Sunday, March 29, 2020

Yuma Conservation Garden

  The garden doesn’t look like much from outside the fence but if you’re in Yuma it’s worth seeking out to take a stroll through the cactus gardens and around the duck pond. A collection of old farm equipment is lined up along the fence. It’s only opened on the weekends so a bit of planning is needed.
   The trails are mostly hard-packed sand but wheelchair users may need assistance due to hills and soft areas.
   The parking lot is large enough for any RV. Garden  32.67005, -114.59315

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Organ Pipe National Monument and the Wall

    Our visit to Organ Pipe National Monument coincided with the construction of the new wall which is replacing vehicle barriers that were installed in 2005. At that time drug smugglers were using the dirt roads as remote access points to the US market. The barrier and additional border patrol agents stopped almost all of the drug traffic but migrants still use the monument to enter the US.

     The vehicle barriers allowed flood waters and wildlife to easily pass between the countries. The new wall will cause problems with both flooding and animal migration. Building it is also disturbing a broad swath of land, plowing through a sacred burial site, wasting money that could go to more important projects, and will do little to stop migrants from crossing into the US.
     We were very surprised that we could walk right up to the finished section of the wall. We could have stepped into Mexico through one of the places where a gate will be installed. Getting back might have been tougher! The experience of seeing the wall close up was disturbing, considering that the main reason for building it is to keep very desperate people out of the US – people who are risking their lives by attempting to walk for miles in a hostile environment. Thousands have died crossing the Arizona desert.
     We couldn’t help but think of our relatives who came into the US at a time when immigrants were recruited to fill all of the menial jobs created by the industrial revolution. While they were not exactly welcomed by the US citizens they were deemed useful and given most of the rights of citizenship. It was so much easier for them than it is now and we reap all of the benefits because they decided that leaving their homeland and everything that they knew was worth the risk for a better life. We should be welcoming new migrants rather than making it so hard for them that they end up dying. Organ Pipe  31.95449, -112.80131

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

  Organ Pipe Cactus NM, located in the Sonoran Desert, gets about nine inches of rainfall in a year which makes it a green desert and home to a large variety of plants and animals. In 1976 it was named an International Biosphere Reserve by Unesco to protect its unique environment.  31 species of cacti grow in the monument including its namesake, the organ pipe, which isn’t a particularly rare cactus but one that doesn’t grow in large stands in the US due to a need for hot temperatures.
   The main road in the park goes south from the entrance for about 20 miles until it hits the border with Mexico. There are two pull-offs with interpretive signs. The signs can not be read without exiting your vehicle. The visitor center which has a small exhibit area, a video, and ranger programs; and the campground are about 18 miles from the entrance. The main activities are hiking and scenic drives.
  The visitor center and a short trail located behind it are accessible. The other trails are not accessible. The campground has four accessible sites with large concrete parking pads that extend under the table and grill. The sites are surrounded by desert vegetation so even though they are close together there’s still a degree of privacy.
   The scenic roads are unpaved. The 21 mile Ajo Mountain Road is not recommended for RVs over 24’. The other four roads are rough and high clearance or four-wheel drive is recommended. We did not go on any of them.  Monument  31.95449, -112.80131

Friday, March 13, 2020

Darby Wells Road Boondocking

   We camped here in 2013 for a couple of days. Since then I’ve wanted to come back and spend a little more time because there’s so much to do it the area. This time we spent a week on Darby Wells Road and were pretty busy – camping with friends, visiting Ajo, day tripping to Organ Pipe National Monuments, and walking/rolling along the wide dirt roads.
    One of our walking destinations was a Native American cemetery about 2 miles from our campsite. The road is fairly smooth but it climbs slightly uphill as it heads west. Driving to the cemetery is an option with a pull off providing a space to park. The cemetery is not accessible due to a gate and a steep wash.  The small community of Darby Wells no longer exists but people are still being buried in the cemetery which is well cared for. The land was donated and there’s no burial plot charge. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful setting. We noticed bottles of water at the bases of some of the crosses and wondered if they were put there for migrants coming from Central America.
    There are many good boondocking spots along Darby Wells Road that are large enough for almost any RV. Some are very close to the road which is dusty so the sites father back are better. Walk in if you’re unsure because there are deep washes and dead ends. Darby Wells  32.34161, -112.84383

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Mine Overlook

   The first mineral mined here was hematite which was used by Native Americans to make a red body paint. In the late 1600s Spanish miners surface mined or dug shallow holes to extract copper ore. When Arizona became part of the US in 1854 American companies began more extensive mining however open pit mining did not start until 1917. The pit is about 3,000 feet long, nearly 2,000 feet wide and 750 feet deep. 3 million tons of copper, 463 tons of molybdenum, 1.56 million ounces of gold and 19.7 million ounces of silver have been pulled from the earth. All mining stopped in 1985 when required upgrades to the smelter and low copper prices made mining uneconomical.
   The best place to view the pit is from inside the fencing that surrounds the little visitor center. The parking area is the site of Mexican Town. Foundations slabs from the rows of small houses can still be seen. Indian Village was also located on the land overlooking the mine. This form of housing segregation was practiced well into the 1960s with the main townsite of Ajo being predominately white. The houses in Mexican Town and Indian Village were sold for materials after the mine closed.

The visitor center and overlook are accessible.

The parking lot is large enough for any RV. Overlook 32.36429, -112.86872

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Ajo History Museum

  People have been living around Ajo for centuries – first Native Americans, then Mexican surface miners, American pit miners, and finally artists, retirees, and border patrol agents. A rich cultural heritage has been formed by the intermingling of Native American, Mexican, and Anglo traditions

   The history of the Native Americans and the miners can be found in this small museum which was originally St. Catherine’s Indian Mission. The first section has carefully displayed artifacts representing life in Ajo in the early 1900s. Native American pottery and grinding stones form another exhibit. Mining history, handmade dioramas, old photographs, bookshelves of research materials and miscellaneous items fill the rest of the museum rooms. Old equipment is on display outside.

   The museum is accessible but the ramps from one section to another are a little steep. The ground outside is hard-packed so pushing is not very difficult.

   The parking lot is large enough for any RV. Museum  32.36258, -112.87276

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Murals of Ajo, Arizona

   Ajo was established as a company town in 1914 shortly after John Greenway bought the copper mine and surrounding land. This was the height of the City Beautiful Movement and the plan for Ajo, which incorporated Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, wide streets, and a large public plaza, made it a pleasing place to live. Stop at the visitor center in the restored railroad depot to pick up brochures and souvenirs.
   After the mine closed in the 1980s artists began moving to Ajo and a few murals popped up on the sides of buildings. Then in 2015, the Ajo Street Art Project took over a narrow alleyway south of the plaza and created an explosion of color on the previously bland block and stucco walls.  Subsequent projects covered the exterior of the 3 Nation’s Market, the wall of a building north of the plaza, and random expanses of walls around town. Print out a walking tour guide to explore all of the art.
   The sidewalks and curb cuts in the plaza area are in good condition. Most of the stores have accessible entrances. Missing curb cuts, lack of sidewalks, and other obstacles in the rest of the town may cause difficulties for visitors with mobility issues.

   RVs can be parked on North Plaza Street, south of the plaza.  Ajo Art  32.37295, -112.86119