After the crowds and the complete lack of AT&T signal at the Kofa Cabin we decided to see if any of the other cabins in the Refuge would be less crowded, have a cell signal and be as nice. We made the decision to head south, stay on the road the Kofa cabin is on and attempt to find the Wilbanks cabin. This ended up being a long day, hence the long post.
I say “attempt” because we could not get there via that route. We found the Kofa Monument though.
After a quick break at the monument we headed back down towards what passes for a trail and continued on to try to reach the Wilbanks Cabin. Within a mile, if that, from the monument we ended up down in a dry wash and what seemed to be an impassable dry waterfall. The Tacoma is probably capable if it was piloted by someone more brave and with way more off-road experience than I so we decided that discretion was the smart thing to do. Being loaded down with probably 1000 pounds of stuff (half of my life) we decided to not risk getting stuck or broken down out there where getting towed would have meant hiking for a day or two to get a cell signal and then probably a $1000 or so bill and more if we would have had to replace broken parts. So, being poor, we took the cheap, cowardly route and about-faced to head back the way we came.
This unplanned detour put me in a less-than-cheery mood which makes me a bit less cautious than usual. We have previously found out and gotten over the fact that “Desert Pin-stripping” (commonly known as scratching the shit out of your paint) is something that cannot be avoided out here. Driving up and out of the wash we briefly considered what new pattern the desert flora would leave on the sides of the Tacoma, decided more wouldn’t make it any worse and headed through the trees only to hear ugly sounds from up above. Oh, yeah, we have a bike on the rack up top and those trees just ate it.
The sad part of it is these are the same trees we passed through earlier on our way south and that time I decided to take down the bike, walk it past the obstacle and put it back up after we passed through. Damage done: front wheel grenaded (broken spokes, bent rim – Sorry Bike) and the arm of the Yakima rack which clamps to the down tube twisted off that tube and laying at an ugly angle. Dammit! After a few moments of loudly exclaimed choice words (which I will spare the eyes of my delicate readers from) I had to go apologize to Willow as she was concerned she had done something really bad. I next pulled out some branches that were stuck between spokes and rack and rooftop storage box and offered a quick apology to the trees for the damage done and poured a bit of water at the foot of each one as an offering.
About 30 minutes later we arrive back at the Kofa Cabin and briefly consider leaving well enough alone and moving back in but, no, we will push on. We change our destination target to the Hoodoo Cabin which does not even show up on the map but we have heard it is right at the Hoodoo Well. Back out on Pipeline Road we can see something called Charco 4 a bit past the turn off we want to take at Marker 14 (Kofa Manganese Road) and so decide to go check it out. The map legend says it is one of the items in the “Waters” category but we have seen mention of wells, dams, tanks, seeps and springs and want to see what its head-with-horns icon signifies.
Once we arrive we guess that it has something to do with livestock as there is a corral and loading ramp as well as a windmill, tank and shaded, open, ground level watering hole.
Our curiosity quenched (get it…water hole, quenched?) we head back out to Pipeline Road and then turn onto the road towards Hoodoo Cabin. The sign says 14 miles, how long could that possibly take? Answer = 3 hours. We did not know this yet though and so, I set a new GPS track and off we head.
If you have taken a look at the map legend you will have seen mention and icons for roads designated “Any High-Clearance Vehicle” or “4-Wheel Drive Recommended.” As our Tacoma is a most awesome and capable vehicle we tend to scoff at such differentiation and expect this to be an example of budget-strapped, overly cautious, lawsuit-averse government CYA. At first we seem to be correct in our assessment and leaving the Tacoma in rear-wheel drive is sufficient. Soon enough though we come to places that warrant 4-wheel drive and our speed plummets into single digit range. Our going is slow but steady enough that we momentarily forget about one of our cardinal rules: Don’t drive up (or down) a road you cannot back out of if need be. Puttering and carefully picking our way up a steep, rock-strewn “trail” barely wide enough for an ATV we have a brief moment of doubt we’re actually on the right path and then, to drive that doubt home, we round a corner and come upon a section even more steep and rocky than we have been on. From my understanding of the Mitchell Scale this is easily a Class IV. Gulp – what have we gotten ourselves into here? Since backing up is out of the question and turning around is impossible I guess that means our decision is made for us and we need to continue on. We take this opportunity to shift the Tacoma into 4-Low and try to gently rock and roll our way up and around Willow-sized rocks without driving off the 200 foot drop to our left. Five minutes later we have bounced, crunched, jolted and smashed ourselves past that obstacle course (thank goodness for underbody skid plating). As I look over at Willow in relief I see she has decided that, compared to our regular routes, this deserved her actual awake and close attention. She gives me a classic Willow “What the Hell Was Up With That” look and then lowers her head back down on her co-pilot’s seat and proceeds to shut her eyes, but only half way because… you never know.
Happily we can now shift back into regular old 4-wheel drive for the rest of the journey which ends up being only 30 minutes or so.
Finally and luckily we find the crossroads with the #34 Junction Post which is laying on the ground. Since we have now gone slightly more than the 14 miles the sign way back when told us and there is no obvious clue which way to head we make the executive decision to turn right and hope for the best. Down the hill, into a wash, out of the wash, up a hill and at long last we see the top of a white structure which can (hopefully) only be the Hoodoo Cabin.
Since the sign nicely suggested we look for the brass medallions inside we take a look.
As with the Kofa Cabin this is a first come, first served situation and so we set about unloading our stuff into the cabin and claiming it as ours for the next few days. It is a spacious two area layout with a bathroom (that sadly does not work because of no water to the cabin) in the rear.
For a moment we got excited because there is piping and a spigot outside and sinks in both the kitchen and bathroom but immediately have our hopes dashed. There is a large valve in the dirt outside near the back of the cabin which we are sure was the main shut off back in the day but now it is rusted solidly closed and, even if we could coax it open and there was actually water behind it, for many reasons we decide to leave it alone and just work with the water we brought ourselves.
Once moved in we decide to take a closer look and soon find that the very walls that make up the main room are on pulley systems and can be pulled up out-of-the-way to create, essentially a screened-in porch.
Above the front door and in the dirt below the wall/window to its right are reminders of where we are, if we stumbled in here unawares.
As I continued to get us situated Willow wandered about around the place to see and smell what was what.
Soon enough I went to find and join her on a lookabout. To the south of the cabin is a windmill actively pumping water somewhere but, sadly, not to the cabin. Set into its concrete base is a notation in stones, “YCC 86” which we are assuming means Youth Conservation Core or the like and 1986 as its construction date.
For two whole days we have the place to ourselves. We spend the time reading and relaxing between bouts of hikes to and fro around the area. Sadly though, again, AT&T has let us down and there is zero signal at all. No news, blog posts or looking up how windmills actually bring water to the surface.
Directly west of the cabin about 100 yards away is a wash that must flow with water at certain times of the year because green plant life abounds.
There are signs that it is used as a wildlife highway as well.
All around the cabin we find patches of white which, from farther away and at first glance, look like hold-out patches of snow but instead are a soft powdery substance which we guess are alkali deposits.
We keep waiting for a ranger to stop by so we can ask him or her about this and some of our other questions; who owns the windmills and wells? Is the water potable? How and how often do they read the rain gauges? Who is J. White?
The morning sunrise paints the sky behind the white cabin in lovely hues of purple, blue and pink.
Our nights are spent sitting next to the campfire made with wood that some generous soul has left for us. Enough was left that there was still a couple of nights worth when we finally departed.
After three days of uninterrupted bliss we finally had visitors in the form of a pair of ATVs and four adults out on an excursion. They had a beautiful female Australian Cattle Dog who stayed in the back of one of the ATVs as she supposedly didn’t play nicely with other dogs and especially not females like Miss Willow. Too bad. I made it up to her with a few duck-flavored treats. Their arrival was felicitous as we were running a bit low on water (our biggest use of water is for my thirsty girl) and they graciously offered us several bottles which would be more than enough for an extra day before we needed to head out. They also asked if we had found the Hovatter Ranch and the answer to that was “who, what and nope” but we will put that on our To Do list…
…but, since we have no Internet access (thanks for nothing, again, AT&T) we can’t look that up either and have no electronic maps as well. We’ll worry about that when we are about ready to leave which, considering our water situation had better be the day after tomorrow.
On our last day we putz about cleaning and packing up slowly and inefficiently. The violent back and forth rocking of the bike up top getting to the cabin has finished off the bike rack and our carefully figured out packing scheme has been thrown into turmoil as now the bike will have to go inside the shell with our other stuff. Luckily the bike rack was a hand-me-down from a friend and it was actually a pair of them so I have a spare in storage in Glendale. It’s a great rack for on road driving but obviously not for off-roading so we will have to look into another option, probably one attached to our tow hitch. This will also have the added benefit of being more aerodynamic than the sail-like option that we now have. We’ll look at those options once we get back on the Net 😉
With some careful planning and placement we get everything into the Tacoma. We take one last look around to make sure we have not left anything behind that we did not mean to. We purposefully left some of the magazines and books we finished, a used roll of toilet paper (well, not used, partly depleted) and some paper towels. Once the guest book has a new entry from and about us we load up and head back out on the trail, out of the Wilderness Refuge and back to civilization. That though is a story better left for our next post.