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By Margie Anderson
Outdoor Editor 

62 To Hillside

62 To Hillside From Congress - Our Road Trip Had Some Surprises


John and Margie Anderson

Mochi is a great camper and stays close and quiet.

John and I love Arizona because you can cruise the deserts in winter and the mountains in summer. That's why we decided to visit the ruins of Swansea, an old mining town in February. It never occurred to me that I would need to check for any major events on Swansea Road, so off we went, taking 60 through Wickenburg, Aguila, Vicksburg, and Bouse.


We planned to fill the Jeep in Bouse then head north on Swansea Road to the remains of the town. I was stoked because the map showed a natural arch just before the town, and I love finding arches almost as much as finding springs!

We were starting to get nervous in Bouse because Apple Maps wasn't showing any gas stations, but we spotted a little store with a couple of gas pumps out front and pulled in. After paying, I asked the lady if they had a restroom, and she said they didn't but there were public restrooms at the rest stop across the road. We were heading in that direction anyway, so after gassing up we pulled into the dirt parking lot.

Old Mining Machines

There were a bunch of old mining machines there, including a railroad car, and also the old Bouse Train Depot office, and even a jail! We wandered around and looked at everything and let Mochi stretch her legs, then headed up toward Swansea Road, which comes out to 60 right there at the rest stop/Bouse Museum.

Right away we noticed something was weird. Little orange signs were posted on the side of the road every couple of hundred feet that said "No Parking No Spectating". I was wondering what the heck there was to spectate out there. It's just an empty desert.

Off-Road Race

Then suddenly there was a large parking area next to the road full of RV's and all kinds of trailers – and the road was blocked off. Turns out there was a giant off-road race the coming weekend. This was Thursday but they already had the road closed.

Apparently, in the early part of the year there are a lot of off-road competitions between Parker and Bouse, so if you want to see Swansea, be sure to check to see if the road will be open! I imagine it might be open at least Monday – Wednesday, but I don't know. So much for those plans!


That kind of threw us for a loop. There isn't a whole lot out that way, so we didn't have a plan B. But we still wanted to go camping, so we headed back the way we came, but when we got to Highway 71, just east of Aguila, we headed north toward Congress. It's beautiful country up there.


Once you're in Congress, 71 is gone and you're on Highway 89. About a mile and half past Congress, Date Creek Road (also called 62) heads north to Hillside while 89 continues to Yarnell. We had been quail hunting in that area many times and we knew some great places to camp, so we took the road to Hillside. Shortly after turning off the 89 onto 62, you'll see a huge boulder painted like a skull off the road a ways on the right. Drive slowly to find a spot where the view isn't hidden by brush. Since the day was early and we weren't hunting, we took the time to explore.

Our first stop was less than a mile and a half after we got onto Lawler Creek Road, which is off to the left about three miles before you get to Hillside. I saw a water hole on the map and we decided to check it out. The road petered out near a barbed wire fence, and there was a steep wash with a cattle trail on it – it looked like the road had gone that way one time, but it was seriously washed out.

Big, Beautiful Waterhole

Of course, Mochi ran down there immediately, and John and I followed, even though there was no sign of water. But after getting to the bottom and following the cut a short way, it took a sharp turn to the right and opened up to reveal a beautiful, big waterhole that was like a pond or a small lake! It was so pretty! Mochi had a blast running into the water to chase bugs, and there were no cattle around so we just let her play. What a cool place – you never know what you're going to find in the desert!

The last time we were in that area hunting, I had dropped a pin and put "good spot for a tent" on it, so that's the first place we stopped. It was only a half mile or so from the water hole, down in a cut with lots of trees and shade. Nice. We pulled into a small clearing in the trees where we had found a bunch of quail last season and chased them up the hill. This time, though, we were looking for a place to camp.

It didn't take long for us to decide to keep looking – I found a partially eaten javelina under a tree and we thought we'd leave that for whatever critter was having it for dinner, rather than have Mochi roll around on it and stink all night!


About a half mile past that site,we entered another low area that had a lot of trees and a trough being fed clean water through a pipe. John stopped again and we got out to find the spring I could see on the map. Sometimes when the spring is piped you can't find the actual place where the water comes out of the ground, but just a little ways uphill from the trough we found it.

The spring was simply a few very old railroad ties held in place with pipes driven into the ground, and the water was just a small pool with a lot of algae floating on it. It looked like it hadn't been tended in a long time! But it was shady and cool, and finding a spring is always rewarding. We didn't spend long there as it was getting to be late afternoon and we wanted to find a camping spot before dark.

ChiliMac For Dinner

The Lawler Creek road is good in spots but iffy in others, so a 4WD is necessary – or at least a high-clearance vehicle. We bounced along for another mile or so and from a high point we could see a nice opening near some trees. Sure enough, a little ways further we found a faint road headed in the right direction and took it to the clear spot. There were a couple of narrow, shallow stream beds with lots of tracks in them, but it was flat and open, so we pitched our tent, lit the BioLite stove and the JetBoil, and I made dinner by pouring boiling water into a bag of Peak Refuel ChiliMac.

Our camps are fairly spartan. All we have is the KampRite tentcot but it's super comfortable and we love it. Mochi sleeps inside it with us. Sometime during the night, something woke me up and Mochi was sitting straight up looking out through the mesh door with her hackles up, but not making a sound. A bobcat was strolling through our camp! I was so proud of Mochi for staying quiet. You don't get to see a bobcat every day.

Into Wickenburg

The rest of the night passed peacefully and morning was chilly and beautiful. We decided to take the scenic way home and got back on 62 (Date Creek Road) and took it to Hillside. After Hillside we took 96 to 97, which goes to 93 and straight down into Wickenburg. Nicer than the Interstate, I think.

John and Margie Anderson

Bobcat. One walked through our camp on Lawler Creek Road.

The only bad thing was that the traffic in Wickenburg was atrocious. They are doing some work on 93 and it's a huge mess, especially with all the extra traffic to the race out by Bouse. Those roundabouts are awful – traffic was backed up for miles at that first roundabout and it made our trip home at least an hour longer. Once past that roundabout things opened up, but it was still very congested. Just something to remember if you're headed out that way. Weekends are probably worse – we were trying to get through on a Friday.

A Road Not Traveled?

So there you have it – even if your plans get the kibosh, don't let that ruin your trip. Why not look at the map and find a road you've never been on? It doesn't have to be a dirt road either – lots of the smaller highways in Arizona have all kinds of interesting places and things to see. Rocks painted like skulls, frogs, and ducks are a few of the roadside attractions around Jerome, Hillside, and Kirkland Junction. Check it out sometime!


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