Press On!

...But Don't Get Squashed Flat By The One-Million-Pound Truck.
By Kevin Franklin

THERE'S MORE THAN one way to say "no trespassing." For one, a stretch of land can have a menacing, you-don't-belong-here kind of atmosphere. Or a property owner can come right out and post a sign.

Out There Sometimes, as in the case of Horrel Creek Canyon in the Superstition Mountains, you find both. But even then, they don't always mean it.

The access to Horrel Creek is through the Pinto Valley mine. Formally a Magma operation, now BHP, the mine is between Highway 60 and U.S. Forest Service Road 287. The public road stretches just 100 yards short of the mine's guard gate and then takes a sharp left. A lot of folks turn back here, believing they're driving onto mine property.

While some mine vehicles do use the road, and it cuts right across some tailings piles, it is in fact a public road. However, as we drive through we do so cautiously, constantly keeping an eye out for the small white signs reading "Public Access Road" with an arrow. This is an active mine, and carelessly crossing through it could cost you your life.

Inside the mine there are 20 haul trucks, some of them rated for carrying 190 tons of rock. That's 380,000 pounds. Factor in the truck's weight, about another 200 tons, and you have a moving vehicle weighing close to three-quarters of a million pounds. The tires on a haul truck are about 10 feet high and would crush one of those "monster trucks" at the Tucson Convention Center like a boulder on a beach ball. Obviously, these rigs do not stop on a dime.

For added excitement, the haul roads are left-hand drive. The haul truck drivers cannot judge the truck's position very well from the left-side cab, so they navigate by watching the left shoulder of the road.

You'd have to be some kind of idiot to miss all the signs warning you away from the haul roads, but if you somehow managed to get on one--get off quick. If you're lost, move off the main road and wait for a mine employee to show you the way out. Frantically racing around a bend on the wrong side of the road and into a haul truck is the last mistake you'd ever make.

Driving through the mine is like visiting some futuristic industrial complex on another planet. Giant dunes of crushed rock and miles of mammoth piping line the road. Strange-colored tailings ponds and old, rusted equipment are scattered around.

It would be easy to criticize this place as some horrific moonscape where industry has gone mad. But you and I are as much involved in creating this place as the drillers. If you wanted to cry foul and at the same time avoid hypocrisy, you'd have to get out of your truck (almost entirely produced from mine materials) and walk home. Of course, once there you couldn't turn on the lights, take a hot shower or heat anything in the microwave--all those use lots of copper. As a geologist friend of mine is fond of saying to critics dressed in an "alternative" style, "Your nose ring came from my mine."

Of course, there are many places mines don't belong, and it never hurts to have a vigilant public making sure they follow environmental safeguards. But if you're going to put a mine somewhere, around Globe is a pretty good place to do it. The infrastructure is already in place and a multitude of mines have operated there. Several continue working today.

In any event, we survive our adventure through the mine. The bonus of having to traverse a network of constantly changing roads? It scares off a lot of folks.

Once on FS 287, the transformation from war zone to riparian area is remarkable.

A tenth of a mile past a rickety steel bridge, FS 287A bears left. We continue straight for 2.5 miles to a cattle guard. Here's where we find the "No Trespassing" sign. However, as is often the case with these ranch roads, the sign means no trespassing on their property. The road is open as long as you leave the gates as you find them. This assumption is validated with a later conversation with the ranch manager.

After the cattle guard, stay to the left and away from the ranch house. A quarter mile past the cattle guard, you come to a series of three gates. A half-mile TW

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