Part 1: San Diego, CA to Tucson, AZ

20120414 - 20120417

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The Trip

The first part of our journey was to travel from San Diego to the Anza-Borrego desert east of San Diego.  The luck of the draw subjected us to an late-winter Pacific storm of epic proportions.  The storm started just as we left the San Diego area and followed us into the desert.  The good news, if there is any to be found, was that the full force of the storm did not hit until we had located the camp site and had fully setup.  The night was cold, windy and rainy.  Wind gusts were reported by the NWS to be on the order of 50 mph, so the camper was rocking pretty good.  But, were reasonably comfortable and dry (which is always a nice thing).

Saturday morning, we were joined by the other members of our group.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

When I opened the door on the camper, I got a good look at the snow on Granite Mountain to the west of our camp.  While it appears clear in the photos above, the wind was still blowing cold and hard.

The other members of our party wimped out the night before and it would be several hours before they arrive at the camp the following morning.

Since I had time to burn, I got a photo or two of the surrounding flora.  This cactus has evil thorns and was plentiful on the surrounding hills.

There was plenty of yucca in the nearby area.

To the south, the observatory on Mt. Laguna was visible with more snow due to the higher elevation.

After we concluded our liquor-fueled debauchery with our Musicmatch pals, we headed east to Yuma, AZ.  Our path would take us to the Kofa Wildlife Refuge and past Castle Dome, shown above.

These signs were everywhere along the road suggesting that travel into the specified areas might not be a good idea.  I love the icon of the guy and gal partying down.  It looks like they are having a blast!

We found an acceptable camp site as nightfall was approaching.  Our camp offered an awesome view of Castle Dome.

The camp site was nothing special, but it was mostly flat which is always a plus.  We were all by ourselves.  In fact, we did not see another soul until late the following day.

We got an awesome sunset as a end-of-day treat.

The night was uneventful and cool.  Next morning, we got a view of the aerostat that is teathered at the Yuma Proving Grounds.  These balloons have sophisticated radar systems that are used to monitor air and ground traffic along the border.  In theory, this information is used by Customs and Border Patrol for drug interdiction.

To the west from our camp, we could see nearly to the Colorado River.

The Castle Dome mountains have some impressive volcanic outcroppings.

Some of the outcroppings show the coloring characteristic to heavy mineralization that is associated with successful mining operations.  Indeed, there were a number of mines in the area.

The trail into the Kofa Wildlife Refuge was reasonably rough.  Thor (our truck) had no problems with the terrain, but it was quite narrow in many spots.  And, there was plenty of brush overhanging onto the trail.  We took some pretty hard hits from the trees and in fact the brush ripped off the weather seal to our door.  Above, you can see the cobbles that comprised the trail.  The cobbles made for slow travel.

The trail would take us into the valley floor and over the Kofa Mountains in the distance.

There were large stands of cholla in the area.  I call these plants "Children of the Devil" due to the nasty thorns.

The pass through the Castle Dome mountains was narrow and rough.  When we emerged on the north side, we stopped for a photo or two.

The Kofa Mountains in the distance were as rough, or rougher than the Castle Dome range we just traversed.

This cholla is in bloom.  While the flowers are "pretty" the surrounding wall of thorns make viewing from a distance manditory.

We crossed the valley floor and started up the bajada (alluvial fan) on the far side.  From the trail, we got a nice view of another large volcanic outcropping.  As a plus, the Palo Verde trees are in bloom with bright yellow flowers.

The trail passed another mining area.  This area is on private land and Jed surely lives here with his buddies.

As we traversed the Kofa range, the trail was quite rough and tight.  The trail-side brush was taking a toll on Thor's paint job.  But, despite the thrashing, we did get some great views of the volcanic cliffs.

Some of the areas were very rugged and barren.

This outcropping was particularly gnarly.

To exit the area, we had to pass over the Yuma Proving Grounds for a few miles.  On the east side, we turned south and had to go 30 miles or so past some hills that were covered with volcanic ejecta from the Sentinel Crater many miles to the south.  These hills must be hellish in the summer when the black rocks heat up from the searing summer sun.

After 30+ miles of washboarded trail, we finally reached the asphalt.  We traveled east toward the nearly-not-there town of Hyder, AZ.  Hyder has no stoplight, no stop sign, no gas station, no store and I did not see a post office.  But, it did have a great view of the volcanic mesas to the north.  Note the large plug on the horizon in the photo above.

Eventually, we ran out of daylight and elected to do a side-of-the-trail camp.  We pulled off the dirt road into some brush along a wash and had a great dinner.  Kathleen made chicken pot pie and it was a calm, cool night.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed to the Painted Rock Petroglyph site.  Painted Rock had been our objective the previous day, but the trail was just too rough to allow us to proceed at a faster pace and we were overcome by darkness.  Painted Rock has many, many petroglyphs and they are easy walking distance of the parking area.  This site is very similar to Three Rivers in New Mexico in that the petroglyphs are on individual rocks (as opposed to canyon walls like China Lake).

The petroglyphs were in good shape and represented most of the glyphs that are seen in the American west.  The big glyph above appears to be a thunderbird.

Note the small amount of defacement on the stone at the upper center of the photo.

There were so many glyphs on this stone that there was almost no patina left.

There were several glyphs on this stone that I have not seen before.

The sheep on the stone above is one of the only ones that I saw.  I saw plenty of snakes, lizards, humanoids and spirals, but very few sheep.

Frequently where there are petroglyphs, there are also morteros.  A mortero is a stone surface used to grind seeds into "flour" as part of the cooking process.

I spotted this critter deep in a crevice in the rocks.  He was quite fat and about 10" long.

We enjoyed camping with our ex-Musicmatch friends.  That said, it was cold, rainy and windy prior to their arrival at the camp.  The trail across Kofa is long and rough.  A large, wide vehicle like Thor required careful driving and precise wheel placement to prevent real damage.  The brush took its toll on Thor's paint and tool boxes.  The brush ripped off the weather seal from our door, removed the cap to the black water hose storage area and damaged the hose.  We tagged the tool boxes repeatedly due to the steep exit angles required to pass some of the obstacles.  But, despite the challenges, the trail was worth it.  Not just for bragging rights, but becase of the great scenery.

From Painted Rocks, we traveled to Tucson to visit family.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.