January 25, 2021

Miller Canyon Winter Exploration

I knew there would not be that much snow "up there" yet. I knew from growing up in Indiana with a VW bug that they were good in snow. I had no doubt that I could make it to the turn around on Miller Canyon. Based on what the weather was like would determined if I went to Montezuma Pass. I waited for two cups of coffee to be consumed, let the hounds and the dog out a few times and then grabbed my Nikon, my iPhone and took off.

The closer I got to leaving the darker the clouds got. I expected a lot more snow than what I drove into. It wasn't the icy roads so much or the chance of storms but the very strong winds were from the S-SW and they had me all over the highway. I was use to that but it was a two hands on the wheel type of drive.

It looks good at the start of the dirt road but just remember as elevation increases the colder it gets. My watch at the time said it was 35° but with that low 1st gear I had no doubts I could make it to the parking lot at the end of the road, which is blocked by private party and a gate telling you this is as far as you can go.

I pulled into the large lower parking lot. It was barely snowing. Those tires did not even get muddy after making the trip so far. Up ahead I saw three Spinter Vans that obviously had spent the night camping in solitude. 

With the clouds blowing in, I wasn't sure how much time I would have. I will never forget what my neighbor told me when I moved here. He is an experienced hiker. He told me when seeing the mountains covered in gray clouds to make sure I make it down the mountain by 12:30pm otherwise I might find myself stranded up at the top when it is monsoon season or snowing in the winter. I have never forgotten that bit of advice and I would rather be safe than sorry. I keep the time in mind as I moved up the dirt road.

With the temps barely above 32° it was only slick and icy in the shady spots. Crawling up in 1st gear wasn't even a challenge for the VW bug.

Of course the best photos were the ones I could not take. I had to keep both hands on the steering wheel and there really wasn't a safe place to stop the car to take a photo. I could see fresh tire tracks on the road so I never knew if I might meet them if they were coming down.

This is right after you make the turn in the parking lot to head back down. Private property up ahead and their road is gated off at the edge of this parking lot. Hiking trails are to the left there.

Going back down was not a problem. I had met one hiker that camped out all night up here. Another was a truck I had seen in front of me as I was driving to the top. They had pulled over on the way up to let me by. They were going to film some of their mountain bike riding on the trails. One had his bike, the other had the video camera. By the time we were finished talking it was down to 32° and the dark grey clouds were rolling in. I headed back down the road with plans to head to Coronado NF, at least to the visitor center.

Sierra Vista is in that valley to the left of center.

There were a few times I dropped it into second gear but most of the time took my time and kept traction by using first gear.

I just turned in front of the Coronado Memorial sign and the wind was howling through all that open space. I could barely hold my iPhone steady and was not much better with the Nikon to take pictures.

Looking toward Mexico.

You can see the new wall that is going across the photo halfway up the photo. It is beautiful country in this part of Cochise County.

Looking in the direction I would be going, trying to tell if it is a good idea to head that way. Winter Storm warnings had said 11am would be the magic hour and it was only 10:37am when I took this photo. I decided to get back inside the "82E" (my name for the bug) and head toward those dark clouds. The visitor center wasn't that far away.

One last photo before I go.

You can see some snow flakes but nothing like I thought it might be like after seeing those dark clouds and knowing how cold it was up here. I needed one of those overpriced energy bars they sell. My breakfast did not go to far with it being two cups of coffee and a banana. I like the ground clearance of the 82E. 

By the time I returned to the car it was snowing harder as you can see the white flakes. I headed back to town instead of being adventurous and head to the top of Montezuma pass. 

For the 5th time in a row ... Stella has passed her major test of being a true house dog. Some of you may remember in the past that she would tear down my vertical blinds in the living room while I was gone, even when leaving the back door open to the yard. With cold weather I keep that patio door closed. Henry is now staying in Stella's large crate indoors and Walter only likes his crate and runs inside on his own. He likes staying there better than outside. So once again today, I walk in the house with zero damage and my vertical blinds intact. Stella is a happy dog that she can roam free inside while I am gone.

Hot coffee was the first priority as I downloaded and chose what photos to use for this post. I love what this car can do and so far it has done just what I expected it to do. It's quite a vehicle. The real snow will start tonight after midnight and will continue through Tuesday morning. I will try to get new photos of that and I might take a 4x4 with me the next time.

It is cold out here in the 'Wild West'.


  1. Great photos and really terrific when a vehicle responds the way you want it to. We've nearly 3 feet of white stuff since Friday. Overnight it was another 14 plus inches. Lots of shoveling has been filling my days. Plow didn't make it today, hopefully tomorrow. The mountain was all but closed down today. Have a reprieve for the next two days and then more on Thursday and Friday.

    1. I hope you have food stored for days like this or weeks. Stay safe and watch yourself shoveling snow. I know how it is wanting to finish the drive or the sidewalks and sometimes over exerting yourself. Been there done that. People are freaking out here and we only have ground cover. LOL

  2. Great photos of your "new" VW and the snow. Guess we will be happy with this rain and fairly stable temps, highs in the 40's lows in the 30's. Seems to be going up slightly this week, with a little more rain. Glad it's not snow. Watch out for sliding cars, most folks don't know how to drive in even a little snow.

    1. I just said that in tonigh't post. (Tuesday) ... heard reports of cars sliding through the intersection on Hwy 92 and Kachina this morning. I like your temps, just not the rain. LOL