After our departure from Quartzsite and the big show, we had skirted around Tucson to the west, and overnighted on BLM land in the Ironwood National Monument. Next day, after a brief stop at the Saguaro National Park visitor center, we continued on south and west down the 286 highway towards Sasabe. We passed through the Border Patrol checkpoint, and though there were three or four trucks parked nearby, there was not an officer to be seen. I guess it was either coffee break, or they were all out chasing someone in the brush!
At milepost 12 we turned eastbound onto the Sasabe-Arivaca road, entering the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Having camped in the area several times before, we had a pretty good idea where to camp. Camping is only permitted in designated spots, but there are over 40 camp sites designated, spread out over miles of trails.
One of the roads leading north from the highway had been freshly graded, and provided a nice variety of spots, most with a decent view from the top of the low ridge. As a reminder that the area sees a fair bit of action from illegal aliens and smugglers, we found an abandoned selection of carpet bottomed shoe covers used to help disguise the tracks when crossing the border.
Sent the air patrol up for a look around, but not a UDA to be seen anywhere!
There are lots of these apparently uninhabited mounds around, but I don’t know what type of creature creates them?
I have seen prairie dogs in the refuge, but they were all out on flat ground with essentially no mounds at all.
The bird feeders were once again unsuccessful in attracting birds, but they did seem to get the attention of the wasps!
A dish of water I put out attracted them too, many fatally.
I bravely moved the feeder full of wasps to a distant location – without incident, but some kept hanging around the area.
It looked like even the queen had come to check out the possibilities of moving in!
South of the village of Arivaca is Arivaca Lake. Never having been there, an exploratory trip was in order. Most of the way is paved, but the last 2.3 miles is very rocky and wash board, and not much to my liking. The road ends at the boat launch – where a sign informs one that the road is ‘not maintained’ beyond that point. Pretty sure I could have figured that out! The lake seemed popular with local anglers, but it will not be added to my list of potential camp spots.
Later in the day, a short hike was in order just at the edge of town, the Arivaca Cienega trail. Seasonally, I suspect the area fills with water and attracts waterfowl, etc, but there was not a drop of water to be seen. Even so, there was a lot of small bird life and a few raptors, perched high in the old cottonwoods.
On the way back to camp, the border patrol mounted unit was standing by, ready for action.
Checking out possible new campsites on freecampsites.net, and surfing around on Google Earth, showed a few promising spots east of us, and on the east side of Interstate 19. We passed through Arivaca, noting the immigrant friendly storefronts.
Across the Interstate, the roads leading up to the Whipple Observatory looked like they held great promise. There were a couple of decent looking spots, and the view over the valley was excellent, but most of them were thickly surrounded by cholla cactus – not at all friendly for little feline feet. We visited the visitor center at the observatory, and found an adequate overnight spot, safe for a cat on a leash.
It may seem strange to see road signs in the US in kilometers, but I-19 from Tucson down to the Mexican border at Nogales has all metric signs.
A short drive north on I-19 got us to Sahuarita, where the food, fuel, and propane supplies were replenished. We found some very helpful folks there. While fueling up at the pumps, I asked the guy at the next pump if he was perhaps a local as I was looking for some propane. He said that he wasn’t, but when he came back from paying for his fuel, he had asked the attendant on my behalf and came back with some leads! A few minutes later, I was across the street at another gas station, parked off to the side ready to google me up some propane locations when I fellow at the pumps yelled over to see if I was waiting for the diesel pump. I thanked him and said I was looking for propane. When he had finished fueling, he came over and told me about a Tractor Supply store a few miles back that had propane! Two very nice chaps who went out of their way to help out.
Next, we took a short cut eastbound to highway 83, then turned south towards Sonoita. I had camped before on BLM land down the E Gardner Canyon road in a little valley. The first part in off the highway is state trust land – which I now have a annual permit to camp on. But the road was a bit rough, and dusty, and I wasn’t getting any AT&T signal, so decided to move on to other areas nearby.
That brought us to the beautifully scenic Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, formerly part of the Empire Ranch, one of the largest in Arizona at 180 sq miles. The road into the old ranch headquarters is paved and leads off highway 83, but we continued on south to Sonoita, then east again on 82 to the southern entry point. When I first discovered this area several years ago, this road was pretty rough and rocky. Now however, it is in pretty good shape for a gravel/dirt road. After a ways north and off on a side trail we found a great spot to set up.
I knew there was supposed to be antelope in the area, but was pleased to see a couple small herd spending time in the immediate area.
Weather was warm and sunny, so I was leaving the truck doors open during the day to keep the interior cooler (more on this later!).
I heard a horse whinny one afternoon, and saw that a local horse couple had a couple of loose horses that were playing games and didn’t want to be caught! They were sort of following the owners horse trailer down the road, but would run off when approached. Having a fair bit of horse experience catching loose horses when using them to patrol in the national parks back at home, I thought I might be able to assist. I quickly pulled on my wranglers, boots, a pair of gloves and headed out after the runaways! As it turns out, the horses saw me coming and gave themselves up to the owners about 30 seconds before I got there!
Reading the blogs later that evening, who do I see has moved into the area just north of me near the old ranch HQ? Well, none other than the Bayfield Bunch! As it turns out they were in that same area last year, and I had pulled in just a day or two after they left. Well, this year I beat them to it.
So who shows up at my camp the next morning? Well, none other than Al and Pheebs on their morning coffee and photo patrol.
We had a good chat and got caught up on a few topics, and even had a visit by some more antelope while chatting.
Later that evening, just after dusk, I saw headlights approaching my camp slowly, go just past, then slowly turn around and come back. It was the Border Patrol! I went out quickly to see what was going on, picturing in my mind a large crowd of aliens who surely must be approaching at any minute. Turns out that someone had reported my truck sitting there for two days (abandoned?) with the doors left open, and they came by just make sure I was alright!
Anyway, since AL had visited and mentioned me in his blog, I thought I’d better get busy and update mine, since it is often a few weeks behind. First thing in the morning (well, before noon anyway), I was hard at work starting this blog post when I heard another vehicle pull into my site and stop. Well much to my surprise, it was Al, Pheebs, and Kelly as well this time. And they came bearing gifts! Thanks Al.
They were off on a day trip down to Patagonia. They said that they had had their own border patrol encounter last nite. But we will all have to wait till his post tonight to find out what happened.
On that note, this blog post will come to an end, and Hailey and I will likely head on down into Sierra Vista to visit some friends there.