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Rincon Mountains Adventure

The Rincon Mountains, a part of the Coronado National Forest, lie east of Tucson, Arizona. Details of the Geology of the area. . Little building development has occurred there, making them the most accessible of wilderness areas to Tucson locals.

Paul and Linda McCartney built a home at the base of the mountains several years ago and it was there that Linda died, contrary to initial reports. Ranch

Beyond are the Tanque Verde waterfalls that attract more adventurous hikers due to the rugged terrain around them. We knew little more about the mountain range except that Redington Pass could be used to reach several small towns (including Redington) that we had not visited. Since we had planned to travel East anyway, we decided to traverse the pass and enjoy a few hours of back country travel before entering Interstate 10 at Benson.

We took Tanque Verde Road to the beginning of the ascent, equipped with a laptop computer to which we had attached a Delorme Earthmate Global Positioning System. The tracking system showed our progress on detailed maps with startling accuracy. Since Dan had been too preoccupied to renew the license for the Suburban that we would normally use for such a trip, Marilyn's 1990 Ford Ranger was pressed into service. It is a light duty truck with 4 cylinder engine, automatic transmission and comfort amenities, better suited for suburban use. Others who take more robust trails in the area use more suitable vehicles. [Travel log]View

Bright sunshine flooded the landscape as we progressed through the series of switchbacks toward the summit. Numerous other vehicles were sharing this stretch of road with us, some were headed for the Tanque Verde Falls, some were camping out and others were just sight-seeing. The mood was festive, although the gravel road was rougher than we had remembered from a prior trip, perhaps the result of the heavy rains brought by El NiƱo. The view of 'The Old Pueblo', Tucson's nickname, from the top is breathtaking. Photographers often use the area to capture images of lightning storms during our Monsoons every summer. View

About 15 miles into the trip, we encountered a fork in the road that was marked with a sign announcing that we were in the A7 Ranch. A smaller road ran off toward the East, the direction we wanted to go. Branch
The GPS system indicated that it would intersect the San Pedro River Road, leading us into Benson, so we chose the road less traveled. 3 miles later, a primitive gate blocked the road and prompted our first decision. Curiously, the GPS system had stopped plotting our progress. It uses 4 AAA batteries for power and we assumed they had gone dead since the program reported 'No GPS!'. STUPID BATTERIES!

Undaunted, Marilyn opened the gate and closed it again behind us. This is a common practice in the American West. We proceeded down the small dirt road, winding around through the foothills that fall off the East side of the mountain range. The farther we went, the smaller and rougher the road seemed. The hills became steeper but since most were downhill, it seemed easier to proceed than to try to backtrack.
Our 'dead-reckoning' said we were within a few miles of the road to Benson when we encountered a section of road that had been washed out. The road surface was a loose, friable rock only slightly more coarse than sand and the road clung to the side of a cliff that fell off 100 feet on the left. When we tried backing up the hill, the rear tires spun and the truck slid toward the precipice!
This was the end of our motor travel for the day, much to our chagrin. We tried to use our cell phone, which we had packed for emergencies but it could not establish a connection (apparently we were REALLY roaming!). We were ill-equipped for survival in the rugged terrain that surrounded us but knowing we needed to hike for assistance, we started down the slope on foot. Closer inspection of the washed-out area, and 2 more beyond it, confirmed the road was impassible for our little truck so we continued to walk. Within 100 yards or so, we reached a smooth dry river bed that bore horse and vehicle tracks- we were that close to making it out with the truck! As we hiked, we noticed tracks and heard the sounds of wild animals and realized we were not alone. This did not comfort us. Having no real idea how far we might be required to hike, we resigned ourselves to press on. About a mile later, we heard the droning sound of a stationary engine, which was a generator for a ranch house that was still occupied.
We found the family that lived in the house was home- at least the wife and kids were.
The house was full of boxes they were using for a move- the next day! Marilyn called for help using a special radio phone the family
had to use because there was no cellular reception in their valley. The nice lady at AAA laughed at our question of whether they
could send a service truck to help us.

[to be continued]