We passed a barrier used to close the road when rain makes the clay surface impassable. There was no hint of rain today, but the road was rutted and dusty, and the numerous washes were strewn with rocks and basketball-size boulders, testifying to the powerful effects of a flash flood.

We passed the junction of Glenn Spring Road, a route we'd driven last winter, and continued on toward Mariscal. We were now about 20 miles from our starting point on paved road and the abandoned rock and adobe buildings of Mariscal Mine came into view.

We hiked up the edge of Mariscal Mountain to the old stone buildings where the furnace and condensers were located. At the edge of the trail, a rusted car body surrounded by pricklypear cactus and creosote bush seemed to symbolize the history of this place and the hard-working men and women who extracted a living from the rocky soil.

A mile west of Mariscal Mine, we came to a wash with a 90-degree stone ledge 12-14 inches high on the opposite side. After a moment of hesitation, I shifted into low gear and eased GGRRRR-1 up to the ledge, while holding one foot on the brake and the other on the throttle. I felt the front tires bite, and our big truck climbed up over the ledge and loose rocks. From the top of the hill, we could see Crown Mountain in the distance and the mountains of Mexico to our south across the Rio Grande.

We continued to cross washes (I lost count at 20) and up steep banks covered with loose rocks. Even in dry weather, four-wheel drive and high clearance were necessary to manage this section of road. The road was now one lane and so narrow in places that the brush scraped the mirrors on both sides of our truck. Thirty miles from the pavement, we drove past another barrier for road closures.