Two old Suburbans go mine hunting


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
As further encouragement for people who either own old iron to go play with it in the dirt and for those who are on never ending builds to also go play with their toys I figured I would post up a weekend jaunt.

This is a tale of two old suburbans that hauled a couple of families out in the western part of Arizona in search of mine sites and good times. Much was found so follow along.

Nick (Nobin here) and I had been talking about getting our families together for a weekend of camping and exploring. Since his wife Sherry loves cool rocks and his son Leland likes any old stuff we figured a trip that hit some ghost towns and mines ruins would be just the ticket.

My wife Veronica isn't much in to the 4wd thing but she loves remote areas and cool history and tolerates the rig as a way to get there. My 13yr old son Martín has been at this forever and is a pro at navigation, driving and great there might be a chance to discharge firearms which always gets him to a happy place.

Of course highway is always a part of any outing here in the desert southwest. I love how much public land we have but when you live in the middle of Phoenix it take a bit of time to get anywhere interesting.

As usual I am the navigator guy...I love my laptop setup running Delorme Topo & OziExplorer. And for this trip I have a new 1 legged monkey friend to keep us company (free find at a thrift shop).

Here is my family minus my older son..he is an adult now which means more work than play :)

Our first stop was the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, my buddy Waymon had mentioned the place and was spot on about how much cool cowboy/western/ghost town/history stuff there was here. Plus the art collection is amazing. Well worth a stop for anyone.
Photo credit goes to them as I didn't think is was cool to take pics inside.

After that is was off to check out Vulture Mine. I have been there before but it has recently changed hands and they are closed for another month or so fixing things up. Oh well that just meant a lunch stop in the desert before treking onward.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Nick's rig is a 1972 3/4ton burb running a Cummins 5.9 turbo diesel with a stick shift, so he gets around 20mpg. That orange things piratically makes compared to my 1970 3/4ton burb running a 350 carbed motor pushing a turbo400 trans. Since I get around 10 mpg we needed to stop in Wendon for a fillup before hitting the dirt. Of course as we hit town someone else seemed to need to get out of town quick as we saw this medical helicopter lifting off from a dirt lot.

But finally we hit dirt! And after letting some air out of the tires we were off to see cool things.

Martín took over driving when we hit Camp Bouse. There isn't much left of Gen Patton's desert training area for World War II tank battles. But we looked around anyway.

We made a short stop at Midway to read the signs and show Nick's family how the Parker 400 desert race comes through the area.

Then it was off to find Swansea. It is a great mine ruin/ghost town that they BLM has done a super job of signing/repairing as a tourist draw.
Nick also was doing a good job keeping up with my crazy 13yr old son...just kidding he is a great driver.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
This natural arch had always caught my eye just outside of Swansea but it is across a bit of a ravine so I had never checked it out. Since we had plenty of time we stopped the rigs and got out for some pics.

Now my son Martín is almost finished with his Eagle Scout rank and he is a mad hiker. Before I had the camera focused on the arch he was already across the ravine and being a goof :)

Me, well I am happy being a lazy 1 legged guy who just wanted to hang with this lizard I saw and enjoy the warm rocks while I smoke my cigar.

But that didn't happen. My wife Veronica goes on most of the Boy Scout backpacking trips and she can really cover some trail so that meant we were all going to get a closer look.

Yeah we have fun on our outings. I really feel for the families who just sit around house watching tv or playing video games. The big ol' world is full of so much cool stuff.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Nick's son Leland is also a real trekker in the outdoors. He is 8 yrs old and really loves to go everywhere and has that great curiosity that will take him far in life.
He also enjoyed his moment in the arch.

And I give Nick & Sherry credit for trusting my family enough to let us drag Leland down a near cliff, into a wash, and up another steep incline just to jump around under a overhanging pile of rocks :)

Back into the rigs we went for a drive around the Swansea site. One thing that makes this place great for a disabled traveler is that you can see almost all the cool stuff without having to get out of your rig. That can be a real hassle for some folks. The ground is pretty hard packed but there is some sand/gravel that can make it tough on manual wheelchair users.
Of course is Martín isn't trying to drive my rig he is looking for another project to work on.

Pretty soon we realized we needed to make camp and Swansea has some really nice sites and also a couple of vault toliets. Those are always good to have for the ladies. Nick got to show Martín a good knot for hanging his hammock.

While the others went for a hike around the Swansea site I got a ripper of a fire started so we would have plenty of coals to cook up our steak & shrimp dinner. I would never admit I just wanted to relax with a cigar, cream soda and enjoy the peace and quiet :)


The Desert Caballeros Western Museum has one of the best collections of western gun leather I have ever seen. This trip is start to look familiar. Looking forward to the rest.



2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
There are some really neat things to see at Swansea and the signage the BLM has placed helps tell the history and bring the place to life in your mind.

The evening light also gave the buildings a different feel than when the sun is shinning brightly.

After dinner we hung out by the fires for a bit then off to our rigs for sleepy time. I have to say I really like how much space this old things have inside!
The next morning was a bit chilly but before long we were out hiking the site again to get the blood going for the day. These metal screens let you walk right over the mine shaft and of course let the kids safely toss in some rocks.

The restoration of the workers cabins has been going on for a while now and they look great. Sadly thought there are already signs of stupid people tearing things up. Oh well we were enjoying the place.

Lots of things for everyone to check out here.

Not sure if I would have slept better on a spring setup like this but I do love new gear to try out...even if it is really old new gear :)

It was fun for the boys to play "what was this thing?", sometimes they were right on and sometimes I had fun playing around with their minds.

Cool place to hang out with friends and worth a visit.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
There seems to always be another project rig just sitting around waiting for the right person to come along :)

But as the morning wore away we realized there was plenty more exploring and cool stuff to see so we took off and got to following this pipeline trail. And just so you know I am pretty sure this is still an active line so if you go there please don't mess around with it.

Fun thing about pipeline trails is that they tend to be pretty straight and just follow the line. That can sometimes means some really fun trail. This was steeper than it looked but nothing our old iron rigs couldn't handle.

The route has a nice variety of terrain and one of the features I like is very close to the Bill Williams River. This small section of canyons has some great coloring and rock features.

It wasn't too much longer before Martín was begged to pull over into one of the side canyons and spend some trigger time with friends. My son has starting building a pretty good collection. We found a great spot and everyone had a blast. Even the wives were in on the action.



2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
After the shooting is was time for the splashing!
The Bill Williams River is usually pretty easy to cross at this location. It is actually 3 small crossings with a max depth around knee high on an adult. Of course that doesn't mean it is always that way as you could tell there was some high water marks around.

But we survived the water and found a sweat spot for lunch. The babbling of the creek went well with the buzzing of some swarm of bees...that we were lucky not to see up close.

After lunch we popped up the hill above the river crossing to see the gas pipeline bridge. This is a much bigger pipe than we followed and a pretty cool thing to see in the middle of nowhere.

There was an old style single cylinder engine running not far away that I mentioned on the radio was always running when I did this trail. Of course Nick had to get a closer look which was cool as I had never bothered.

We went in search of more water as Alamo Lake was calling us. But being in the desert you see alot more sand and rocks than water anywhere you look.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Yep these folks look like they are having fun. Nick's family were great to travel with as they share my same style of thinking that a 4wd is a tool to see cool stuff more than a thing to try and break on tough terrain.

But I will admit we were all feeling the "after lunch nap time need" ...and even my normally happy kid was too "bored & tired" to look at another burnt out structure.

Relief was found at last when we got to the shore of Alamo Lake and everyone could stretch their legs and walk around. It is an ugly lake but I am told the fishing is great...too bad I don't like fish :)

Boys being boys there was plenty of rock throwing to see how big a splash could be made, checking out of dead things, chasing ducks and getting into the mud....yeah good times.

Oh I would say we were back in the mood to fly down some gravel roads and see more cool stuff. At least I know my family was having a good time again.



2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Nick and I had spread out on these open gravel sections to keep from choking on the dust. And that works great when you have good radio contact. And in this case I had fun getting on the radio and telling Nick he was about to see something in the desert for the first time....and least it was a first for me.

Umm yeah, a couple of planes parked off the side of the road. Now I have been using USPS topo maps for a while and always noticed the "landing strip" on there but never really expected to see a couple of planes! On the other side of the road were some serious looking baja racing looking buggies that I didn't snap pics of as the group of folks standing around were eyeing me slow rolling as it was.

Soon enough we made our way to the next spot to park & hike which was the Signal mine site. This is actually in 2 parts. One you can drive right up to and the other is marked "no motor vehicles", of course there were plenty of ATV tracks which really gets me irked.

Another happy family moment checking out cool old stuff. This is why we build the rigs, to actually use them..even if the build isn't done. Of course is it ever done?

For a minute I thought my son was not enjoying himself...but it turned out he was just intensely checking things out and didn't like my "turn and look at the camera"...teenagers :)

Nope he & my wife were still having fun.


2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Not far from the mine site is an old cemetery that has graves from the 1800's up to very recent. Nice thing is someone is keeping it decent and making a link from past to present.

But the day was wearing on and we all wanted to get home to some hot showers, homework for the kids and vehicle unpacking for the guys. But my thirsty burb needed a bit more fuel from Wikeiup before I could make the trek south. This is a rare thing to see gas costing more than diesel.

It was a great weekend trip and huge thanks to Nick & family for joining me & mine for some mine ruin adventure. No breakage to report except after I got on the highway and my fuel filter clogged up with a bunch of junk that was shook up on the trail. Lucky for me it is a take apart design that I was able to clean and get going again after 5 min.

There is plenty I want to do to my rig including the in process diesel swap, full interior rebuild, sleeping platform with storage, paint and much more. But I like to keep it as road going as possible through the build so we can keep enjoying it and making more memories as family & friends.