Following the good advice that one should not four wheel in a remote area without at least one other vehicle, we made this exploratory trek with two Jeeps. The front one is our 2004 Grand Cherokee slightly modified to improve performance off-road. Jo’s son Jeff rode with me. The second is a new stock 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited driven by neighbor Keith Stone and accompanied by his friend. The purpose of the outing was to find the route into Coke Ovens so we could lead the Jeepers Creepers on a group trip.
This is the first important intersection (right turn) to reach the Coke Ovens. There were no road signs in the area to tell us which road to take at intersections. On this trip we had a better map than on an earlier exploratory trip.
The scenery is great, but the driver must pay the most attention to the road.
The road meanders for 21 miles through beautiful high desert mountains and canyons.
We paused a bit here wondering how bad the rocks in the road might become. One just had to take it slowly.
More great scenery
This looks worse than it is. The right track is quite good to get through this place.
Here is our first view of the five Coke Ovens. The major obstacles began here where the road dropped off a ledge. The second one follows.
Here we have progressed to within 25 years of the Gila River and had to cross this big washout. Both of us made it through just fine, with Jeff’s directions on wheel placement.
The Coke Ovens were built to heat mesquite wood cut from the Gila River bottom to convert it to charcoal for use in a small copper smelter a few miles north around Martinez Canyon. The Gila flows from left to right in the middle of this shot.
Shortly after we arrived at the Coke Ovens another Jeep Wrangler arrived and we chatted while having lunch.
The rough masonry has stood well in the century since being built.
The inside is about 20 ft. in diameter. Some were a little cluttered with debris, but overall not bad.
I preferred not to return the way we had come – 21 miles in 3 hours. But I was very hesitant in fording the Gila River. The driver of the Jeep which joined us convinced us that the Gila was running shallow then, so we followed him to a fording spot.
Here our guide is just beginning to cross the river. Once I saw that the water just came up part way on his wheels, I also crossed it just fine. It was about 2 feet deep there.
Here is an old railroad bridge near the crossing spot. It still is in use by a railroad, perhaps the Union Pacific.
After crossing, the road out entered a wide wash and the going was easy to a county road to the ghost town of Cochrane. WE took the county road the other way and returned to civilization in Florence AZ