Escape From Kofa

After our adventures within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge we extended that adventure when we left by not really knowing how to get out and having no accurate maps to guide us. Since our definition of adventure is partially “not knowing what the outcome will be” we just got back out on the trail and headed due East. We actually were first going to head due West and try to find the Wilbanks Cabin again but the ATV riders told us it was a rat chewed and infested trap unsuitable for human (or canine) habitation. We still wanted to at least see it though and so got on the trail we thought headed in the right direction. Soon enough though it was becoming apparent that we were most likely heading back on the tail end of the Class IV trail we used to come over to the Hoodoo Cabin and so we decided both reluctantly (if we were in fact on the right road to Wilbanks) and happily (if we were headed back out onto the trail that woke up my sleeping beauty) to turn around and just get the hell out of Dodge. The map of the Refuge we picked up at a trailside kiosk is bare bones and barely adequate but it does show that if we get on one particular trail it will curve around and eventually head back in the right direction to exit. What it doesn’t show is what comes after we head off the edge of the map but, again, Adventure, Yay!

Like before the trail changes back and forth between 2 and 4-wheel drive required and so the going is slow. After about an hour we come to a fork in the road that is not on our crappy map and there is zero signage and so decide to take a quick look/see at what is to the left which is kinda/sorta not the way our pigeon sense tells us is the right way to go. Again, Adventure, yay! (this time with a lower-case y). It is immediately apparent from the carefully and evenly spaced saguaro cacti that this is not a road but someone’s old circular driveway.

GPS track of our drive around the old Hovatter Ranch circular driveway
We drove in circles around the old driveway to get some pictures
Nature does not space cacti so evenly
Nature does not work so evenly

There is also obvious signs of rock foundations and walkway boundaries and so we make a quick stop to get out and have a look. I believe we may have found the remains of the old Hovatter Ranch.

More signs of human hands at work way back when
The girl having a sniff at more signs of human hands at work way back when

14544589803323We will look up info about this later but for now we take this as a happy sign that, indeed, the “road” to the left is wrong which makes the road to the right the correct way to go.

Ten minutes out and a half mile away up the hill we come across two guys eating breakfast all of ten feet off the trail (duh) and stop to ask if we are heading in the right direction (we are) and how much father it is (30 some odd miles). It seems they have been watching our slow progress for the last hour of our journey from the Hoodoo Cabin. They have compound bows leaning against their tents and we ask what they are hunting. The answer, coyotes. Our next questions is are they going to eat them? We think that hunting is fine but if you’re going to kill it, eat it. This whole thing of hunting in a wildlife refuge seems wrong to us. When they smirk and answer in the negative they get placed into our jerk category and we attempt to leave them to their low-class pursuits. But first they have a few questions and, to be nice and because my blog URL is plastered across the back of the Tacoma and being a dick would be bad advertising we wait. They want to know how far away the Hoodoo Cabin was and, since I had an active GPS track being recorded, it was easy to tell them in too much detail how far and how long it had taken. They also wanted to know what shape the trail was in and particularly would their disturbingly clean and desert pinstripe-free new Ford F150 get all scratched up. Yes, the answer is yes. We tried to put a nice spin on it though by mentioning that desert pin-stripping adds character and shows you’re not a poser but they were unconvinced. We verbally wished them a nice day while thinking, hard, “we hope the coyotes are smarter than you” and headed up the hill and away from their camp.

That hill up and away from the (hopefully unsuccessful) coyote killers forces us back into 4-wheel drive and we slowly, painstakingly pick our way up and over it until we come to the grouping of signs announcing the entrance to the Wildlife Refuge.

Been There, Done That
Been There, Done That

This now means we are officially on BLM land and truly have no idea where we are heading next. Adventure, yay.

Down at the bottom of the hill and across and out of a wash we finally find our first (and apparently the first) BLM marker which without a map tells us nada.

Not the sign's fault it does not help us
Not the sign’s fault it does us no good

It sits at a crossroads and our best guess is to head to the right and so we do. The road immediately devolves into a softball sized rock obstacle and slalom course. Speed is denied us and so we slowly bump and roll along on our way for about half an hour. The “road” keeps getting worse and eventually ends up/becomes a dry creek bed populated by basket ball sized rocks. Umm, nope. Time once again to retrace our steps and hope we eventually find the correct road to freedom. If worse comes to worse we can easily just pull off to the side of the road and camp for the night but we would rather get out. Since we have been keeping a GPS track it is easy to retrace our steps.

Our choice to head to the right was wrong
Our choice to head to the right was wrong. Blue pin is our find though.

Of course, adventure, so when we see a path emerge and head in a different direction from where our GPS track dictates we feel oddly compelled to go see what the sign up thataway signifies.

Not sure what we have found at first
Not sure what we have found at first

We thought that possibly this assembly of galvanized sheets was protecting a seep, whatever that is and that water seeps out and then down into the tank below.

14544589793738
She is as puzzled as I am
The tank below
The tank below

Taking a closer look we can see that the tank is filled to the brim.

taking a quick shot through the chicken wire keeping critters out of the tank
Not a good shot through the chicken wire keeping critters out but the tank is totally full

When we take a closer look at the set up as a whole it becomes more obvious. The galvanized sheeting is laid out on a slight incline and is a deceptively simple method of a large surface area to capture rainwater and direct it into the sluices that eventually feed the tank.

From the sheeting into this sluice
From the sheeting into this sluice and then into the tank

The tank then pipes the water down into ground level drinking tanks for the local wildlife or, in this case, my thirsty dog.

Willow drinking out of a wildlife watering hole
The water looked clean enough
Plaque on the tank she was drinking from
Plaque on the tank she was drinking from
Another tank about 50 feet a way
Another tank about 50 feet a way looking decidedly less refreshing

Now that Willow was refreshed and our mystery solved it was time to continue to back track and find our way out.

GPS track of our detour to the water collection setup
The detour during the detour

The road names are on the GPS track now but when they were being made with no Internet access they were just white lines on a blank background.

Once we finally made it back to our 001 BLM marker we took a right (which would have been a left from ground level although it looks like straight on from the GPS track) and continued on and hopefully out. We quickly came to a sign announcing the presence of an active mine nearby.

A sign to the mine
The sign to the mine in a direction we will not succumb to

This is a bit of heartening news as one of the ATV riders had mentioned that the mine operators keep the access road from the mine through the entire BLM area well maintained and once you find your way onto that the going gets much smoother, easier and quicker. Glad to hear it.

We finally are rolling along at a nice clip on a nicely maintained dirt road when we come across signs of civilization.

La Paz County sign
We made it back

Will wonders never cease? An actual Road sign appears and we kinda/sorta know where we are at now.

Hovatter Road sign
Now we can put a name to the place

A little farther down the road and we are now in a good mood which usually equates with a spirited driving pace and we fly past some man-made thing on the side of the road which, adventure dictates, we must stop and find out what it is or signifies.

roadside marker
The roadside marker we almost missed

We could do without the religious fervor but this is the plaque that the stone marker held.

Close up of the marker's plaque
Close up of the marker’s plaque

Now, we don’t see and don’t remember passing anything that remotely looked like a dam and so I quickly leave the Tacoma by the side of the road and hike up the hill behind the marker to see what can be seen.

The Tacoma from the top of the hill
From the top of the hill the Tacoma way down yonder

Once at the top of the hill we can see how we missed it. The dam is an earthen structure used as a catchment with no obvious method of outflow or control. From the road it looks just like another wall of earth with sparse vegetation on it the same color as everything else in the general vicinity.

View down on the earthen dam
Looking down on the dam.

From the view you can tell that it does do something as the green and growth is substantially greater on the side where those average of 5 inches of rain per year collect, probably during those 21 days a year on average with any measurable precipitation.

Right about now is when AT&T stops sucking up a storm and a veritable deluge of stored emails and texts appears on my phone making it sound like R2-D2 having a strident conversation with C-3PO (yes, I am a nerd). One group of texts is from some friends we met at the RTR asking how and where we are and letting us know where they are camping on the Colorado River in Ehrenburg. Of course they sent those texts a week ago and so we quickly respond not knowing if they are still there. They are and so our plans and destination change a bit so we can meet up with them. Soon enough we hit Highway 10 and head west towards Quartzite which is about an hour away.

Our plan was to hit Quartzite and essentially rejoin the human race. This entails dumping all the trash we collected and the small amount we produced ourselves, filling up our water storage and gas tank, doing laundry, taking a real shower (not from a solar shower), eating a meal consisting of food I didn’t prepare and won’t have to clean up and generally feeling and smelling like a human again. Now that Ehrenburg is on the agenda we will skip the laundry and shower and instead get a Subway Veggie Delight for the road. Since we missed the Quartzite Transfer Station’s weird open hours we drop off our garbage bit by bit at each of our planned stops before Ehrenburg. A small bag into the garbage can at the water fill up place. Another at the gas station. One at the small grocery store we stop in to get some beer and finally the last grocery store sized bag of garbage into the can in front of the sandwich shop. Nice. More room in the truck and it is starting to smell better by the minute too.

Complete GPS track from our Escape From Kofa
The GPS track for the entire day does not tell the whole story

Then it is off for the final 20 miles or so to Ehrenburg.

GPS stats for the day. 111 miles, 7 hours, average speed 15.74 miles per hour
The stats for the day. 1st gear rock crawling really skews the averages.

We know Quartzite and its services pretty well so it will be good to find out where all those same things are in another town. In the next coupe of days we will finish off those things on our list that will complete my transformation back to a normal looking and smelling member of the human race. Then we will enjoy the company of people we like for a short while until our next trip into the less populated and traveled areas on our adventures with dog.

2 thoughts on “Escape From Kofa

  1. Marie

    Absolutely awesome writing! You make it feel like I was RIGHT THERE!!! I was in Ehrenberg before the RTR, but had to leave early. PS. Say hi to Willow for me. Sounds like you two are having a wonderful time!

    1. Willow

      I translated “say hi” to belly rubs and Willow was quite pleased to receive them and says “thanks.” We are having a nice time and since we are staying at Saddle Mountain near Tonopah and AT&T sucks less than usual here I will be posting more in the next couple of days.

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