Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Let me first give you a few statistics of the an area we traveled and hiked in today just west of Ajo Arizona.  The CABEZA PRIETA is the 3rd largest Refuge area in the United States outside of Alaska.  It is 60 miles long by 26 miles wide and encloses 860,000 acres.  The Refuge shares a 56 mile border with Mexico.  Temperatures here can reach a hundred degrees for 90 days straight in the summer months.  Hundreds of people and countless animals perished crossing the Cabeza Prieta during the 1849 California Gold Rush.
We set out on the late side this morning arriving at the Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center about 9:40.  Forms had to be filled out before we were issued our permits to travel on the Wildlife Refuge and a 20 minute video was recommended prior to heading out. 
At 10:20 we left the smooth pavement of Rasmussen street in Ajo and headed out on the long dusty 17 mile gravely and rutted road to Charlie Bell’s Pass.  This road is rough with sections of washboard that will scramble your shorts.  Many dry sandy washes are crossed and a few sections of road were partially washed out but navigable.  I was glad we were driving a 4WD Jeep.
I would say the first two thirds of the tire bruising road are the best with the last third being very rock infested.  This last section of road will definitely have you leaving some of your vehicles rubber behind in the Prieta.
Lots of Saguaro Cactus and Cholla plants along the way and the drive is scenic but if you want more scenic, less bumpy, and a much shorter drive I would recommend you do the Darby Wells loop drive which also runs out of Ajo and is just south of the Wildlife Refuge.
At times on this road I was in the bottom end of first gear crawling along over the rocks or easing down into or out of rutted dry washes.  It took us one hour and 40 minutes to travel 17 miles to the trailhead at Charlie Bell Pass.
We had not thought this out very well because it was sliding into the hottest part of the day and here we were about to descend on foot down a rough and rugged trail leading a long way below to the floor of Growler Valley between a gap in the Growler Mountains.  It is reported that famed naturalist writer Edward Abbey is buried somewhere in the Growlers just to the south of where we hiked today. 
Our downward trek was a mile and a half of ankle twisting loose gravel, rocks and small boulders.  Very few flat level sections anywhere.  We reached the Valley floor and kept plodding west. We were hoping to eventually reach a windmill and a bunch of nearby Petroglyphs.
DSC_0063 DSC_0053
We were told by the Ranger at the Visitor’s Center this is an active area for Mexican illegals moving through the area and if we see any unusual activity around the well we were to turn around immediately and return back up and out of the Valley.  We figured we had gone about a mile and a quarter when our hike came to a halt.
There was Border Patrol personnel and vehicles ahead.  Not wanting to walk into something we shouldn’t be walking into we decided to quietly turn around and return from whence we had come.  We figured Border Patrol activity way out here in the middle of nowhere constituted unusual activity.
It was a hot exhausting climb back up that rocky trail with the warm mid day sun on our backs and no cooling breezes to cool us off.  Took a short break about two thirds of the way up and then made the hard slog for the top along the steepest and ruggedest part of the trail.  Needless to say we were happy to see the Jeep hove into sight and how great it was to take off the two heavy cameras I was carrying and flop into the soft cushy Jeep seat. 
We didn’t waste any time sight seeing on the way back out of the Refuge and it only took us 50 minutes to reach Ajo.  We had been away from the doggy guys back at the rig longer than anticipated and we were anxious to get back.  It was the longest time we had left Pheebs so far.  We knew Motor would be fine but we were a little concerned about the Pheebs.  Let’s just say we had the desert hammer down and had a fun and super bouncy drive back through the desert to Ajo:))
Glad to get back to the rig and find the gang just fine.  Pheebs had managed to pull a few potatoes out of a closet but other than that everything was honky-dorry.  It’s always a great big happy and slurpy reunion every time we come home.
And, a few words about Monday night’s blog.  It has been brought to my attention that from time to time I get myself just a little too over the top, a little too enthusiastic, and a little too excitedly opinionated about my love of the boon docking lifestyle.  It has been suggested it is a topic I talk about too much.  Reluctantly, I have to agree and it’s a topic I will try to curb my enthusiasm and opinions about in the future.  Sometimes some of us fellers have to have a few things pointed out to us now and again eh:))
GROANER’S CORNER:((     After hearing a speech on motivating employees, the owner of a large business posted signs that read ‘DO IT NOW’ on the wall of every department at the office. It was impossible for the employees not to see them all through the day.
A friend dropped by a week later. Seeing the signs, he asked if the scheme really worked.
Well, says the business owner, not exactly the way I thought it would. The cashier ran off with $20,000, the office manager eloped with my secretary and the rest of the employees asked for raises!

-Tourists see the world, travelers  experience it.
-Until one has loved an Animal, their  soul remains un-awakened.
BAYFIELD BUNCH PHOTO ALBUMS https://picasaweb.google.com/117858411710794543295
The only thing better than right now  will someday be the memories of
right  now...AL.


~~Sue and Doug~~ said...

looks like it was a great jeeping day!!..now as for the comment with regards to your 'enthusiam' about boondocking?..are you kidding me!!??..we love hearing all about your set up..and the peace and quiet that you and Kelly find!!..that would be like telling someone they can't write about their kids,dogs,grandkids, planes trains or automobiles!!!..have a great day tomorrow whatever you decide to do!!!

Elaine said...

wow that was some rough terrain you travelled over today..and hiked over..and border patrol out in the middle of nowhwere land wow...I'd high tail it also..but kudos to you both you persevered and mastered it...glad the furkids were ok..and darling peebes was just starting supper for you!!!

Rick and Kathy Rousseau said...

Enthusiam is a good thing and the majority of readers enjoy reading something that can only come from the heart.
Keep writing just the way you always have. As for the reader who didn't like it just do like Nick Russell. Your not twisting their arms to read your blog, so what they don't like, they don't have to read.

It's about time.

Anonymous said...

Write about you. Not what someone else thinks you should write about.

Your blog is a true rv travel blog. Much more interesting than those bloggers parked in rv resorts.

The photos are always top notch.

Thank you for the efforts.

Okanagan Al.

Merikay said...

An interesting place, but far to rough for me.

Donna K said...

I think turning around was a smart thing to do after seeing the Border Patrol in some sort of unknown activity!! Seems you and Kelly and the Jeep all got a work out today.

Jool said...

This was another fantastic post - just like being there! (from the comfort of my chair). And as always, awesome photos.
PLEASE keep posting about what you are enthused about! Reading about boondocking is the only way I can learn about it! I'm brand new at all of this, and want to learn more about it.

Sam&Donna Weibel said...

Good idea to have turned around as if your like me my passport is in the center console of the truck, with that wild look you have they would be taking you to the hooskow without ID.
Have fun and be safe out there. Sam & Donna..

Bob said...

Huh? Too enthusiastic? I don't understand. Isn't this your blog after all? I'm pretty sure we tune in for your take on just whatever the heck it is that you happen to be doing that day. If it's boondocking, well then that's what we'll all be getting to see? Maybe it's a tornado off Lake Huron?
Now, I happen to have the attention span of a gnat, so if I happen to skip ahead, well then I guess that's my choice, but what you write about is completely yours.
Oh, and too bad you didn't surreptitiously get a shot of the border patrol doing their thing. Probably taking too much of a chance I know. You did the right thing to just bug out.
But still...

Sandra said...

Quite a drive there. I thought the one in the Organ Pipe National Monument was bad! And it was bad in the truck. Kind of reminds me of Cedar Bridge Road that we attempted here this spring.

It's your blog, Al, and if you want to talk about boondocking, go for it. If someone is tired of reading about it, then they don't have to, do they?

luvglass said...

Forget the naysayers, it's your life and blog. There are already too many of us writing about the full hookup lifestyle.

Judy and Emma said...

I think it's a good thing you got the jeep so we could go along on these bumpy excursions with you. :)

Janna and Mike said...

What I want to know is "who" thought you shouldn't write about boondocking so much and I have my thoughts as to who it was. Keep on writing Al, we all enjoy your blog.

Janna and Mike said...

Oh, and another thing about your boondocking writing--Mike and I frequently follow in your footsteps so don't stop finding those great places!

Jerry and Suzy said...

Thanks for suggestion of an alternate route! Can't take all those bumps, even with our 4WD Suzuki!

Renee and Dave said...

You just keep on writing about what you love, whether it's about boondocking, your landscaping in Bayfield, or the pups. Your enthusiasm is what makes me go to your blog first every morning.

I'm not "into" all the technicalities of photography (not that I don't take lots of photos, they just aren't as gorgeous as yours!), but I would never complain when you write about that topic. Geez!

Like another reader said -- if someone doesn't like what you write, they're free to read someone else's blog.


Dean and Valerie said...

Don't change a thing ... we love your enthusiasm about boon docking. We also prefer the open forest or desert to the RV parks.

hobopals said...

To the commenter who was out of line:
"Honey, if it ain't your tail, don't wag it."
Unknown quotes

Be yourself, Al. This is your place.

The Hollingers said...

Now that looks like a great Jeep day with a hike added in to boot! Hey, I have always enjoyed your stories and tales about the boondocking way of life... the way I look at it, it is YOUR blog, and you blog about what you want to blog about!

KarenInTheWoods and Steveio said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your enthusiasm about boondocking! Being boondockers ourselves makes it even double interesting!!! No manicured RV Resorts for us... paying $30-40-50 a night. Love that silent power restoration of solar panels, having 100 gallons of water on board and knowing we can stay a whole week or more out in the boonies before even needing a refill.


Karen and Steve
(Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

Anonymous said...

Howdy Al,
I have been readind your posts almost daily for a few years now but have never before commented on any of them (nor on any of the other blogs I read), until now. I was alarmed by your comment about blogging less often about boondocking. You see my husband & I hope to become fulltimers in the next year or two. Your enthusiasm for dry camping has triggered that in us as well. We have much to learn about that lifestyle. Please continue to blog about it. Tell us the hows, whys, & wheres so that we can continue to learn from your experience.Please don't ever change a thing. Also, my husband & I both greatly enjoy your photgraphy. From one dog lover to another, Gayle Pietz

Vera said...

YOUR Blog, so write what YOU want! I always enjoy reading it. Carry on!!!

BJ said...

Please, Please, Please keep writing about your boondocking experiences. It's because of you when we are able to travel again we want to do some of that. Because of your name starting with B you are at the very top of our list and it's the first thing i check in the mornings to see what adventure you have had for the previous day!! When my husband comes home at night I read it to him saying lets do this. We love your blogs. Don't change anything about it. I do wonder on your hikes if you ever have to watch for God's little creatures...ie: snakes, tarantulas etc.....
I am making notes of all the places you've been that interest us so someday we can experience them too.
Happy and Safe travels,
~Betty and Joe

Robin said...

What a great trip. As for boondocking please continue to write about it as it is one of my passions as well, and you seem to find great spots.

Dennis and Donna said...

Alllll righty then...HELLO!!! to those who are trying to edit your blog..Boon docking is a part of RV/camping...and that's what most of us like... CAMPING!..you know, in a pop-up, tent, fiver,trailer, teardrop ..or big motor home. Don't let anyone tell you what to journal about...Boon docking is YOUR lifestyle of camping..Keep doing what you're doing..journaling a "camping" trip as you and the "Bunch" do it...
As for Charlie Bell Pass..too bad you didn't get to see the petroglyphs..and Yes, we put lots of Arizona pin striping on the GMC on that journey...We took it in Jan. and it wasn't quite as warm..

cathie said...

I think I will just x2 everything everyone has said.
I could add:

Do It Now! That includes blogging about boondocking.

Grace said...



I also agree with the above comments. The main reason I read your Blog is because you boondock. Always looking for tips and safe places to camp.

Also, Jeeze, you guys must be in great shape to have done that hike !!

Sheila ~ INUA Kennels said...

Well I, completely and utterly, disagree with anyone who said that you are spending too much time talking about boondocking. Well, DUH!! That is what you are doing right now!!!

For those of us who, someday, want to do this, your Blog is a never ending fountain of knowledge. I have learned so much from you!!

If the naysayers prefer to read about people staying in RV resorts and full service parks, then they are more than free to read the thousands of Blogs about that!!

Please do not stop writing the way you always have, or about anything that your little heart desires-- the rest of us enjoy reading about it. And passionate writing wins my vote any day!!!

~ Your avid reader ~

Sheila :)

Barry and Linda said...

Here, Here there are far too few folks out there boondocking and writing about it. This is your Blog, keep writing about what you want and we'll keep readin'

Anonymous said...

I"m with all the rest: Don't listen to the critic. You are just fine.

There's an interesting book about this area, the Border Patrol, the illegals. It's The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea. This book was a finalist for the '05 Pulitzer.


Jean and Skip said...

I am late but gotta put my two cents in.Keep blogging about whatever you want,but please don't stop writing about boondocking.as you know we boondock almost exclusively and we wouldn't be enjoying this lifestyle if it wasn't for your blog.Last year I think we only camped in places you had blogged about,

Ed said...

"It has been brought to my attention that from time to time I get myself just a little too over the top, a little too enthusiastic, and a little too excitedly opinionated about my love of the boon docking lifestyle. It has been suggested it is a topic I talk about too much."

The complainer needs to forget your blog until you get back to Bayfield. There is a time and place for everything.

Dave and Susie said...

Shame on the complainer. Keep on blogging about what you want to blog about. I'm learning a lot about boondocking from you as that's what my hubby and I will be doing when we get out on the road. Love your photo's!

Happy trails...

Renee and Dave said...

Al -- Have you tried airing down your tires before heading out on those rocky roads? That's what we do (Dave takes them down to between 12 & 15 lbs). Makes a HUGE difference in the bouncing & jouncing.

Of course, you have to take a pump along to air back up when you get back to the pavement...

¡Vizcacha! said...

It was the pictures of your boondocking locations that kept us going through two years of sometimes-discouraging preparation to full-time. We learned a lot from park dwellers, but that's not where our hearts were. Some nights Annie would fire up your blog and show me a picture, and we would just gaze at it rapturously for a few minutes.

That means: don't stop.

The Good Luck Duck