Sunday, January 09, 2022

Buenos Aires NWR to Harshaw, AZ

 Our time in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge was enjoyable, though there was some rather cool weather, including a quite a bit of rain for a day or two.  There was even some good frost some nights!


Really enjoyed getting out on the e-bike, which was great for patrolling the miles and miles of back trails through the refuge.  

I even went as far as the refuge headquarters one day, all on back trails.

Sticking mostly to the well traveled routes was hopefully going to reduce the chances of a tire puncture from the various thorns in the desert.  But one day, about 2-3 miles from camp, I got a flat.  Unlike my previous experience with flat bike tires, this time I did not have to carry the bike for miles.  I was on a good road, and surprised to be able to push it all the way home along the road.  The tire was filled with 'Slime' and aired up, but that did not seem to stop the leak, and no thorns or punctures were found.  I was a bit intimidated about having to remove the back wheel on the hub-drive bike, but after watching the requisite number of Youtube videos, I became an expert bike mechanic! 

 The wheel came off easily, and the problem was found to be a 1/4" tear on the inner portion of the tube, right beside the valve stem.  Without a spare tube on hand, I did a backwoods repair by wrapping the injury with a circle of gorilla tape, and inverted it so the slime could do it's work.  That repair lasted long enough for the next day's ride, but it went flat again overnight :-(.
So, eventually I had to resort to a new tube, and become a bike mechanic again!  Even bought a spare tube this time.
Watch the video of Hailey doing battle with imaginary enemy(s)!  She's still pretty quick for a middle-aged, 3 legged feline.


When we arrived at the refuge, there was only one other camper in the area.  But after New years, the hunters started to show up, and it wasn't long before all the camp spots in the area were full to overflowing, and the number of trucks, atv's, and noisy traffic in the early mornings started to build. 

Border patrol brought an injured person out of the desert in the area, and met the local EMS at the highway jct.

So - it was time to move on.  Besides, we had almost used up our allotted two weeks of free camping, and it was time for a change of scenery.  After a short debate, it was decided to head further east and check out bustling Harshaw, a ghost (!) town near Patagonia.  We had to pass through Nogales on the way, and took the opportunity to stock up on food, fuel, and propane - after missing the turnoff and almost driving into Mexico!

On the way from Nogales to Patagonia was the turnoff to Patagonia Lake State Park.  Wanting to check it out on the way, we drove the very hilly access road, only to find out that they had 'no trespassing' (twice) on their sign at the gate.  The park was clearly open to the public (!), and I think they wanted at $15 day use fee, so we made a quick U-turn and continued on our way.

We continued through Patagonia, and on to the ghost townsite at Harshaw.
There are quite a number of large open camp spots along the road, under some huge old Cottonwood trees.  The last time I camped here was several years ago, and there was a lot of expectation of a new mine opening in the immediate area.
Well, there is certainly a lot of activity now, though I doubt the mine itself will be operating for a year or two.  But during 'rush hour' on this rough section of forest service road there must be 50-60 vehicles an hour, many hauling trailers, rattling and banging their way up the road.  Luckily, most of them are pickups, with a few semis, loaders, vans, even full size buses, water trucks wetting the road down, fuel trucks, border patrol.  No dust, because of the water truck working 24 hrs a day, but not much peace and quiet here - unless you were deaf!
But Hailey loved the trees she could climb.

At one point a lone California Scrub-Jay spotted her in the tree, and called in his whole flock!

 Watch the video for the result!

Very nice country in that area, and because of the mine (?), most of the previously dusty washboard road is now hard surfaced - except for about the last mile, where the camping is!

Main road to the mine under development.

 I guess I'd better not include any aerial shots in this blog post!

We only stayed two nights because of all the traffic, which typically started to get heavy sometime before 5 AM.  Next on the itinerary - another visit to Las Cienegas National Conservation area and the Empire Ranch, near Sonoita, AZ.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge - Caught by refuge volunteers! Boosted in Tucson!

 Why night visitors, Gunsight wash.

Lots of Why coyotes down here, many of them quite vocal at night, and they often come into camp at night to see what they can find.


The next stop on our rather loosely planned agenda was in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, between Sasabe and Arivaca.  We pulled out of Why and headed east through the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation.  Traffic was light, and the road mostly in good condition. Border Patrol had their check-point just west of Three Points, where we turned south on 286, after some fuel and propane replenishment. 

There must be a few houses around here somewhere!


Check out my mail box video!

About 12 miles north of the Mexican border we turned east again on the Sasabe-Arivaca road.  

When we were last down here a few years ago, this section of road was a mine-field of potholes, loose gravel doing it's best to shake your truck and rig apart, despite going very slow. What a pleasure this time to find brand new, perfect pavement; so new in fact that they were still paving some sections ahead.  The Wildlife Refuge only allows camping in designated camp sites, and it has well over 60 sites.  But unlike most such areas, there is no one campground. The sites are widely scattered across miles of different dirt roads all over the refuge!  The closest ones might be 100 yards or 2 miles apart!  Camping is free, with a limit of 14 days.  Check out all the camp sites on the refuge map above.

My preferred spot was vacant, and there was only one other unit in the area. The views are great, and there's enough trees around to hang up the hammock too!


 I soon had the bike out, in preparation for exploring the abundant trails in the area.

Hailey was soon out too, checking to see which trees she could climb.


And soon I was out with my trash picker collecting what little garbage was around - mostly just bottle caps and scraps of various material.  The site was really quite clean, but my intent was to make it even cleaner!
And then, with no warning, the official US Fish &Wildlife Service truck came quietly driving in; and caught me.  Picking trash!  I guess that was their job - as refuge volunteers.  We joked about it a bit, and I swapped my bag of goodies for an empty bag from them.
I visited the refuge headquarters a couple of times, and though the visitor center was officially closed due to covid, the volunteer there was glad to come outside and answer all my questions.

Apparently, the Fish & Wildlife Service purchased the huge ranch in 1985 to establish the reserve.


Located in southern Arizona, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge was established for the reintroduction of masked bobwhite quail and to restore the natural landscapes and native wildlife that depend upon it. 

There are some very old and very cool corrals around the headquarters facilities.

I toured around some the surrounding area and towns of Sasabe and Arivaca with a friend from back home.  And, when the weather was cooperative, it was nice to sit around a fire outside and enjoy the stars.

I took advantage and got my booster shot one day in Tucson.

On the way home, there was a large meeting of enforcement and rescue vehicles, around a vehicle that had apparently exited the road at high speed and rolled several times by the look of it.

As usual, the Border Patrol is active in the area, both on the ground and in the air.

I suspect we'll be here; till we decide to leave :-)

Happy New Year everyone!