Drive US 191 north through the eastern part of the state and you’re exposed to a slice of the vast diversity that makes up the state of Arizona. The road rises from the scrubby floor of the San Simon Valley into the heart of Arizona’s copper country. As you climb, you pass through the vast, open-pit copper mines of Morenci and Clifton. The mountains have been transformed into inverted pyramids of marbled horizontal shelves. It’s hard not to stare in both horror and awe at the raw kaleidoscope of peach, rust, sage, and slate gray. Beyond the mines, you see the mountains as they looked before their minerals were dug out—rugged, rocky hills dotted green with juniper and pinyon pine. The higher the elevation, the lower the air temperature becomes.
After 27 miles of breathtaking views and heart-stopping drops, which have probably taken more than an hour to navigate, you reach the turn for Juan Miller Road. Two tiny campgrounds patiently wait for anyone willing to come this far to visit. Upper Juan Miller comes first, and the tight stream crossing easily weeds out the unadventurous and the ponderous. Here you find four sites in a tight loop on hilly, uneven ground. The dense undergrowth and lack of good tent spots make this green Civilian Conservation Corps gem far more suitable for picnics than camping.
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