The beauty and wildness and ever changing landscape in the bit of Arizona we’ve been traveling is wonderful. With elevation changes and just curves in the road, the geology and flora changes, often radically. The minerals in the rock means that color variations can be both subtle and stark, but also beautiful. Those minerals also mean there are mines all over the state and most are huge and very destructive. We know we need the materials, but we also believe our stewardship of this land means we must not take and not repair regardless of inconvenience or cost.
So hang onto your hat as we cover a lot of ground and add places to your MVL (MUST VISIT LIST 🙂 )!!
We did our first boondocking outside of Why, AZ, a tiny blink of a town at the “Y” intersections of State Hwy 85 and 86. The USPS being what they are would not let the local folks have the name Y for their town because a town has to have at least 3 letters…go figure …hence…Why. Boondocking mostly on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), National Forests, State Land Trust lands means 98% of the time, no fees, no hook-ups (water, electric, sewer) and no “real” camping sites. Just pick an obviously used spot (worn, probably with a stone fire ring) and claim it as your own, but not too close to your neighbors if there happens to be some, and at Why there were. We found a nice spot with a tree and heard our first coyotes….all good.
By the way, we have been told that the only Kyy-Oh-Tee is the one named Wiley. A hard habit to break, the proper pronunciation is Kyy-Oat.
We visited Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which shares a long border with Mexico. The Border Patrol are ALL OVER southern Arizona and we often go through their road check points. Here in Organ Pipe we chatted with two officers heading out on horseback to do their thing. These horses are wild mustangs who are naturally strong and “smart” about the desert. After being caught they are broken & trained by prison inmates and then given to the USBP.
At the Visitors Center, we had to talk our way into being allowed to take our RV (technically 3 feet too long) onto one of the two loop roads through the park. It’s beautiful and we had a great time. Put on your MUST VISIT LIST. (but only in a car).
On our way to Painted Rocks we passed through Gila Bend… don’t bother with the town but west of there is the Solana Generating Station and miles and miles of irrigated alfalfa fields that are next to a huge factory dairy cow operation.
Then we reversed directions and went east over RT 238 to Maricopa and eventually to AZ 60 and the Tonto National Forest for the night. Put this National Forest on your MVL!! Just beautiful!! We boondocked at Oak Flat Campground.
This land is sacred to the Apache and is under direct attack by the mining interests and sneaky political tactics. In fact the evening we were there while out for our walk we passed a young Indian doing some quiet ceremony next to a huge “bowl” in the local landscape. The place just felt special.
We went to Globe for lunch and happened into the Drift Inn, a local saloon that’s been in business since 1902 and is quite colorful.
Also in Globe we went to the Besh Ba Gowah Ruins. This small ancient pueblo and the little museum are excellent and should be on your MVL.
Being children in the 1950’s/’60’s we know all about “duck and cover” and the next day to our surprise we saw a sign for the Titan Missile Museum. Of course we had to visit. It holds the very last of 54 Titan II Ballistic Missiles in its silo! Yes, not only disarmed but with a hole cut in the cone so the world’s satellites can see that it is! The installation is exactly as it was when it was operational (minus the bomb and rocket fuel) and part of the tour includes a simulated (to an extent) launching of the missile. The tour guide randomly picks someone to be Commander, one of the two people who had to turn the launch keys. As it turns out the woman who “helped” launch the missile emigrated from the Soviet Union 30 years ago! She admitted to us later she was a little freaked out by the whole launch experience. Put this tour on your MVL, very interesting.
We drove across the Box Canyon Rd Hwy 62 to Sonoita. While in hindsight we know we were foolhardy to have taken this 23 mile narrow, windy, twisty dirt road, the drive was magnificent and we survived! At the top of the canyon at 4000 ft. elevation, the surprise is that there are extensive grass lands and cattle ranches across large rolling hills. It is very pretty and a welcomed change from cactus and barren dust and rock.
The last tour we’ve done was at the Kartchner Caverns State Park, which by the way is a lovely campground. These unknown caverns were discovered in 1974 by two young spelunkers, who not only kept this living cave’s location secret but managed over the course of 14 years to keep their find hidden from the general public. Along with the Kartchner family they persuaded the State to buy the land from the family and with huge expense and creativity to safely open it to the public while preserving its pristine and unique formations. Ed and I both separately and together did some caving in our teens and 20’s we cannot believe the beauty of the place and the vast amount of effort it took to open it to tours while not inhibiting or altering its continued growth! It’s an absolutely fabulous story and an extremely beautiful cave. Put this on your MUST VISIT LIST!!! (sorry, no photos allowed but the web link will show you some)
We are back at Catalina State Park where after the rains of two weeks ago the hills are actually showing some green. We are here for a few days of R&R and housekeeping chores. We even went to an RV show! We’re loving Arizona and hope you’re enjoying Ed’s photographs.