Greenlee County High Point Trip Report

Date: March 2, 2004
Author: Jerry Brekhus

We set out on US 191 from Safford for Greenlee County's high point. Although warned by Andy Martin that the road might not be plowed, we were really amazed by the adventure that followed.

Scott Surgent's trip report from January 2000 describing the highway (highway?) north of Clifton is not exaggerated. US Highway 191 north of Clifton is an experience -- many curves marked down to as low as 10 mph. Fortunately, the narrowest, most serpentine part of the road was mostly bare, but as we approached the high point, it snowed a lot. More snow than we have seen on roads in Montana in the last few years. We couldn't park off the road near the HP, so we went back south about a mile where I managed to get the Blazer most of the way off the highway on to an unplowed forest road. I wanted to leave room on the highway for snowplows in the snow that was deep enough to cause cars to drag bottom. We had so far seen only one car and one Forest Service pickup in more than two hours, the time required to go about 60 miles. Despite the falling snow, we set out for the HP. Nearly a mile walking on the highway (no traffic, none, nada). Then we had a very pleasant tromp on wonderful snow about 0.25 mile to the 9441-foot meadow. I guess 9,444 feet with the snow on it. We saw the fence, barely poking up through the snow. Snowshoe tracks left by Scott and Beth a week before were long since covered.

While snowshoeing alongside the highway back to the parking spot, we saw one car. The brave or lost (?) souls gave us a friendly wave. Our tracks from an hour earlier were still visible, but looked a day old.

We continued north in the Hannagan Meadows area. A car rapidly approached from behind. I pulled aside to let it pass. A quarter-mile later we came to the young couple, where they had skidded off the road. It looked hopeless, but we lent them our shovel, and they were able to get the front-wheel drive back on the road. The driver said his mom in Albuquerque told him that 191 would be the fastest way to Albuquerque! He chose to follow us to Alpine.

Only when we got down to Alpine did we learn that this highway through the White (Knuckle) Mountains is not plowed during snowstorms! In winter, the road is the crux. The road from Alpine to the HP is better than from Clifton, but snow conditions were worse at the time we were there. The guy that slid off the road may have been trying to drive the posted 50 MPH speed limit on that section.

See Scott Surgent's web page for an excellent description with photos of the visit he and Beth made ten days ahead of us, when they encountered similar conditions.