Overland Adventure & Camping in Prescott and Kaibab National Forests

Overland Adventure & Camping in Prescott and Kaibab National Forests

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Photos by Bobbi Jo Claywell and Paul Finnessey

Growing up I used to hike, backpack, off road, and camp all over the state of Colorado, and even Arizona in my early 20s. But it’s been a long time. I've not been a "pee in the woods" kind of gal for years.  However, without getting into much detail, there are all kinds of things out there now to make life more comfortable for a girl while camping, including comfortable sleeping pads, etc.  So, I let Paul talk me into camping.


We had to take my Black Cherry Pearl 2007 FJ Cruiser, Calamity Jane, because Lewis & Clark, the other 2007 FJ Cruiser belonging to my partner, Paul, was in the body shop. I had no idea how much I would love it!

I had recently met a gentleman on Facebook (Kevin) who was planning an overland trip up in the Prescott National Forest and Paul and I both had the weekend off so we decided to go. Kevin was the only other person to go on this exploratory trip and what a great couple of days it was! Paul knew Kevin from some previous outings, and he was just our type of person to overland with—an eat-on-the-road, push it until we're done kind of guy!

Saturday had a rough start—Kevin was running late, I had forgotten a sweatshirt, and there was already traffic headed north on the I-17 out of Phoenix to Cordes Junction. 

After an almost two-hour delayed start, we turn off on a dirt trail that heads north—a road with no Forest Route designation, just a dirt road heading north. We air down the tires on our FJ and Kevin’s Jeep, and head off. We bounce along on a heavily rutted road until we get to a spot with very, very deep ruts and a bunch of sand and the FJ slides... into the ruts. We are high centered and stuck. Do we air up and pop ourselves out, or have Kevin yank us? We radio up to Kevin, who backs back down to assist in yanking us out. 

Overlanding Arizona FJ Cruiser Toyota Magazine

Our next stop on our GPS guided map is the Logan Mine (Copper and Gold)--an underground mine with a single 600-foot shaft. The Logan Mine is about two miles southwest of Cherry, AZ in the middle of nowhere. By 1934, the Logan Mine was idle, and has sat abandoned, melting back into the scrub since.  The site had a small mill along with other building ruins. We stopped to poke around--lots of brick and an old boiler completely encased in concrete, one old building, and tons of mining trash... and lots of nails!

We explored for a bit, had a brief snack, and decided to keep heading up the road. It was starting to get warm, but being completely buried in the mountains without another soul around except us was wonderful!

As we continued heading up the road towards Cherry, we came upon a gate--which was, of course, locked and said “No trespassing.”  We could see the town of Cherry from here and had less than a quarter mile until we were there, but we had to turn around, go back through the Logan Mine area, back through where we got stuck, and down to a more frequently used route that ended up on a paved road for a short time until we entered the town of Cherry from the paved route. 

We drove into and around Cherry briefly, then found our route again and started to head north into the forest again--no more rock climbing or rutted roads, now we just had absolutely stunning views and occasional stops to check out things I had found on Google Earth like the Brindle Pup Mine. 

At the Brindle Pup (Iron, Lead and Zinc), there was a gate, but it was open, so we went in, parked the trucks, and walked around. Lots of mining trash, and a cabin with a toilet, beds, and a can of stewed tomatoes (eww). We never did find the mine proper, but based on the topographical maps that Kevin and I both had, we knew there was an adit, and at least two other possible pit mines on the side of the mountain that the Brindle Pup mine was on. 

Someone took a great deal of time around the Brindle Pup mine living site--there are rock lined pathways, benches, planted trees, and more. It was quite beautiful up there and we all agreed it would be a beautiful place to live AND we all had service on top of that little mountain as well!  We found an area where they were clearly processing ore as there was a water tank and some other mining trash lying around. 

It's already afternoon and we aren't even a third of the way into our route for the day, so we are off and headed up towards Mingus Mountain and the color changing trees! What a stunning afternoon of overland driving--all dirt, sometimes shelf roads, but all of it gorgeous.

We dropped down into the city of Cottonwood and determined that the route originally plotted would not work, so we drove up through Jerome, a ghost town that isn’t really a ghost town. We drove through Jerome, and then headed out Perkinsville Road, another long wide shelf road. At this point, the sun is starting to go down, and we are all wanting to find a camp site. Kevin wanted to watch the sun set, and Paul and I wanted some daylight to set up the tent. 

After crossing the Verde River, we drove north on FR354 until we found a high, flat place to set up camp, and within minutes, both trucks are parked, tent is up, and we are all sitting back in our chairs having some dinner (bourbon marinated burgers with sautéed mushrooms) and drinks, and talking about trips, where we want to go in the future, and the next day's adventure. 

Overlanding Arizona FJ Cruiser Toyota Magazine

We turned in relatively early with Kevin sleeping in his truck and Paul and I in the tent. The overnight temperature was in the high 40's, but we were toasty warm in the tent and surprisingly comfortable on the pump-up sleeping pads Paul had. Just as soon as we got settled in to go to sleep, we start hearing something around the tent and I immediately think that the coyotes we'd been hearing all night calling to one another were milling around. It took a good 20 minutes before I realized it was the big miller bug (aka a moth) flying around in the tent when we went to bed. He was flittering around the top of the tent trying to get out, but because it was so incredibly quiet, it sounded like something was walking around outside. I have a very vivid imagination.

I slept incredibly well all snuggled down in the cold and as usual, Paul and I both woke up around 4 am (our regular waking time) and just dozed on and off waiting for the sun to come up around 6 am. At sun up, Paul and I got up, made our MRE-style breakfasts (biscuits and gravy for me!), and lazed around in the cool morning air having coffee and tea. As I sat back enjoying the cool weather, it hit me–I was loving this!

Once Kevin was up and we had all eaten, we decided to hit the trail, so we took down the tent, packed up the trucks, and we were off - headed to Sycamore Point, which was where we had originally intended to camp. 

Paul drove in the morning, and while there were no obstacles, it was VERY rocky on the road to Sycamore Point. We passed some large quarries near Jimmy Tank, with some beautiful rocky areas.  Once we arrived at Sycamore Point, the views were stunning overlooking Sycamore Canyon. Paul and I were amused by the fact that not very many weeks ago we were on the other side of the canyon at Winter Cabin less than three miles from where we were standing at Sycamore Point, and the Buck Ridge line cabins were directly across from us! 

As we head out of Sycamore Point, I mentioned that I wanted to see the JD Cabin and grave at Sunflower Flats, so we make a small detour to this really cool cabin, owned by James Douglas (1820-1884). Also at the JD Cabin, which looks a bit newer than 1884, is an old bunkhouse which had several rooms (the floors are collapsing) and above the main cabin is a log cabin which has fallen down and is quickly becoming part of the forest again. As we explored this gorgeous old cabin and surroundings, I decide to head over to the grave which we quickly found. James Douglas ("JD") has a headstone there, but I understand his wife is also buried here, without a headstone or memorial marker. These are the places I love to visit--old cabins, old graves, pioneer history in the middle of nowhere. The JD Cabin is in one of the most beautiful settings in Arizona as it overlooks a flowered meadow and is surrounded by huge pine trees--absolutely stunning. I could live there without any hesitation. 

As we leave JD Cabin, I take over the driving-- I thought we were done with any crazy off-road driving and that I wouldn't even have to put it in low to do anything on the way out to Oak Creek north of Sedona. Boy was I wrong.

As we head South on FR527 everything seems nice and easy with wide graded roads. Then we hit the FR527A to the FR236A. I'm pretty sure this is some torture route that is used to shake the truth out of people. The FR527A was rough in that it was very heavily rutted, and because of this, we had to take it very slow. It’s getting late as we bounce around Casner Tank and out on the FR236A--a road we’ve been on before headed to the line cabins--another fun route north of Sedona.

The road was long, and at times trying, but we made it. We stopped at Chileen's in Black Canyon City for dinner, and then headed home to unpack and get ready for work the next day. We had a wonderful time--Paul got to go camping, I realized that I still enjoy it. We are making plans for more overnight adventures in the near future!

Overlanding Arizona FJ Cruiser Toyota Magazine

About the author

I’m Bobbi Jo, also known as @AZBackRoadsGirl. I drive a 2007 FJ Cruiser named Calamity Jane, a 6-speed manual Black Cherry Pearl truck. My partner-in-crime--and in life--is Paul. He also drives a 2007 FJ Cruiser, an automatic Voodoo Blue beast, heavily modified for off roading named Lewis & Clark. We live and work in Arizona, and primarily explore there as well. Together, Paul and I are the @DirtRoadDuo.  We love to explore the back roads of Arizona and other states, camping, exploring, and documenting life as it was!

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