The stage route runs parallel to Highway 238. Access roads connect the two routes. Since we came from Phoenix, we used the east access.
We were threatened all day with heavy clouds but rain never came, so using four-wheel drive was not required. The surface was sandy and rocky with occasional deep washouts. Careful navigation kept the running boards on our rental vehicle out of harm's way.
Due to the cloud cover, you won't find a lot of blue sky in the photos, but the area is beautiful even without sunshine. We found a variety of cactuses, including an abundance of saguaros. These giants come in many different sizes and shapes. They can live up to 200 years and grow 40 different arms. Being experts at absorbing moisture, they can live up to two years on one good rainstorm. When full of water, a single saguaro can weigh as much as 7 tons.
The saguaro cactus normally blossoms in May or June. Its flowers are white and carry the official status as Arizona's state flower. There can be hundreds of flowers on a single plant, but they only open a few at time over a period of about a month. Each flower will open at night and then close the following day, with a life span of less than 24 hours. They have a waxy feel and fragrant aroma.
You can find other roads to follow in the area, including more of the Mormon Battalion route. For those who enjoy hiking, the national monument provides enough diversions to keep busy for weeks.
Weather can be dangerous, especially in the summer. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees F and stay there for weeks. Nighttime offers very little relief. The best time of year to vacation in this desert is when everything to the north is digging out of snow.
There are numerous primitive campsites along the route, but we were only there for a day trip. Although we would have really enjoyed a night under the stars, time just did not afford that luxury. Another coach was waiting to be moved. No, not a stagecoach, but a modern-day coach, also known as a motorhome.Another part-time job that keeps us busy is moving motorhomes across the country for others. It's a lot more pleasant than it would have been to drive a stagecoach, but there is a part of us that would really enjoy going back in time and experiencing the rough-and-tumble 2,800-mile journey in a Concord coach.
Larry E. Heck is the author and creator of numerous books and videos dating back to 1985. For more information, visit his website at www.lone-writer.com or call (303) 910-7647.