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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Arizona Strip: Twin Point and the Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse

The view from Twin Point, Grand Canyon National Park

The Tacoma flew by in a spray of gravel, leaving us quite literally in the dust. Trying to follow the Flying Taco was proving to be a challenge; after five minutes we couldn't even locate the dust cloud that might indicate which direction they took on these web-like roads. We tried the radio; no dice, too far away already. In the end we had to resort to methods that had less to do with electronic gadgetry and more to do with good old fashioned tracking: fresh tire tracks, splashed mud puddles, and a bit of gut instinct were guiding us now.

We were on our way to Twin Point via a little used series of farm roads, taking a "short cut" Craig, driver of said Flying Taco, had mapped on his GPS. While it wasn't imperative we take the exact same route, it was important we didn't stray too far off the path; we only had enough gas to get us 300 miles, and we were only two days into a five day trip. With no cell coverage and out of radio range, if we got stranded it might take a while for someone to stumble across us. But I'm sure Craig might notice we weren't behind him and circle back for us. At some point.

Ron and Mark look down at the valley below from Mt. Trumbull Road.

We had pulled away from the Nampaweap Rock Art site that morning with our friend Ron and driven the scenic road over Mount Trumbull. Following County Road 5, we passed an old sawmill site, a few ranches, some hiking trailheads, and finally made our way down a slightly terrifying road to the valley below, ending up at the old Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse. There we had some lunch and waited for the rest of our party to show up, playing on the swings and teeter totters, ringing the school bell, and poking around the old farm equipment that is displayed there.

Click the photo for more info.

Mt. Trumbull school served the homesteader kids that grew up in this remote corner of Arizona. Remarkably, almost everyone who settled in this area was one big extended family. The roster posted in the school was a mile long list of Bundys (this area is known as Bundyville). Given the location, and the fact that they were cattle ranchers, we couldn't help but wonder if a certain Cliven Bundy was any relation to these folks. We didn't see his name on the wall, but it's possible he's from a different Bundy branch of that particular tree.

The crossroads sign, pointing the way to Bundys
Roy & Doretta's Place
The school sits at the crossroads of County Rd. 5, 257 and BLM 1018

Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse was built in 1918, educating all the little Bundys until it closed in 1966 for lack of students. It stood empty for years until July of 2000, when vandals burned it to the ground. It had become such an institution (sorry) in the area, that the Bundy decendents got together with the BLM and other interested parties and started a fundraiser to rebuild it. The schoolhouse is open once again to visitors, still stocked with a few desks, old schoolbooks, some photos from it's glory days, and a nice relief map of the surrounding area set up on a table in the middle. It's a testament to trust in our fellow man that it sits open to the public 24 hrs a day with no attendant, the only protection a sign on the front asking that you leave it as you found it for all to enjoy. Take that, you vandals!

The old school bell still works
An old farm truck sits in the school yard.
Mark tries his best with his unruly class of overlanders.
The swings still work too.
Clouds float by as reflected in the school windows.
A nice covered picnic area, as seen through the back window of the old truck.
(Thanks for the shade cover Eagle Scout Bundy!)
Pointing back the way we came in.

From here, our friend Ron opted to take a more roundabout route to Twin Point, longer in distance, but easier on his vehicle. He wasn't worried about fuel consumption; his diesel Touareg had a much better range than our gas guzzling V10. We and Craig and Rasa (in the Flying Taco), Ryan and LeeWhay (in their Unimog) were taking this "shortcut" to save on fuel, and to add to the four wheeling factor of the trip. And, as it happened, to our skills as trackers.

Over cattle pastures, through multiple farm gates (always close them behind you, we don't want to piss off the ranchers), and over the rocky hills and small streams of Poverty Mountain. We ended up at the confluence of County Roads 103 and 1018, where our friend Ron was waiting for us patiently, having gotten there a good half hour before us.

Short doesn't always mean quicker.

Ron studies the map and learns about the flora and fauna while patiently waiting for all of us to catch up.

A yucca in bloom

From this point the road was clearly marked so it wasn't important that we keep in contact. The Flying Taco took flight and the rest of us trundled along behind, fully expecting not to catch up with them until we arrived at our campsite for the night. This is why we were all surprised to see Craig and Rasa stopped on the side of the road not far from the turnoff from County Road 103. They were out of the vehicle staring at the driver side rear tire. It could only mean one thing: flat tire.

There are inherent risks to rally driving on these remote roads: sharp rocks, overgrown bushes, fallen tree branches. Not sure which it was, but something put a good slice in the sidewall of their tire. What's a proper Overlanding adventurer to do? Why fix it right there on the side of the road, that's what.

Craig, with a bit of support from the crew, patched the tire without taking it off the truck, using four large plugs and a whole lot of adhesive. It wasn't pretty, but once it was re-inflated and carefully inspected for hissing noises (in the time honored scientific way: ear to the tire) he was back on the road, flying over the bumps and skidding around the corners with abandon.

Hmmm. Looks like it might be flat.
Craig preps the tire and gets the plugs out. How many do you think it'll need?
Mark assists Craig, holding the plugs that are already in place to make sure placing the next one doesn't poke the others into the hole.

The supervisors were there to make helpful comments and lend support only.
They did a fine job.
Looks like four should do it. Let's air it up and see.
Onboard compressors are a beautiful thing.
At this point, the park staff has given up on noting the mileage. If you have to ask, you shouldn't be here.
(FYI, from this point it was about 12 miles to Twin Point)

We arrived at Twin Point overlook just in time for sunset. The road in was pretty easy, with the exception of the narrow, scratchy foliage that crowded the edges, and a few hard turns that required a little "Austin Powers" maneuvers to negotiate for the two larger vehicles in the group. We've gotten so many "desert pinstripes" over the years we weren't too worried about a few scratches, but we're always careful to avoid any dings in the body of the truck.

The first thing to greet us at the campsite was this friendly guy.
The view was what you'd expect from a campsite on the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset. Absolutely gorgeous.

It would be tiring if it wasn't so gosh darn beautiful.

How ridiculously perfect is this day? Even the juniper were blooming.

Don't get too close to the edge; these rocks were pretty loose.
The view across the canyon.

Little cactus garden

Everything seemed to be in bloom up there

Yucca plants everywhere

The view from our campsite at Twin Point.

We lingered over breakfast in the sun, admiring our perch above the canyon and generally hanging our mouths open in awe. It was hard to tear ourselves away, but we were on a mission today: Get to Snap Point and find an airplane wreck in the canyon below.

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