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!


  1. You can get an Arizona State Trust Land permit on line, but you will have to spring for it, $21 for a family, but if you hide Hailey it will be a little cheaper.

  2. we took that road through the reservation and passed Kitt's Peak and it was calling me too. May just have to visit before we leave Tuccson...