I elected to go alone to the Cabeza Prieta mountains, to backpack off the El Camino to reach areas no longer traveled unless by foot, or perhaps by the occasional border patrol or volunteer/ranger with the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge.
A number of closed roads make great "ways" into the mountains, then it is up to you where you wish to go.
I drove in on the Christmas Pass road, and car camped at the closed road entrance about three miles west of Tule Well. Border Patrol woke me up about 2 am checking on things. Early as I was getting ready to leave another patrol came by, not stopping. I walked up the closed road, the most recent set of quad tracks filling in from the wind with the sandy gravel. The mountains here are clustered and eroded granite, not tall but sharp and young, no foothills, just flats then they come jutting up in compliance with this or that bedding plane.
In the valleys and bowls depending on the wash configuration vegetation is light. Greasewoods, saguaros,ocotillo, cholla, mostly. The infrequent ironwood trees. The road soon turns into a wash, and since slogging in sand doesn't do much for me I walk crosscountry thru the desert.
The sun is strong but the wind cool. I carry a lot of water but again, the nice weather I have no tent. That lightens things considerably. I do decide to carry a summer weight sleeping bag. About a pound I figure I can afford. My way is pretty flat and mellow, and not all that long.
I arrive at Cabeza Prieta Pass fairly early. I drop my pack here. I have a feeling of old things here. The management road, a sandy trap, continues on. As I expected I find old trails running in several directions in and out of the pass. Big Horn sheep keep them up now, but they didn't place the dark volcanic rocks to the side, the white of the path startling against sections of dark. I scramble around a bit, in the decomposed granite, find multiple areas of pot shards, near where water has been held. It is dry in here, water lines in places where the water was.
More roaming around following these trails brings obvious cleared camp areas, a big horn ram skull placed in an ironwood tree. This pass would have been a gathering place through the years, a place to meet, to rest, to regroup.
One thing I don't see is any evidence of recent illegal activity. Not a speck of trash or footprints.
I find a superb camp spot in the wash under a droopy huge ironwood beside a paloverde. Both trees are large, and nurse trees for 5 large saguaros which ring my little camp. It's secluded and I have a soft bed. I continue on through the pass, following the road. It will take me near, the map says, the Cabeza Prieta tanks. I get diverted, usually when I am in full wander mode, by a large overhang overhead. I scramble up to it, it has piles of scat from the sheep. I dub it the big horn palace. Quite the expansive view, they would have shade and the ability to disappear if they saw something below they didn't like. The backside is steep and has some pouroffs. Fun to slide down. I come out one canyon over from where I want to be, so decide to go on over to another spot. Surprise Canyon is beautiful with lush cactii --for this area--- and vertically planed granite walls. The alluvium obviously provides a great growing place for the massive saguaros, which look green and healthy. I also detour over to A-1 basin, more dessicated looking. The sun is going, and I head back to my camp. I give a thought to trying for the Cabeza Prieta highpoint ( which is not Cabeza Prieta peak); I am not that motivated. Another time, perhaps.
The evening light is glorious. It's warm and I have a nice meal, watch the sun fade away, the moonrise, the stars try to pop out to compete with the moons' light. As the night progresses fingers of cool air run in the wash, I pull my sleeping bag over my head. It's quiet, near morning the overflights come, making a not so subtle wake up call.
I delay leaving just wandering around with coffee in one hand and camera in another. Watching the light. The pass is mostly east west oriented and the light funnels though then climbs higher. It is already warm, will be hotter today for sure. I pack up and start my walk, it's slow as I leave the road and cross country to head out. I see more pottery fragments, clear glasslike quartz, more cactus arrangements, rocky hillocks. The desert is scarred by tracks of vehicles off road, several faded ruts have sizable ocotillo and saguaros in them.
The heat is on. I sweat a little, wearing my long sleeve white shirt, hat and long pants. I was in shorts and tank top by the end of the day before, and had my skin reddened by the sun and wind. I wonder if my Jeep is still there, then spend my time imagining what I would do if it wasn't. I still have a good amount of water. Would I go to Tinaja Altas tanks as many have gone before me, then try to get a ride to Wellton?? Or would I head east, take my chances at the Border Patrol station, call Brian, then continue to walk toward Papago Well??? All is a moot point as I see the little Jeep patiently awaiting me, fully intact. I don't know where my thoughts come from, in all my trips out here I have seen exactly one illegal immigrant, at San Cristobal wash, and I've been coming out here before any border patrol outposts were here, and before the El Camino was maintained by the federal government.
Time is something I have no more of, so head out toward Wellton. Faster way out. Some flowers are blooming here and there, not season yet and not expecting much this year with the weird weather. I join the rat race at the interstate and look south, at the mountains I have touched on to explore. No one knows these places now. Not like before. For all our information age some things are still little known. And that is good.