|4x4 Trip||136.00 Miles|| || |
|2,322 ft AEG|| || || |
In at Ajo and out at Wellton. First day drove and stopped in at Bates Well, the border patrol post is no longer there as of this writing. Continued on, a little disturbed at seeing APS markers for perhaps some sort of power to be run out for the Communications tower right on the edge of Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta. Lets just alter the desert some more.
The desert flora looked pretty dry and some sort of blight at the base of some of the saguaros.
We decided to hike to some mines on the map near the O'Neil hills. We found a road not signed closed and followed it aways, when it went away we parked and took off cross country. We passed an area with some old vans still in the sand, from border runners in the past.
We oriented to the mining remains which were a disappointment but had some pretty looking rock and a neat little burro looking trail. We could look across the plain and saw the Toyota flanked by two Border Patrol vehicles. I had left the permits in the window. Walking back we saw two guys approaching on foot. We had a moment's wicked thought of making them work to track us but decided to intercept them. We had a civil exchange; I asked about the Pinta sands as we had driven through several small mud/water holes on the road and there was ample evidence of some of the washes running a few days earlier. They indicated it was impassable in fact got a quad stuck in there the day before. One of the guys suggested the border maintenance road would be in good shape, but couldn't say what the other end was like that came out near Tule Well. It was sort of weird, they really didn't give permission or details but it was obvious they wouldn't stop us either. They just wanted to know where we would be for tracking purposes.
We decided to try it. We went to the border, looking at the expensive fence ( designed to keep out vehicles only) and drove the straight line at some speed. A few ruts and some water; not bad. Nice to see one old border monument intact. I thought this side of the sand dunes would be more impressive but I was wrong. We oriented with the map to the correct road and came out not too far from Tule Well, on a road labeled closed.
We had some time before camp so hiked to Tularosa tank on another administrative closed road.
Camped at Tule Well with another border patrol guy coming by late who did not approach but hung around for a while, no doubt verifying we were there and that we had been logged in earlier.
We were the only ones there, and it was amazing how damp things were still in the wash, how the vegetation had that wonderful rain smell so special in the desert.
Next day drove out and hiked a rather flat loop in the Cabeza Prieta mountains, heading to a slot like area which was joyful with some granite and sand pools, and huge yucca type plants with skirts like palms. Lots of healthy elephant trees too.
We found remnants of a bighorn/Indian trail with pottery shards and large volcanic rock scattered in granite.
Drive on to camp near the Tinaja Altas mountains for the trek to the highpoint the next day. Jamming along the Lechuguilla desert enjoying the packed sand and no dust when came to a screeching halt. At least 100 yards of muddy water filled the road bed in an area of mesquite and greasewood. Fortunately it was not deep and the hard pack gave good traction.
I had visions of wading the knee deep muck getting the winch out.
We drove to our campsite and were soon visited by the border patrol who checked out permits and asked our whereabouts over the next 24 hours. He went on his way never leaving his vehicle. We had a quiet night after a nice sunset. Sunrise was spectacular with a thick undulating fog bank in the playa below and it was mesmerizing to see things progess.
We got our act together to do the hike and finally got the peak. Hard hike but well worth it.
Because of time constraints exited at Wellton, arriving Tucson not too late Sun nite.
Excellent trip and did not see anyone else save the border patrol folks. Will return in January.