The last day of the Southern Arizona drive included a tour of Yuma Territorial Prison (previous post) and a drive north on the 95 toward Quartzsite. This is a very long drive of not much but open desert. The Chocolate Mountains are on the west side while the Castle Dome mountain range is on the east side. For the first 30 or 40 miles north of Yuma are the Yuma Proving grounds and I had always wondered what one does on a proving ground. When I was a kid and spent my summers in Yuma, I imagined a bunch of scientists with white lab coats and black framed glasses in a lab somewhere north of town wandering the desert to prove something agricultural since much of the area is farming. This is almost the case where it is the military using this vast land to test weapons systems.
Just north to the Proving Grounds is Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. There is no visitors center, no public bathrooms, or cantina. In fact, there’s not much of anything around but what you’ve got in your ice chest or in your gas tank. Mobile service is limited. We pulled off when we saw this sign in hopes of finding an interesting drive through the magnificent Castle Dome Mountains. Brochures were available at the sign and we noticed there were mines along some of the roads. Paying no attention to the dotted lines, solid lines, or dashed lines (gravel, 4WD, and other) we headed toward Big Eye Mine, fifteen miles from the entrance. Unfortunately the nicely graveled road become uneven and on several occasions I got out to move rocks. We were driving a Hyundai (rental). We drove probably ten miles before we turned back because the road was so uneven we feared getting stuck.
But we found a mine to explore and the day was become late, casting long shadows across the floor and warm hues on the rocky landscape. We saw no sign of life except for two humans (Refuge staff) walking up to one of the water tanks near the mine, a stink bug, a few birds. There is something very satisfying to me to be alone in such a large empty place. There is no noise pollution, and the only overcrowding one would experience is the multiple chollos. Don’t tango in the desert in a chollo garden. I tell you, you will suffer.
No damage to the car, however it was pretty dusty. It was well worth it. This photo is not the best shot I have of the area but I can’t help but loose myself in the memory of it all.