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Chico Shunie Hills, AZ
mini location map2014-03-08
9 by photographer avatarOutlander
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Chico Shunie Hills, AZ 
Chico Shunie Hills, AZ
Hiking5.00 Miles 500 AEG
Hiking5.00 Miles   8 Hrs      1.67 mph
500 ft AEG   5 Hrs    Break35 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The mission was to check out a ghost town called Chico Shunie in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, CPNWR.

It was just a name on the map, an unknown destination, which turned an ordinary hike into a day of “discovery”. Sometimes it is more fun to venture out into the unknown, to be surprised, rather than make inquiries beforehand.

The eastern end of the Cabeza Prieta receives 9 inches of rainfall each year, making the desert here quite beautiful and lush. There are many fine specimens of organ pipe cactus in the Chico Shunie Hills that rival the giants found at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, OPCNM, which is currently limited to five permits per week on account of the border mayhem. The BLM area southwest of Ajo is pretty tame, and currently has many winter visitors staying in RVs enjoying the great weather and scenery. The easternmost two miles of the CBNWR is also clear, but if you venture further west, you will cross the trail network and traffic heading north from the OPCNM.

Chico Shunie is easy to find, just follow the dirt road past the refuge gate. I took a longer route through the Chico Shunie Hills, checking out some mines and smuggling trails along the way. It was only about 5 miles round trip, which was all I could muster on account of a bad case of allergies. March winds churned up the dust and pollen counts through the roof, reducing me to a pitiful state, thus torpedoing the itinerary.

The ghost town was once inhabited by a small band of Hia-C'ed O'odham, or “people of the sand”, who continued their traditional way of life until its last member died in 1999. His unmarked grave can be found next to a small house built of sheet metal and ocotillo branches. Two hand dug wells are also found at the town, one of which has an antique pump remaining. Chico Shunie is a designated cultural heritage site where the relics are not to be disturbed, and to this date, the site remains intact.

The cemetery is creepy to say the least: the shallow graves are covered with sheet metal and rocks, a measure used to keep dogs and area wildlife from disturbing the human remains. Several of the burial mounds are so shallow that one expects to see bones protruding from the soil…and there might be. I just did not see any. One of the graves appears to have been looted, having a hole dug on its west end where the head usually lies. The grave robber was likely looking for relics or macabre souvenirs, human bones and skulls. Such deeds are met with a heavy cost, as the perpetrator will be forever cursed, haunted by the spirits of the dead.

It is said that ghosts can be found along the Camino Del Diablo, or Devil’s Highway. Hundreds of men have met their end here; often dying alone and unburied, their sun baked bones slowly turning to dust in some faraway, forgotten field.

At Chico Shunie, the last of a long line of proud men died alone in his bed, and if you listen carefully, you can hear his voice in the wind.
 Geology [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Malachite
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Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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