Monday, February 27, 2017

Buenos Aires and beyond

That would be Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in south eastern Arizona. 


I had been camping there for a few days, enjoying the novelty of grass and thicker vegetation after the somewhat sparser areas of desert.

Ernie & Deb and their dog Moki joined me for a bit and we hiked and explored some of the trails in the area.


Being close to the border, it is a busy area for undocumented travelers on foot.  We found this water station marked by a flag about 1/4 mile down a side road.  Not sure if it was placed there by border patrol, the refuge, or some other group?


Yep, there’s agua in there all right!


Ernie & Deb departed back north for Tucson, and Hailey and I were on our own again, just in time for the air show!  There were occasional fly-bys of border patrol helicopters, and a few high flying jets, but on this day there were a couple of A-10’s and what I assume are blackhawk helicopters that were doing slow, low level circuits in the area.  I was able to pull out my camera and take a few shots before they departed again.


Even got a wave from the pilot of one of them!image

Meanwhile back in camp, I was curious what type of wildlife might be inhabiting these mounds of dirt with multiple holes in them.  I guess I should have been paying more attention back at the reserve HQ, as it might have been explained there.  In any case, I put my camera out one night to see what might be around.

Here’s the daylight view of the dens.


And here’s what showed up at night.  At first I had no idea what type of creature this was (I was hoping for a coatimundi), but a bit of research showed that the skunks down here have distinctly different colouring than the ones back home.  I suspect the skunk was just as curious about the contents of the den as I was?


When it was time to leave, we headed east through Arivaca along the very twisty turny scenic road and out to I-19.

We headed south towards the border then turned off on Ruby Road out to Pena Blanca lake.  We found an overnight spot not too far past the end of the pavement.  The scenery in the area is quite unique and spectacular, but it seems the camera did not document it this time ;-(.  In spite of the great scenery, the camping options did not overly impress me, so next day it was back in to Nogales to regroup and restock the pantry.

I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of what was for sale at Home Depot!  Pretty sure the stores back home have snowblowers and shovels on sale!


I think this might be my first occasion of urban boondocking this trip, but there is a nice little dead end road behind the Home Depot in Nogales that backs onto brush land, and it served well as a place to spend the night.  How often can you find a place where you can pick up free wi-fi and still hear the coyotes howling close by at night?

I’d passed through Patagonia several years ago, but did not have time to investigate the camping options in the area.

As it turns out, the Bayfield Bunch may have been checking out the town of Patagonia at the same time I was …

So this time, we headed out down Harshaw road to see what we could find.  The road goes in and out of national forest land.  We found a nice spot near ghost town of Harshaw about 2km past the end of the paved area.


After reading the Bayfield Bunch blog, I sent them a note, and sure enough they were able to find me and paid a nice visit.  We have had several close misses this year, but finally connected this time.  We wandered around the old cemetery, and exchanged ‘intelligence’ on camp spots and scenic drives.  You can read all about it on their blog!

For a change, the blog is right up to date!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Getting high in Arizona

I think we were camped way out on Rockhouse Road near Borrego Springs last time I sat down to update the blog …


Well, since then we’ve moved a few times, so here’s the required update …  From Rockhouse we took the 78 route back to the southwest, and just missed the Bayfield Bunch again as they had apparently departed their spot earlier that morning. Down through Brawley, then picked up the I-8 eastbound for Yuma.  It was tempting to stop for the night in the familiar surroundings of Ogilby Rd, but the day was still young and there was work to do. Specifically tire and bearing work.  As usual, we stopped at Ed Whitehead’s tire place on 32nd where I got them to swap out the spare tire, and check all the wheel bearings as I had been feeling a bit of looseness in a couple of them for a while.  Luckily, a bit of an adjustment was all that was required.


Unfortunately, they broke off both bolts holding the spare tire in place.  But better to happen at a tire shop than with a flat tire somewhere on the side of the road.  With all the wheels back on and bearings adjusted, we found the ‘bolt store’ just a couple blocks away and for under $2. got the replacements!


There wasn’t much daylight left after a stop to update the computers at the laundromat.  And while we were there, I thought it was a good idea to do a load of laundry as well.  How convenient to have washers and dryers at the wifi place!  We used to spend a few quiet nights in the vacant Las Barrancas development at the far east end of Yuma, but they’ve finally built some houses there now, so we carried on to some BLM land adjacent to the Barry M Goldwater Range in the same area.

In the morning, we stopped at the convenient library branch at that end of town and found the speeds much better than during previous recent visits.  No washers and dryers though, only screaming kids!

With much of the day so occupied, a late start left just enough time to head eastbound to Gila Bend where the fuel and food intakes were maximized before turning south again.  Gunsight wash at Why was the destination again, but only for an overnighter this time.


I knew that friends Ernie & Deb were camped there, so rousted them out of bed for a morning coffee before heading out.  You’d think they were on vacation or something!  This time our route was eastbound again through the large Tohono O’odham reserve on the way towards Tucson.  Nice views of the Kitts peak observatory from miles back when going this direction, but it was late in the day already and they close tourist facilities at 4PM, unless you have a reservation for an evening tour.  At Three Points/Robles Jct we turned south again on 286, and actually saw a few vehicles on the road that were NOT border patrol!  We were now headed for the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, where I spent some time 4 years ago.  After checking out a few access roads off 286, we ended up in the very same campsite as last time, off the Arivaca road.


Next day involved a tour down to the international border at Sasabe,


and a visit to the refuge headquarters.  From there we took a tour on the aptly named Antelope Loop road, but failed to see anything except some great scenery.  It was starting to get pretty windy in advance of some bad weather, so perhaps all the wildlife was hiding in the washes?

Next couple of days we more or less hunkered down as the rain and windy remnants of the California storms passed through the area.  The weather cleared  so I went off to check out Brown Canyon, but found that the road came to a dreaded sign that said it was State Trust land and access was allowed only with written permission Sad smile.  Erring on the side of caution, it was time to turn around and check out one of the border patrol blue light rescue towers.  As described in previous posts, these are intended to be a last resort for aliens or anyone who finds themselves in distress in these isolated desert areas.  The towers are solar powered and equipped with high intensity blue LED flashers for night time visibility, and shiny, flashing  anemometers for daylight hours.



Next day, as usual we could see Kitts Peak beckoning in the distance, and I had never been there before.  I left Hailey to catch up on her sleep in the rig, while I went off exploring.


It’s a 12 mile drive up from the highway, and the scenery gets more impressive with every turn.  I had thought that there might be just one or two telescopes up there, there the place is just packed with them – I think over 20 of them, virtually all run by various universities.


They have free tours every day, and I took in two of them and found them quite informative.  On some tours, you get to go right inside the telescopes, and they even turned the top of the biggest one, on our request!  Pretty cool.


I took a 360 degree photo from one of the highest points.   It’s now live on Google.  Google used to call them Photospheres, but now they just call them ‘Streetview’ which is confusing if you ask me.  Click ‘here’, or on the photo below for the full 360x360 effect.

Kitt Peak


This is the biggest of them all at 180 feet tall, and you get to go right inside and ride the elevator up to the telescope level.  There is a 360 degree observation deck with outstanding views of both the mountain top and for miles in all directions. Those are windows, just below the rim of the silver dome where you can look out.  IMG_1947


Most of the telescopes are operated remotely, but there are also onsite astronomers sleeping the days away in their dorm rooms.


Just as I was headed down the exit road, I ran into friends Ernie & Deb again who had just gotten back from a visit to Puerto Penasco.  It was late in the day, but I gave them a personal tour up into the big dome!  After that it wasn’t too hard to convince them to follow me back to my camp spot in the National Wildlife Refuge.


There was lots of action down there, and strange wildlife visitor at night, but I’ll save that for the next post!