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Old 12-14-2012, 09:11 AM   #1
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Southeastern Arizona question

We'll be heading from Texas to Southeastern Arizona between Christmas and New Year. We're planning on exiting I-10 in Lordsburg, NM and then head southwest towards Douglas.

The Chiricahua National Monument (and surrounding national forest) is on the list, but the NPS website gives directions coming from the northwest.

We, however, want to drive through the national forest and mountains to get there; coming from the east driving through Portal and Paradise ghost town.

Is this a drive that we can do while towing an Airstream? I can't find info on the web regarding the road condition: is it paved, unpaved, steep, passable in rain or snow?

Here is the Google Maps link of the road we're planning on taking:
NM-80 S to AZ-181 W - Google Maps

If the road is not recommended for AS, we were thinking about camping (boondocking possibly) in the national forest close to Portal or Paradise. Any nice camping spots out there?

Thanks,

Jorn
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:34 AM   #2
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It's Been a Few Years...

... but that road in 2006 would not be one I would pull my Airstream over. That entire stretch from your point D to B was dirt and gravel. The main damage to the Airstream on a road of that nature is from the stones tossed into it from its own tow vehicle. But you are also meeting cars coming the other way that also toss rocks.
If the road has since been paved, you'll do fine, but it is very slow going.
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Old 12-14-2012, 05:09 PM   #3
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I don't think I'd tow that road over the mountains...you can go south on 80 to Douglas...and then north on 191 to catch 181 to the Chiricahua National Monument. While you're in that area don't miss Bisbee... a great old copper mining town that is a great little artsy town with lots of eateries and watering holes and a LOT of character. There's the Queen Mine RV Park within walking distance of the main downtown area. And don't miss seeing The Shady Dell if you like vintage trailers of all kinds. But don't tow your rig into the old part of town...very narrow, hilly streets. There are several AZ State Parks with camping in SE AZ, too. And oh! ... there's the 4CU New Year's Rally at Picacho Peak State Park just north of Tucson just off I-10. You're welcome to join us!
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:30 PM   #4
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Watch the weather in southeast Arizona, as a forecast for rain will probably be snow in this area. I have not driven on this road, but it is probably not a good idea in winter; and it is so remote that it most likely isn't plowed or sanded if it snows.

By the way, Rockhound State Park in Demming, NM, is a nice stop. See details in previous post:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...ml#post1030290
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Old 12-14-2012, 07:43 PM   #5
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Stay with the NPS recommendation of going south from Wilcox, AZ. I have been on the dirt road you are considering from Portal in a 4 wheel drive truck. It is rough and rocky, narrowing down to one lane with no room to move over for on coming traffic. It will be less time consuming to go the Wilcox route. If you must go to Douglas first TBRich,s directions are the way to go.

There is a nice campground at Chiricahua NM. Your 21' AS will do well there as the max length allowed is 25'. THey have great hiking trails there build by the CCC in the 30s. Plan on spending 2 days there to fully enjoy. There are no hook ups there, but great water and restrooms (no shower,but flush toilets). It,s been 2 years since I was there so my info may be dated. Quiet camping generators are allowed with hours restrictions.

Many good recommendations above for other points of interest in the area.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:12 PM   #6
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I forgot to mention above that thought the main roads are fine, the east side of the Chiricahuas is a very remote area with few towns and not much in between in terms of service, so be prepared for that. There is Rusty's RV Ranch in Portal that I've heard good things about ... a friend spent some time there and loved the remote quiet it offers ... he said there are great night skies for star-gazing, good birding and beautiful perspectives of the Chiricahuas much different from those normally seen from the west side. Though we have been to the Chiricahuas (which rise abruptly from the surrounding high desert) from the west, we have not made the loop around to the east side ... but it's on our "need to do " list. We like exploring those out-of-the way places.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:22 PM   #7
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The road over the mountain between Portal and the Chiricahua National Monument is unpaved, steep, narrow and by Christmas will likely be covered with ice and snow. If you want to go to the Monument Stay on I-10 to Wilcox go south on AZ 186 following the signs. To continue to Douglas after leaving there go south on AZ 181 to US 666 and turn south.
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:53 PM   #8
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Jorn,

Do not even think about driving the road from the Portal/Paradise area up over the mountain to the Monument, especially that time of year. You asked about a place to camp in the Portal area and I will tell you of a gem of a spot where you will think you have reached Shangri-La. There is a National Forest campground at Portal called Sunny Flat that is open year round and will handle your size trailer. It is at the scrub oak type of elevation and will be cold at night, but should be nice during the day. Of course if bad weather rolls in be prepared for some light snow. The area around the campground and nearby Cave Creek is a birdwatcher's paradise if you so desire. You should be able to google Coronado National Forest/Douglas Ranger District to pull up more info on the campground. Also, the area right around Rodeo, New Mexico where you turn off to head to Portal used to be the home of John McAfee and his tribe before he bugged out to Belize a few years ago. Anyway, that is a beautiful area of the Chiricuha Mountains. I was just over there Thanksgiving day to spread my Dad's ashes. Hope the info helps.
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Old 12-14-2012, 10:23 PM   #9
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Dude, Do NOT drive that road in the winter pulling a trailer, that is over Onion pass. I took my car over that pass just to see if I could get my trailer up to Rustler Park campground, which is all burned out now and closed anyway, but while it is a somewhat decent gravel road in the East side, it is very steep with killer switch backs, and if you get stuck, they will find your mummified bodies in the spring. Towing down the west side, man I don't know, I definitely ruled it out as just not going to happen. A 21' maybe, I after all did get my car down it but would not do it again in a car.

It is raining here in Tucson right now, that means it dumped snow on those mountains.

If you look at a forest service map you will see that there is another route that ends up taking you by Camp Rucker. Do not take that one either, while it is a better road, it had some pretty serious gullies to cross. Me and Ahab towed our rigs from the Western side to camp rucker a few years back, it was something like 23 miles of wash board dirt road. It was a dustbowl inside the trailer both ways. From rucker I drove it to 80 and looped back through Douglas. A pretty drive, but decided we could not tow it over the mountains there either.

If you want, go stay at Cochise Stonghold. You can get 21' in there easy. Paved most of the way in with trees, trails, and great environment.
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Old 12-15-2012, 06:53 AM   #10
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Jorn,

If you do end up on the East side of the Chiricahua mountains in the Portal and Rodeo, N.M. area stop by the now closed SkyGypsy Cafe and RV Park. The RV Park had several Airstreams set up in there for rent that John McAfee had brought in as part of his Aerotreking concept. Nice to look at the trailers, but as far as I know the place is all closed. TBRich is correct that the East side of the Chiricahuas is remote with few services. If you do end up there, a little further South down US 80 is a plaque for the Geronimo surrender site. There is a dirt road that will take you into the actual site at Skeleton Canyon, but it has been many years since I was in that way so I have no report on the condition of the road. Rusty's Ranch RV Park, as TBRich said, is out near the turnoff to Portal off of US80. I have never personaly stayed there, but it looks like a decent place. If you have got to that point, might as well go on to Sunny Flat Campground in my opinion.

That part of the Chiricahua's is very quiet, remote and lightly used, especially this time of year. That is why I love it over there.

Tim
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Old 12-15-2012, 04:56 PM   #11
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My Az. road map says that the road in question is "closed in winter", but I think that if you're looking for a challenging last thing to add to your "bucket list" then by all means chain up and bust through the gate and give 'er hell! If you make it, write a book about it as I love to read harrowing survival stories.
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:21 AM   #12
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Bisbee is a great town to visit but don't take your AS through town since it has narrow streets just like in the 1880's. Go see the Bisbee mesuem and the Copper Queen Hotel. Wilcox is home to Rex Allen and his museum and also the home of the best pinto beans grown in the USA. There is a BBQ place by the RR station that can't be beat. If you park near the NP, take a drive up Turkey Creek, there's nothing like it in anywhere in Arizona.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:02 AM   #13
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There was a very neat R.V park in Bisbee that had Airstreams & other classic trailers; even featured a boat for rent. Is it still there?
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:17 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Mike Leary View Post
There was a very neat R.V park in Bisbee that had Airstreams & other classic trailers; even featured a boat for rent. Is it still there?
That's The Shady Dell. Yes, it's still there, yes ... We loved staying there when they had a limited number of guest sites...but they no longer have sites for guest RVs, unfortunately. They rent out their furnished vintage rigs by the day like hotel rooms. It's a great place, and worth checking out.
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