Monday, January 11, 2016

Lines on a Map

We were sad to leave our friends, Liz and Jack when we departed Bisbee. SR90 took us through Sierra Vista then to SR82 west at Sonoita where we turned north onto SR83 to take us to Empire Ranch Road and the entrance to Las  Cienegas National Conservation Area. The refuge is high desert consisting of rolling hills surrounded by mountains on all sides. Good gravel roads lead to a number of dispersed camping areas. We enjoyed the beauty and peaceful solitude of the grasslands where many western movies were filmed by stars such as John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck and Steve McQueen. Lacking horses, we rode our bicycles 9 miles to Sonoita where we had lunch at The Steakout Restaurant and Saloon. They serve good barbecue, and from the looks of it, great steaks. That evening, we returned to enjoy a beer, listen to live music and watch the football game.
Dispersed Camping in Las Cienegas 

With rain in the forecast, and because the trails into the campsites from the gravel road were dirt, we thought it wise to not stay and test the ability of our 4 wheel drive tow vehicle to get us out of Las Cienegas. Plus, if we had to endure rain, an urban area would provide more entertainment opportunities and we could complete necessary chores, like laundry and getting the oil changed in the truck. Tucson was just a short drive so we set off for Tucson Mountain Park, where we have stayed before. The weather cooperated the day we arrived allowing us to hike  to Brown Mountain and back from the campground. The rain arrived the next day so we dropped the truck off at the Ford dealer and spent a few hours purchasing a few necessities (See's chocolates) at the nearby mall and shopping center. When we retrieved the truck, we were told that the brakes were very close to being worn out. The quote from the dealer to replace the brakes seemed a little high, but with the advantage of the internet I found a small repair shop that had high ratings and it was just a mile from the laundromat. The next day we arrived at Advantage Auto Repair on the corner of Fort Lowell Road and North Stone Ave at mid-morning and Oscar, the proprietor, promised us the work would be complete by mid-afternoon. After finishing the laundry we returned at 2:30 PM, and as promised, the truck was ready to go.

The following day, we had lunch with Sarah's professor from graduate school, Eleanor, and her partner, Michael. After lunch, Michael delighted us by showing his collection of automatas. He has amassed an amazing array of intricately crafted objects designed to create movement in these fanciful 'toys' simply by turning a hand crank. See Michael's website to watch them come to life.

The lure of more petroglyphs was too strong to resist, so we headed for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site about 150 miles west of Tucson Mountain Park. Painted rocks are a misnomer for this site. The rock art here are petroglyphs. The ancient nomadic peoples that traveled along the Gila river here used stones to chip away at the dark oxidation, known as desert patina, that covers the exposed rocks leaving thousands of intricate figures and designs. The campsites were exceptionally large, ours was at least 100 feet square and provided great views of the distant mountains.
Huge campsite at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site
Not your average pile of desert rock
Thousands of petroglyphs
A mixture of cultures
Our next destination was Quartzite where we intended to check out the gem and stone dealers while waiting to go on to Blythe for the Blythe Bluegrass Festival. But, needing to re-provision and being close to Yuma, we took advantage of the large city's fine grocery store to stock up. Rather than drive another 80 miles north to Quartzite, and noting Picacho State Recreation Area, in California, was just 24 miles north we decided to stop there for the night. "Beside's", said Sarah while holding the atlas, "there is a scenic road we can take that will bring us directly from there to Blythe". The road from Yuma to Picacho is gravel and it turned out to be very rough due to washboarding and we were reduced to less than 15 MPH. I told Sarah, I didn't want to drive 80 miles on this road. She assured me that the road north from Picacho was a paved road because it was drawn in red on our Rand McNally Atlas indicating it was paved. And, she said it was scenic because it had the little circles marking it as such.
A river flows through the desert
Looking east with the sun reflected on the mountains over the Colorado River
Picacho Recreation area sits alongside the Colorado River. Besides the campground host, one other camper and one person fishing, we had the place to ourselves. The campground is a pleasant surprise after traversing 24 miles of rock and desert. The lush vegetation and towering trees along the river contrasted dramatically with the surrounding desert. We enjoyed a quiet night along the Colorado River.
Our campsite at Picacho
After enjoying a warm solar-powered shower the next morning and while preparing to leave, we discovered that we had had a guest inspect our trailer the previous night. In the fine dust that settled on the bumper of the Mary Joan we discovered footprints of what appeared to be a rather large racoon. We were both very happy that we try to never leave the door to the rear storage compartment open.
Big Racoon?
Our next surprise was the 'road' that Sarah said could take us north was not a road. Rather, it was the indicator of the location of the time zone divide. Resigned to retracing our tooth jarring route, we set off for Quartzite.
See the line along the river?

Desert view from road into Picacho
Departing Picacho on the washboard road

Stay tuned.


  1. Wonderful pictures. The desert pictures has amazing color. Thanks for sharing. Nancy

  2. Great photos! I enjoyed these latest adventures. Thanks for posting! We misso you guys and look forward to seeing you when you return!

  3. Love the photography Wayne!

    Joe R.


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