Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway

South Mountain Park

Three square nails (c. 1885) at the Graffiti Ranch.
Three square nails (c. 1885) at the Graffiti Ranch.

This is my fifth survey of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway right-of-way. I did my first Loop 202 survey on April 13, 2015, and I’ve basically done it every six months since.

If you haven’t been following along, the concept is I park in the Dusty Lane community just east of Vee Quiva Casino, explore south to Pecos Rd., then follow the Loop 202 right-of-way north, back to Dusty Lane.

The path of the future South Mountain Freeway crosses numerous small washes. Three larger washes will eventually become “multiuse crossings”, so that pedestrians, horses and ATVs can cross from the west side of the freeway to the east. (Though at the west end of South Mountain Park, there will be very little public land west of the freeway. Essentially, west of the Loop 202 will be on Gila River Indian Community rez land.

The Loop 202 right-of-way also crosses two moderate-sized, but steep, ridge: Main Ridge North and Main Ridge South. Main Ridge North is just south of Dusty Lane, while Main Ridge South is just north of Pecos Road. Main Ridge South has two spurs, separated by a tiny canyon.

Looking from Main Ridge North, across Graffiti Ranch, and an unnamed ridge, towards the new development (barely visible), and Main Ridge South.
Looking from Main Ridge North, across Graffiti Ranch, and an unnamed ridge, towards the new development (barely visible), and Main Ridge South.

In between Main Ridge South and Main Ridge North is a valley, halved by a smaller ridge. On the north side of that valley are several old ranches & mining camps, which I’ve named based on their distinguishing charateristic: Graffiti Ranch, Stone Wall Ranch, R.A. Steele Ranch, etc. A new luxury development is being built on the south side of the valley, which is ironic since so many buildings were condemned to make way for the new freeway. The “optics” are not good. Know what I mean?

See the attached GPS file, below, for details.

On my way south, over Main Ridge North, I discovered a collapsed mine shaft. I had been by it three times before, passing within feet, without ever noticing it. Just above it, a couple of folks, including L. Thomas had etched their names in the rock on February 3, 1959.

Some new graffiti has been added to Graffiti Ranch: A lot of “Soul” throwies by AFK, plus some tags that appear to refer to angels and legal issues on the Rez. A existing piece, on one cinder block wall, has been shot up pretty good. Shame, because otherwise the ruins are just decaying crap of no obvious historical value. (Though I did find three more flat nails, which dates non-Indians in the area to 1885, or earlier.)

Looking from Main Ridge South, across the new development, towards Maricopa Peak.
Looking from Main Ridge South, across the new development, towards Maricopa Peak.

AFK also tagged Stone Wall Ranch.

The R.A. Steele Ranch, or at least homestead, or simply home?, is a small 20 ft. knoll just north of the west end of the new luxury development. I’d previously discovered cement stairs etched with the name “R.A. Steele” and a date sometime in the 1940s. Today, I discovered a cement post hole dated February, 1982, with the initials “G+J”. Searching Google has given me no clue who R.A. Steele might be; if you know, drop me a comment below.

There did not appear to be much change at the luxury development, since the last time I checked it out while hiking South Mountain three months ago. Just more earth moving & levelling. At least within the complex itself. The access road has been expanded; some ditching, piping & walling begun; and you can see where the gate will go, at the Main Ridge South saddle, as there is now a split in the road there. I would not be surprised if the road is complete when I stop by again in October.

There are a lot more temporary “roads” in the area between Main Ridge South and the pump station at Pecos Road (WP-1). There is also a new construction parking lot at the pump station. There was regular, but not heavy, truck traffic on BIA-32, the Rez road which parallels Pecos Rd.

Looking back, past the luxury development access road, towards the Pecos Rd. pump station.
Looking back, past the luxury development access road, towards the Pecos Rd. pump station.

After I reached the pump station, I turned around, and started heading north, following my waypoints, taking a photo every tenth of a mile, or so.

In a small wash — and when I say “small” I mean small: 5′ wide and 6″ deep — between WP-4 and WP-5, I saw something at the foot of a saguaro, amongst a tangle of palo verde branches. It was an intact, large, heavy, very colorful seashell. How the heck could something like that end up in the middle of the Sonoran Desert!?

I found a series of metal rods that curved northwest from the petroglyph outcropping. The rods seem to indicate the right hand side of the Loop 202’s northbound lanes. The path appears to preserve the petroglyphs, as the outcropping would thus be located between the South Mountain Freeway and the luxury development’s access road.

A year ago, at WP-6, on the south spur of Main Ridge South, there was an aerial survey marker that looked like a Scottish Saltire (flag). Six months ago, it had been replaced by a shallow pit, with numbered metal rod stakes at each corner. Now, the stakes are gone. Just a shallow pit. I wonder what that was all about?

She's a beauty!
She’s a beauty!

I don’t think I’ve done a South Mountain Freeway survey where I have not found a mylar balloon. Today was no exception.

Freeway-wise, nothing has changed from WP-7 (the north spur of Main Ridge South) and WP-15 (Main Ridge North).

Driving in earlier in the morning, the area along Dusty Lane (the road itself) had seemed empty. I thought maybe some more buildings had been torn down. From the top of Main Ridge North, I looked north along that same path and it was obvious: Every condemned building had been torn down all the way to WP-27 on 51st Ave. When I reached WP-19, just south of Choppo Rd. it was confirmed: Everything in the right-of-way had been removed. Literally scraped clean, except for the shrubbery. (Which will also eventually disappear.) The barns, chicken coops, trailer home hard stands, etc. had been replaced by some blaze orange netting and yellow rope.

Looking northeast along the Loop 202 right-of-way, from WP-16, at the foot of Main Ridge North. Vee Quiva Casino (left) and what remains of the Dusty Lane community (right). The near wash will be Multiuse Crossing #3.
Looking northeast along the Loop 202 right-of-way, from WP-16, at the foot of Main Ridge North. Vee Quiva Casino (left) and what remains of the Dusty Lane community (right). The near wash will be Multiuse Crossing #3.

Some of my surveys have been scorchers, but despite predicted temps in the upper 90s, it was overcast and breezy, so actually quite pleasant. I finished about 10:15 and was home by 11. Sweet. Got my exercise and was home in time to enjoy the rest of the day! 👍

GPS File: Loop_202_South_Mountain_Freeway

Distance: 6.30 mi.

AEG: 957 ft.

Time: 2h 39m


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