Charlie Bell Road - Cabeza Prieta NWR
Knowing the kids had March Break and a week off school, I'd booked some vacation days off work as well...
A first-time sojourn to Death Valley was on my "to-do" list, but alas, a commitment from a 2nd vehicle couldn't be arranged. Always have a "PLAN B"...
"SUNSHOT - peril and wonder in the Gran Desierto" by Bill Broyles and Michael Berman is in my home library and describes El Camino del Diablo (the Devil's Highway) and the surrounding environs. I think this book and photographs has provided some of the spark to investigate the back country within Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
I've been thwarted in tackling the Devil's Highway due to the lack of 4WD (my F-150 is only high clearance 2WD). I discovered that Charlie Bell Road and El Camino del Diablo to Bates Well can be permitted for a 2WD vehicle. So these became "PLAN B" substituting for Death Valley...
Lynn and I started the day before dawn's first light and headed down to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitor Center in Ajo to obtain the requisite training and permits. There's a 20 minute training video that's required viewing to gain access to the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
With permits in hand, we were bouncing along Charlie Bell Road by 9:00am. There is a consistency in Cabeza Prieta literature mentioning the "isolation" and "remoteness" of the area. With this in mind, Lynn and I were prepared not to see a person all day.
At Little Tule Well, we parked the truck to capture some images. There we had an "alien encounter" as 4 trekkers appeared out of the adjoining wash and walked up to the well to get water. Later saw 2 trucks of NWR Rangers returning from the Sonoran Pronghorn observation area at Pack Rat Hill. We also passed a couple from Colorado at Daniel's Arroyo and a couple from Minnesota at Charlie Bell Pass TH. So much for being prepared not to see a person all day!
When we hiked down from Charlie Bell Pass to Charlie Bell Well on our "glyph hunt", the advice we received at the Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center in Ajo was "spot on";
"When you get to the windmill, stay to the right into the boulder field and you will find the petroglyphs..."
And many petroglyphs were found!
This was a great introduction to the Cabeza Prieta NWR. Snakes, petroglyphs, alien encounters, coyotes (4-legged kind), ranch ruins, crested saguaros, fawning pronghorn antelope, desert bighorn sheep, and tracking down the elusive Ajo Lily - what's not to like?