I was headed south, fully intending on continuing my “Marshall time” alone, without any of my friends around. Next stop was the Ajo, Arizona area, in a prime piece of BLM land for more boondocking. But it turned out I wasn’t alone, so I ended up hanging with some friends for my week long stay.
Darby Well Road
Just south of Ajo, Arizona is a nice piece of BLM land known as Darby Well Road. As you exit off AZ-85 and head west on the gravel Darby Well Road, there are numerous spots you can camp at. Two problems with this area – it was crowded and it is dusty from the passing traffic.
I entered Darby Wells Road at the same time as the other two rigs (that I was staying at Buckeye Hills near) arrived, so we headed down to check out a location a fellow nomad had told us about. Deeper into the area, away from the crowds. Past the sign that tells you illegal activities happen there. In other words, back where it’s good!
We ended up heading about 3 miles in, with the last mile being some of the worse, washboard road I have ever driven my trailer on. But the location made it all worth while! We had a gorgeous location by Locomotive Rock, on a side road that was not travelled much at all, about 1/4 mile off the main road. Perfect! It is the most beautiful place in the desert I have stayed to date.
Our group of 3 Rvs quickly grew to a group of 5 as we were joined by 2 rigs that I had spent time with in Quartzsite. They were initially headed a bit farther south, but I easily convinced them to join the party in Ajo. There was plenty of room on our side road to spread out and give each other space. I got my “Marshall Time” while still being able to be near my people.
I was originally going to stay 2 weeks at this location, but everyone else was heading out after one week and I opted to leave as well. I wasn’t comfortable spending another week there by myself as it was smack dab in the migrant route. In fact, we had a visitor one morning while I was out hiking. A guy from south of the border asked one of my neighbors for water, which they happily provided. Though there was a definite language barrier, it was discerned that he had been in the desert for 3 days. Having this happen literally in your backyard sure sheds a different light on the whole immigration issue.
While there were plenty of Border Patrol in the area, I didn’t feel like spending time at that location on my own. I could have moved in closer to AZ-85 where there were more people, but I didn’t want to deal with the dust and was ready to head a bit farther south.
Speaking of Border Patrol, the road that we were a 1/4 mile off of is the main route they take down into Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to do their patrols. We could hear the trucks rumbling along at certain times of the day and also saw a Border Patrol helicopter fly overhead a few times. We were definitely in the heart of it! I had brief conversations with two Border Patrol agents while I was out hiking. They were really nice guys and wanted to make sure I was OK. Of course I’m sure it helps I’m white. Just saying…
Several mornings I took off into the desert to go hike a few miles. Sometimes I would follow the Jeep trails that crisscross the area. Other times I would just take off across the desert and make my own trail. It was weird to be voluntarily hiking through a very harsh environment knowing that thousands come up from south of the border and make the trek through the same land, thinking it is their only choice for a better life.
I definitely saw signs of migrants. Discarded food packages with Spanish labels. The odd piece of clothing here and there. All in the oddest places that you would think nobody has ever been before. Not to say that the desert was littered only by those traveling north. Unfortunately there were plenty of signs of gringos littering the desert. Broken beer bottles. Rusted steel cans. Clay shooting pigeons. Miscellaneous garbage. It’s sad that certain segments of our society don’t give a damn about keeping the environment pristine.
Enough about that. Back to the hiking. I really enjoyed my morning hikes. The desert is so peaceful. You feel so small hiking out there. And the scenery is breathtaking.
One morning I headed up the large hill/small mountain due east of our camp. I got pretty far up and sat for a few minutes to enjoy the view (until the bees drove me away). It was awesome to take in the view that stretched from the Ajo mine to the north, all the way south into Mexico. Our encampment appeared as tiny dots in a very large landscape. We were the southern most RVs in our sector, out all by ourselves.
I took the Jeep on the trails a couple of times, exploring the area and trying to not get stuck. I didn’t have a good map of the area, so when I came to a fork in the road, I looked at the satellite view of Google Maps to see which way to go. I had fun pretending I was in a real Jeep.
The second day I found the limits of my 2 wheel-drive Jeep when I decided to tackle a route called Roller Coaster. After barely making up and out of a wash, I was faced with a pretty steep hill that with a rocky trail that was in not such great shape. I stopped at the bottom and hiked to the top to see what awaited me and to gauge if I could make it. I figured, piece of cake! Until I got in the Jeep and headed up, only to discover that the grade was a wee bit steeper than I initially thought. About 1/4 of the way up, the Jeep’s forward progress stopped and the rear started walking to the right – the direction of the drop-off. After my heart started beating again, I backed up a couple of feet, took a different line and got past that spot. I kept my foot in it and my Jeep motored right on up.
I paused to catch my breath and let my adrenalin calm down. Standing at the top looking down, I honestly have no idea how a 2 wheel-drive Jeep made it up that stretch. However, I vowed to take my confidence back a notch or two and not get myself in this situation in the future. I’m not sure AAA would have come to give me a tow.
Ajo is a small town of less than 4,000 people. Once a thriving mining town, it is trying to make a comeback as an artist community. The town really didn’t do anything for me – it didn’t speak to me. I only ventured into town a few times – to go the grocery store, farmers market, and post office. I also visited the open pit mine overlook.
Mining stopped in the mid-1980’s, and according to the old character that was manning the overlook, it is poised to make a comeback once prices come back up and the government stops oppressing American mining interests. Yeah, that was an interesting conversation.