On Saturday, Hal and I started late in the day, but still managed to get in an interesting ride and visit a place we hadn’t been to before – Castle Hot Springs Road.
We started late that day because of Hal having to wait for “the cable guy.” True to form, they didn’t show up when they were supposed to, and were going to make him wait all day. He rescheduled instead of using up a perfectly good Saturday to wait, maybe fruitlessly, for the cable guy. (“Thanks,” Cox Cable.)
We were both mounted on our Suzuki DR650s, and we left the west side of Phoenix around 12:30 p.m. after I rode through the heart of the city in horrendous traffic. After fueling up at 7th Ave. and the 101 Loop, we headed for I-17, and then the Lake Pleasant exit, Hwy. 74. After a few miles on the 74, I saw a sign at the Lake Pleasant turnoff that said “Castle Hot Springs Rd.” I wondered why we weren’t turning there, but Hal had explained to me that we had to ride almost to where 74 intersected with the 60 just east of Wickenburg. Hmmmm, I thought, maybe it’s a loop. That would be cool!
We passed the Boulders, another great place for off-road fun, and soon we were at Castle Hot Springs Rd. We turned north, and found a mile or so of paved road, and then we were on a wide, graded road for a few miles. Then, the road narrowed after a sign that bore the message “Primitive road …” in other words, not regularly graded, and maybe a little rough.
As is usual when we get up into mountainous terrain, the road narrowed, there were a few rough spots, there were ledges to traverse, and the road rose and descended, in some places rather steeply. As I was unfamiliar with the road, I went fairly slowly, mapping it in my head. Then, we came to what we would think of as the highlight of the ride.
We descended to what I think was Castle Creek, and soon found ourselves in a narrow canyon with towering walls on both sides. We were riding through shallow but flowing water, and there were a few potholes to negotiate. I flipped my dark-tinted visor open because it was so dark in the shadows that I needed to see better to choose a good line. It was a short stretch, and over too quickly, and the enjoyment of it was fleeting because I was paying attention to my riding, not as much to the beauty surrounding me. The high stone walls were red-brown with areas of the black “varnish” that is prevalent on rocks of this type. The riverbed was gravelly, but the rocks weren’t very big. If this had been a wet year, I am sure we would not have been able to travel through this stretch of the road at all.
Leaving that section behind, we ascended and descended a few more times, then we stopped at the entrance to a ranch perched on one of the higher sections. From there we could see the road winding down again, and we consulted our maps. We do not use GPS, and judging from the map, we were about halfway through the loop.
“Want to just keep going?” Hal asked.
“Yes! Why not? We’re here!” I said enthusiastically. Lately, we don’t seem have too many opportunities to ride, and who knew when we’d be back here again? One thing I did regret is that I hadn’t brought the GoPro camera to record our passage through the high-walled canyon.
We got back on the bikes, wound down the descent we’d seen from the top, and soon we were at the intersection of two roads, Castle Hot Springs and the road that goes to Crown King. That road is notoriously rough and farther up, is supposed to be washed out from last spring’s rains. We took a break and shed a few layers of clothing as it was in the high 70s F., and riding in the dirt is always warmer than on the street. A mile farther on the road there was a great place for photos. A few abandoned buildings huddled on the side of the road, and we stopped again, but this time to take photos.
I thought the group of buildings was part of the Castle Hot Springs resort, and later I found out that they were. We spent a few minutes taking photographs, and then we got back on the bikes. After another mile of riding up the road, we found the main part of the resort:
We found it much different from what I had seen on the internet. I was a little bit disappointed because I thought it would be more interesting, and that we would have access to it, or at least be able to go a little closer. It was a famous resort in the 1920s, and many famous people from the time period visited there. It has been steadily declining since the 1970s.
Outbuildings and palms. The concrete wall in the foreground is a tall barrier between the resort and the river:
Here is a sample of what I saw when I researched the resort before we went on the ride:
The rest of the ride followed Castle Creek, the road graded and easy all the way back to Lake Pleasant.
We followed what became the park road back to Hwy. 74, and soon we were on the interstate headed back into Phoenix. You just gotta love a bike that can go through rocks and water, then an hour later be doing 80 mph to keep up with the traffic on the interstate! No wonder the DR650 is so popular as an around-the-world bike.
We finished the afternoon with a late lunch at Deer Valley Airport, a favorite, and then after taking a few photos of planes at sunset, we headed home.