2015/03/18 (W) Hickiwan Trails
Why, indeed? Or perhaps Why Not. You can go there too.
Bonnie left yesterday headed for New York (eventually) and Curtis was planning to leave today for next week’s FMCA national rally in Pomona, California. We were invited to remain at RVillage WHQ while Curtis was away, but we had our sights set on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM).
Our original plan was to stay in the ‘modern’ campground at the Monument. It is strictly boondocking (no hookups) which would have been fine except that the section where generators are allowed is limited to only four hours a day with two windows from 8-10 AM and 4-6 PM. We could have managed on the four hour limitation for a few days, but the unequal spacing of the two windows would have drawn our batteries down more than we wanted during the 14 hours from 6 PM to 8 AM.
Linda searched for websites and found Hickiwan Trails RV Park in Why, Arizona. It was 10 miles south of Ajo, the nearest/only town of any size, and would locate us about 20 miles north of the north entrance to OPCNM. Linda called to make reservations, which were not necessary as it was past prime season and the park was mostly empty, and confirmed the availability of full hookups and 50 Amp power. The price was $19/day or $85/week with bathrooms/showers and a laundry. It was located just inside the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation behind their combination casino, filling station, and convenience store.
We left Arizona City around 1 PM and traveled back west on I-8 to Gila Bend where we headed south on AZ-85 through the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, a beautiful drive through yet another part of the Sonoran Desert. We wound our way slowly through Ajo (25 MPH speed limit) past an enormous open pit copper mine (shut down) and continued on to Why, AZ where we took AZ-86 (the left branch of the “Y”) for two miles. We pulled in to the RV Park around 3:30 PM after missing the (poorly marked) entrance, finding a turn-around spot, and unhooking the car so we could turn around. Linda got us registered while I parked the bus. We drove through the campground and selected a 50 Amp back-in site facing east. Lou and Val took the site just south of us.
Hickiwan Trails turned out to be a hidden gem. The park was clean, the roads and sites generous in their size, the bathhouse and laundry clean and fully functional, and the view in all directions amazing. We had barely finished making camp when we heard the braying of burros. The park manager, Dave, and several of the campers confirmed that there were wild burros in the area east of the campground and all we had to do to see them was hike out a wide, clear trail about 3/4 mile to the wash where they like to hang out. Or wait for them to come through the campground at night. Linda hiked out and found them and took a few photos with her cell phone.
Somewhere before pulling into the RV Park the driver side rear tire on Lou and Val’s 5th wheel trailer went flat. We got out our Dewalt air compressor and aired it up and the leak was immediately obvious, a 1/2 inch gash at the edge of the tread. It was likely not repairable but the condition of the tire tread, which was badly worn in one spot, ruled that out anyway. They had a spare that had never been used but was 10 years old. Not ideal, but it’s what they had. We discussed several options and Lou decided to sleep on it.
We took some sunset photos and let ourselves be awed by the dark night sky and plethora of stars before turning in for the night and using the park Wi-Fi which had initially been a bit fussy and not very fast. I discovered, however, that the connection stability and performance increased the later it got. By midnight I may have been the only user and was seeing a rock solid connection and almost 12 Mbps, which is outstanding for RV Park Wi-Fi.
2015/03/19 (R) First Things First
We came to this place to see and photograph nature; western landscapes, flora, fauna, and night skies. But our homes on wheels always take precedence over everything else except our personal health. Until the flat tire on Lou and Val’s 5th wheel trailer was fixed we were not going to be doing anything else. After thinking about it overnight, Lou decided to call Coach-Net. Yes, they could send someone out to take care of it. The guy arrived an hour or so later and in less than an hour had the bad tire/wheel off and the spare tire/wheel on and inflated.
While the tire was being taken care of Linda and I hiked out the trail in search of the wild burros. We found them about a mile out, a group of 12 and another group of 5. As best we could count we saw and photographed between 17 and 20 wild burros in a beautiful, natural setting. On the way back we left the trail as we neared the edge of the campground and headed through a sparsely vegetated area, watching the ground carefully for snakes. We were strolling along when I heard a rattle and looked to my right to see a rather large snake coiled up and staring at me. It was only about 7 feet away and Linda had passed by it on the other side by about the same distance. It decided I was not a threat, uncoiled and slithered off under a large, nearby bush. That was when I could positively identify it was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that I judged to be at least five feet long, which is close to the maximum size they attain. It was so well camouflaged when coiled up that either of us could have easily stepped on it even though we were looking carefully where we were going.
By the time the tire issue was resolved it was too late to head down to OPCNM so we decided to scout out a good place to photograph the sunset. It turned out that there was a BLM 14-day STVA just south of Why on the west side of AZ-85. It was a maze of makeshift dirt roads and washes but we kept working our way west trying to get beyond where most of the campers were located. We were surprised at how far back some of them had gone and the size/type of rigs they had brought back there, including large tag axle motorhomes and a full-size tractor towing a huge 5th wheel trailer. We could not have gotten our bus in here without scratching the paint and risking getting stuck.
We finally found a suitable spot and set up our cameras on tripods. Rain had passed through the area and there was a thunderstorm in progress over the mountains to the northwest. Lou concentrated on shooting HDR images with his small Sony camera which has excellent low light sensitivity and records colors very nicely. I concentrated on shooting panoramas and got several nice ones with rain falling from the storm clouds. We hung in as long as the color was good and then packed up our gear and found our way out while there was still just enough light to see.