Finding Montana in Arizona

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Experience the sweeping open range of Montana in southeastern Arizona. What? I bet you think this baby boomer traveler has lost her mind.

A dirt road points to adventure near Sonoita

If Tucson, Arizona is on your list of boomer travel destinations, save time for an off-the-beaten-path road trip to Parker Canyon Lake in the Coronado National Forest. I promise, you’ll find scenery that any Montana cowboy would call home.

As you travel east on I-10, Tucson’s iconic saguaros begin to disappear from the landscape. Once you’ve turned south onto Highway 83, the grasses of the high desert become more prominent with each twist and turn in the road. By the time the car approaches Sonoita, you’ll swear that you’ve found a shortcut to Montana.

Parker Canyon Lake

After the road takes a sweeping right-hand curve near Elgin, it winds 25 miles through rolling hills to Parker Canyon Lake. Numerous potholes will encourage you to slow down and enjoy the ride. But that’s ok. You don’t want to miss the scenery, including the Canelo Cowboy Church housed in an old schoolhouse. And, three water crossings add a bit of adventure to the drive, although you’ll need to be careful during monsoon season.

What’s there to do once you reach Parker Canyon Lake? Well, that depends. Hikers will enjoy ambling along the 5-mile lakeside trail looking for wildlife. Take time to rest on one of the benches placed strategically along the trail. Is that an osprey landing on the water? Were you the lucky one who spotted a bald eagle? This area of Arizona is prime bird watching territory.

Anglers fish for bass, trout or catfish, either from the pier or in a four-stroke motor boat, which can be rented at the solar-powered Mercantile and Marina Store. Kayaks and rowboats are also available for rent.

The Porsche parade at Parker Canyon Lake

Alan and I zipped along Highway 83 to Parker Canyon Lake on a sports car road trip sponsored by the Southern Arizona Region chapter of Porsche Clubs of America. The mix of antique and newer Porsches made quite a colorful show lined up in the marina’s parking lot, when we stopped for a picnic lunch.

Later, we roared back down the road to Elgin, for winery tours at Kief-Joshua Vineyards and the Wilhelm Family Vineyards. That’s right, this is Arizona’s wine country too. But, that’s a story for another day.

Have you explored the area around Parker Canyon Lake? Post a comment to share your baby boomer travel advice. Alan and I noticed several bed and breakfasts that look like a possibility for our next visit. We’re anxious to return for a four-wheel-drive road trip adventure.

A word of warning. This area of Arizona is close to the border with Mexico. You will see border patrol. You could also see drug smugglers, human traffickers or people illegally crossing into the United States. Do not pick up hitchhikers.

Parker Canyon Lake is visited by enough fishermen, campers, tourists and groups to be fairly safe. However, if you’re exploring off-road, travel in a caravan with one or two other cars. Don’t venture out alone.

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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