maps said so. Here’s the route from Tucson. Easy, just cross the Gila on Tristan Road.



According the Google Maps, just cross at Tristen Road


So, I started planning my offroad adventure from there. After getting across the Gila, you could head up Camino Rio Road until it met Hackberry Wash, or take the powerline road to Hackberry Wash. I Google Earthed these roads and mapped them out on my topo map. As an afterthought, I Gooegle Earthed the crossing on Tristan Road. Uhhh, there is NO crossing there. There isn’t really a road there.



Uhhh, there is no Tristen Road…


No problem, I rerouted Google Maps and found an actual bridge. It found one on Emery Drive.



Google Maps showing you can cross this bridge


Again, I went to Google Earth.



Okay, there IS a bridge there, but…



Not sure I want to cross this bridge.


And after some additional research, I found out it’s a private bridge.


No problem, I’ll find another way to cross. Two hours later … not going to happen. At least not easily. There wasn’t a crossing until you got to about Mammoth or south of that. Way too far. I even called the Kearny Chamber of Commerce. The nice people there told me there were a few “unofficial” crossings of the Gila, but the water had to be low (which it was) and you had to know where they were (which I didn’t nor did they have good directions). We had seven vehicles on this trip, meeting in two different spots, I didn’t want to spend a ton of time trying to find a crossing.


So, we were going with plan C. Back up the Ripsey Wash. Which wasn’t a bad plan, I had really enjoyed it the last trip. We left Tucson at 7 am, earlier than the previous trip because I had to get my daughter back between 5-6 pm for an event she had.


I met the others from Tucson in Catalina at a gas station. I had met most of them before, but there was some that I hadn’t (i.e. “Upatree” and “Gearhead”). Unfortunately, another group of four-wheelers that were also going to the Florence area were also meeting at the same time and at the same gas station. Some of these people hadn’t met each other either. So we had to take 10 minutes to sort out who was going with who (we almost had some other Jeep’s joining us by mistake).


We finally left Catalina with 5 Jeeps, but we were missing my friend in his Toyota truck. He had called me to tell me that his alarm hadn’t gone off and he would try to meet us up at the trail head.


We pulled up to the trail head at the intersection of Ripsey Wash and the Florence-Kelvin Highway about 5-10 minutes late and just in time to see Gearhead pull out of the wash. He had driven down from the Phoenix area to meet us there. We caught up to him, quickly got back to the wash as my friend’s Toyota pulled up. Whew, everyone was accounted for.


Everyone introduced themselves, aired down if they were inclined, and we headed up the wash. We drove through the “impassible” spot from last trip and turned off toward Hackberry Wash. Our first stop was at this cool old water tank and corral. I had seen this on Google Earth, but didn’t know what was out there. There were lots of cows who were VERY vocal. I have never heard cows moo so much. It was somewhat eerie.



Old water tank



Google Earth view



Cows in the corral



Wood at the corral






Larry’s Border Collie: Gwen. She LOVES fetching.


A sand rail came up the road and I talked with the two guys inside. They were out prospecting for gold. I told them I had seen huge nuggets someplace up the road, but just couldn’t remember where. They drove off unimpressed with me or my sense of humor.


We loaded back up and headed to Hackberry. This portion of the trail was super fun and scenic. Lots of saguaro and interesting rock ledges, spines and wash crossings. Super cool. When we got close to Hackberry Wash, we passed through a gate and headed down a steep and narrow shelf road. For me (who doesn’t like heights) this was a little bit of a butt clencher.



Saguaro forest



Shelf road



On the shelf road



Stone building’s roof below


You can see the roof of the stone building from the shelf road above. Once you get in the wash, it’s a short drive to Hackberry Spring and the stone building. At first, I thought it was a cabin, but I don’t think so. There was not single man door opening. The front had a large opening like a barn door would have gone there. Maybe it was a barn or storage shed for hay and that’s how they got the hay in there???



Stone building


There was also the mine, which had water flowing out of it and a metal storage shed that was hidden in all the trees and brush. After this stop, it was a quick drive to the spring (unnamed) in the next canyon down the wash. The canyon is sandy and fairly wide, but comes to an abrupt stop at a narrow spot where a concrete dam spans across the canyon. This area is really beautiful with big trees, boulders and steep cliffs. The top of the dam is quite high above and very difficult to get to from this side. A few of us attempted to climb up the right side. We all made it to the rocks above the dam, only one of us attempted the climb down from the rocks. It was a little too steep for my comfort level.






View from above the dam


After the dam, we made a quick trip back up to the Old Ripsey Mine for lunch. The difficult washout was easier in this direction and I made it through without using my locker (though I did spin a bit).


It was cold and windy and we tried to find shelter from the wind. We were only partially successful. To try and keep warm, we went exploring again. I found a few things I had missed the first time.



At some points it seemed like I had to whip my daughter up the steep hills ;-)



At other times, she seemed to turn into a bunny rabbit



Two rails and two contrails…



Looking back through time






Google Earth view of Ripsey Mine Area



Three tanks



Yellow pump and narrow gauge rails









Cool bolts (can't be seen from Google Earth)


Once everyone finished lunch, we jumped back in the Jeeps and drove back down to the wash. I engaged my locker through the washout and from the radio chatter, it appeared that one of the two door Jeeps had a difficult time through the washout this time.


The going got easy again once we got back to the wash. We spent a little time exploring a side canyon, posed for a group shot, threw the stick for Gwen, then we had to bust for home.



All except Gearhead’s (who left earlier than I did)



“Throw the stick! Throw the stick! Throw the stick!”



“Climb a rock. Climb a rock. Climb a rock.”



I put my hat on Cat-dog on the way home



She didn’t think it was funny



Then she got cold, so I had to cover her up


It was a wonderful day exploring with friends and family. Thanks Gearhead and Upatree for tagging along.


After I got home, I did a little research on the Ripsey Mine. Although I am just beginning to find out about this area, it seems that the Ripsey Mine was a gold mine that they thought was going to be a huge strike for the area. Lot’s of history here. But, the big news is that during this research, I found reference to another place nearby that if I can find it, I hope it proves to be even better than this. Stay tuned…

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you're a 4-wheelin' animal Matt! i'm jealous - i haven't been on as many adventures lately as i should... maybe that's a new years resolution i should make!

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Great trip report! Thanks for leading the trip! It sounds like you are finding more spots to explore.

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Thanks for posting. Your pictures and even more so, your fun and upbeat narrative, really made my afternoon. You really did a good job of expressing the fun that was had on the trip.


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Theksmith, I made a pre-New Year's Resolution to do as much four-wheeling on my Christmas vacation as I could, hoping to go at a minimum of every 3 days. And I think I met my goal! I had a great time and hope to do it again next year!

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