Just south of Quartzite and east of Highway 95 lies the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. We know this because we can see this large green area on the map below Scaddon Wash where we stayed during this year’s RTR. I thought that wildlife refuges would not allow camping but I was wrong. In fact this one offers some historic cabins for free on a first come, first served basis! Bonus. We have got to check this out.
Kofa stands for King of Arizona which was a successful gold mine in the area. The mine used to stamp its property “K of A” and was commonly known as the Kofa Mine. Online directions told us to drive south on Hwy 95 all the way to the Stone Cabin and the official Refuge Entrance on King Road. On the way down though, about 11 miles south of Quartzite we see a brown sign mentioning the Refuge, the Crystal Hills area and directing us onto a graded gravel road (Blevens Road) heading east into the refuge. We already have the little fold out map of the Refuge and we can see that the Kofa Cabin is in the general direction we are heading and so we decide to trek onward.
The map differentiates between “4-Wheel Drive Recommended” and “Any High-Clearance Vehicle” and shows this route as being in the latter class so we are expecting the Tacoma will have no issues. From the scale on the map we are guessing it is 20 miles or so to the cabin which shouldn’t take too long. Of course we are thinking in miles and times when traveling at highway speeds. We immediately find that our average speed ends up being substantially below the posted speed limit of 25mph and, much of that time, in the single digit mile per hour range even. What we initially thought might take maybe an hour ends up taking two and a half. Along the way we are passed by two ATVs and I think of that line from the movie of the same name, “You drive so slow you could drive Miss Daisy.”
We eventually get to the roadside junction marker (16) which tells us we are mere minutes away and turn south for the last few hundred meters. We are hoping the place is not occupied and our hearts fall as we see those two ATVs that passed us earlier parked in front of the cabin along with some dude who is obviously a glutton for punishment and rode all the way there on a mountain bike! They are a nice couple and we soon find out that they are just out on a ride and stopping to have lunch there and then they will be on their way. The bike rider also is heading back out on the road after taking a quick break. We are successful in hiding our joy at their pending departure and start the process of unloading some of our stuff into the cabin and claiming it as ours for the next few days.
Here are a few more pictures of the cabin so you get an idea of what it is like:
The cabin is in two halves. Looking at it from the front the left side is the living space and the right side could be a garage but at this time is being used as storage for the old wood burning stove, some roofing materials and fence posts and barbed wire as well as small rodent poop all over the place. Luckily the living side has been nicely kept up and swept out by previous users.
To the left of the front door inside is some shelving where people have left some bottled water, a few granola bars and some paperback books and magazines for those who travel lighter than we do. I take this as a challenge to read a book or magazine a day from my box of reading materials we brought along. Reading=good. Leaving something for fellow travelers who come after us=good. Lightening our load and gaining some more space in the Tacoma=great. Previous visitors have also left some firewood and commercial fire starter sticks but the weather is so nice we never even thought of needing a fire indoors. Once we are all unloaded and situated we have a late lunch/early dinner and settle in for the night. The cabin obviously has no electricity or water or, unsurprisingly, no AT&T signal so we are living on the natural clock – wake up at sunrise, settle in for the night at sundown.
The next morning after our coffee ritual I start on my mission to read a book a day and Willow transforms herself into a doggie solar panel to soak up as many photons as she possibly can.
She has her Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad out but would much rather be a dirt dog and lay directly on the rocks. Only when I want her to be on the bed for a picture or because the cacti are leaving vicious little presents behind does she voluntarily use the bed.
It is nice and quiet and we almost forget we are on publicly accessible land until a dull rumble arises in the distance and a plume of dust signals the arrival of an invading force a.k.a “visitors.”
About a dozen ATVs arrive and pull up right to the door. People hop off and say “hi” and let the three dogs with them out of their rides to meet and greet Willow. I was too overwhelmed to take pictures of the dogs but I do remember one gorgeous dog, a miniature Queensland Heeler named Sister who got along great with Willow. Luckily our stuff in the cabin was still nicely organized as almost all the new arrivals want to go inside, take a look and sign the guest book. “Yes, please, come right in and take a look. Don’t mind our stuff.”
Happily the group likes beer and proceeds to pop open a dozen or so nice ales and share one with me. They even advertise their barley pop obsession by the flags on their ATVs.
Thirty minutes later the group has seen what they came to see and saddles up to continue their tour and peace and quiet once again descends over the cabin. Willow makes it her mission to sniff out each spot that had been scent-marked by the friendly intruder dogs and gleefully overmarks each and every one without fear of losing that chemical warfare battle.
After some more reading and a nice dinner we sit outside by the fire and enjoy another amazing desert sunset.
The next morning beckons clear and cool and we decide to take a hike up to the top of one of the small surrounding hills.
We are soon reminded once again that the desert flora has a high opinion of itself and protects its purity against outsiders such as us with sharp, stabby, spiky enthusiasm.
Within five minutes we turn around and head back to the cabin so that I can put on Willow’s protective booties before we set off again.
The little hill we are heading for is only a half mile away but in this vast expanse it seems farther than that. The ground is a base of rock with pumice-like chunks and vicious little cacti remnants strewn about on top.
Once we get to our destination I took a couple of pictures to get a feel of the expanse we are in.
And then another panorama to show the vastness of our surroundings.
We head back down to the cabin and I set about meeting my book-a-day challenge and Willow attempts to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for Hottest Dog to the Touch. The next day we get several more groups of visitors who all are friendly and stay only a short time but still, each arrival is an unexpected intrusion into our nice, quiet day. We can now see that we are on The Road More Traveled as opposed to where we want to be so we start organizing and packing up and plan to head out and find the Hoodoo Cabin in the Refuge tomorrow.