Sunday, March 3, 2024

We Moved

 When the temps are rising and there have been rain showers and one has a camp spot near dense desert vegetation, one has to deal with bugs! Bugs come as the nasty "No-seems", which can crawl into your ears, nose hair, short anywhere they desire to be and bite you, and there isn't anything you can do about it, or hordes of flies are doing landing exercises on you or, worse, you get the super-size mosquitoes which have the ability to sit on any skin-exposed area sucking your blood. Neither of those flyin' bastards are especially welcome. And when we  discovered that poor Dixie was suffering under the same attacks, we decided to act upon it.

Our camp spot was behind a slight rise which was fine to stop the wind but it also meant that insects were thriving there.  So we needed to move to a camp spot in more open terrain where the wind could blow and with less vegetation around it.

Such place exist in the very rear of the Holtville Hot Springs LTVA. And today the last and only camper moved out from there. So we rushed to pack everything, hitch on the trailer and move the short distance to a new better spot. 

Soon we were bug-free and happy established again in a place with lots of breezy air, and we even have a cactus out front. This site used to be occupied by friends from Ontario, which, sadly, cannot take the long drive south anymore. 

Dixie clearly was a bit confused as she couldn't access her old spaces anymore, but she will adjust after a day.

A side benefit of this spot is that it much quieter as we can't hear the traffic from the I-8 anymore. Further, there is less vehicle traffic here, and no other neighbours who are being barked at by Dixie.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Into The Golden Past

 Again we had reached the time for another trip to Yuma to replenish our supplies of propane and gas. And why not use this opportunity to undertake another excursion.

This time I had plotted out Ogilby Road, which connects the I-8 with Hwy 78 towards Blythe,CA. Its more technical name is S-34. It turns off of I-8 a few miles west of Yuma. The quality of the road does not make you want to write home about, as its tarmac is very broken and in places downright bad. I wouldn't want to pull our trailer up there, yet many people do it, as the road also is a shortcut to the Glamis Imperial Sand Dunes. We were rather interested in visiting the Golden Past of the area, namely the former gold town of Tumco.  (link to mine info)

I have posted about Tumco once before, but I think every visit to this long abandoned place will leave you with a new different impression.

Here is a write-up by the Imperial Valley Press

The Tumco Historic Townsite is an abandoned gold mining town located off I-8 on Ogilby Road in Winterhaven, California. It sits on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land amid the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. Tumco is one of the earliest gold mining areas in California with a 300 year history consisting of several periods of success and failure.

Before the gold rush, Imperial Valley had Spanish and Sonoran soldiers, settlers, and laborers all mining gold in the mountains of the southeastern portion of Imperial County, known as the Chocolate Mountains. It is here where the story of the Cargo Muchachos [loosely translated as “loaded boys”] originates. According to early accounts, two young boys were playing in the mountains trying to mine for gold like their fathers. Upon returning to their camp they discovered gold all over their clothes! From then on, the mountains were named the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and word traveled fast that these mountains were “loaded” with gold. Afterwards, numerous small mines were operated and mining companies moved into the area, which purchased claims and developed the mines on a large scale.

In Imperial Valley the first local to discover gold in the area was Pete Walters of Ogilby, who first discovered a gold vein at Gold Rock on January 6, 1884. Gold can be deposited in many ways, but gold veins are a miner’s dream! Gold veins are solidified streams of high-grade minerals, ripe for the picking. From here the first gold camp commenced, originally known as Hedges, which reached its peak development between 1893-1899 with about 3,200 residents. Hedges was abandoned in 1905 and later renamed. Tumco stands for The United Mines Company that bought the mines in the area in 1910. Unfortunately, in 1911 it was once again abandoned after costly efforts and diminishing prospects of gold.

Although little can be seen of Tumco today, during the boom time of the 1890’s, it supported a population of at least 500 people and the 40 and 100 stamp mills of the mine produced $1,000 per day in gold. Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area.

We arrived there at about 10:30 and drove to the small parking lot from where a foot pass leads the visitors into the mining area. The "road" to the parking lot requires extremely low speed. 

With Dixie on the leash we started our hike which led us to some huge old water tanks. These tanks were used as water storage for the mining operation, but today are filled with sand. The combined weight of the sand and rusting steel brought made these tanks burst open.
The hundreds of workers which once slaved for the mining company, lived in small primitive cabins throughout the area. Within those old foundations a few rusty tin cans witness about human activity. Thinking of the hustle bustle of the long-gone days the eerie quiet of this place is almost depressing. Wind gusts are picking up some fine sand just to drop it again a few yards away. Nature has taken over here, yes, the humans took gold and they took cyanid, but the surrounding mountains and the sandy plains beneath have continued to be what they've always been, a part of the huge south-western desert.
As we rounded the tanks we noticed a horned desert lizard scurrying away from us. It's color is the same as the sand. Hadn't it moved, I wouldn't have noticed it.
The one-way distance of our hike wasn't even one mile, but already we noticed that we got thirsty for water. It is extremely important to carry water on every hike into the desert. If one falls and breaks an ankle, it can take a long time until help arrives. Waiting without water may then turn out to be far more serious than breaking the ankle itself.

Back at the van we all indulged in our lunch package, Dixie drinking a lot of water. 

Want to check out my previous posting about TUMCO?

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Did You Hear The Coyotes Last Night?

It was after bedtime and Bea was already halfways in dreamland, when I heard the familiar yapping and howling of a bunch of coyotes not too far from our trailer. By then the moon had come out behind the clouds and it gave me that very special feeling of being in close proximity to nature. There are coyotes on Campobello Island as well, but we never see or hear them. Here, in the southern desert, these animals are so much more present. In fact we have seen a single coyote many times under our walks with Dixie. And once, we walked along the canal, Dixie found one sleeping in the bushes and chased him up. Luckily, Dixie has no interest in pursuit, so she is more than willing to turn around and come back to us. Besides, she is bigger than the coyotes around here.

Free in the desert

Now, that day temperatures have been rising for about a week, we can find other desert creatures as well, most often tiny small lizards. They are so incredibly fast that whenever Dixie sees one it is already gone before she gets her snout anywhere near it. Of course, we are getting a bit leary about Dixie finding a rattle snake. As even night temps are now above 10C (50F) snakes can be expected to be around in the open after dark or hiding in the shade of a creosote bush during hot day hours.

Fresh green in the desert

So yes, that's the other side of being near nature. We know it and we have spent many winters in this desert environment. 

We enjoy daily walks and are meeting wonderful people with similar interests.

Our plan for the next month includes a stay at the Cibola Wild Life Refuge, Quartzsite, the Wild-West town of Oatman and Petrified Forest Nat'l Park. Being back home at around April 15 would be sufficient to start work in the garden. Are we looking forward to a delightful warm northern summer? You bet we are!

And when someone has a birthday we gotta have a party about it

No lack of cakes here

A large birthday crowd gathered

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Adventurous Tuesday

It was time to get a refill of propane and gas for the van. Since both items are considerably cheaper in Arizona than in California, we had decided to take a drive to Yuma. Because of it was a beautiful blue-sky day, we ventured on and took a trip to Martinez Lake and the Imperial Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, an area we had never seen before.

A few miles north of the East Entrance to the Yuma Proving Grounds, the Martinez Lake Rd turns west off Hwy 95.

The road is of excellent standard all the way to the Imperial Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. 


The Imperial Nat'l Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect habitat for a variety of migratory birds and other wildlife. It encompasses 30 miles of the lower Colorado River  in Arizona and California, including the last unchannelized section before the river enters Mexico. The river and its associated backwater lakes and wetlands are a green oasis, contrasting with the surrounding desert mountains.

The Visitor Center exhibits offers great insight into the biodiversity of the area. Unfortunately, the fellow who was staffing the center had no interest in speaking to the visitors. He prefered to look into his Smart Phone, while several people were walking through the center. My guess is that he is a non-motivated volunteer.

Spring has come to the desert

Outside of the building they had 3 desert tortoises which could be observed from a walkway.

There is also a covered picnic area with benches where we ate our lunch.

Waiting for a handout

Afterwards we followed the Red Cloud Mine Rd. west into the desert mountains. Three view points can be accessed by vehicle. The last one, called 'Ironwood View' also marks the ending of the maintained road. For further travel a 4x4 high-clearance vehicle is recommended. We parked at Ironwood View and hiked down the 4x4 road until we reached a hilltop with truly magnificent views. It might be possible to continue on the dirt road with a 2WD, but it would probably depend on weather conditions. And we saw several bigger rocks in the middle of the road. 

The Red Cloud Mine

Since 1877, the Red Cloud Mine has produced the highest quality Wulfenite specimens in the world. For a fee people can search and collect beautiful gems in the mine.

The different ground colors of the area are mesmerizing and the rock formations astounding. 

But the sun was burning down on us and even though temps were not predicted to reach 70F, it was very hot in the sun. 

Anything more to eat here?

Our van was parked on the top of a hill and we had to hike back up. Almost reaching the van I looked at Dixie and got concerned that this was too much of a strain for her. Once we had her back in the van she drank some water and started to relax. The whole hike had not been more than a 1km (0.6miles) one way, but it is easy to underestimate the body's need for water.

Leaving the Wildlife area, we explored the old village of Martinez Lake. Originally, a fishing village in the fifties, it turned into a vacation spot, when the waters of the Colorado declined. We were not impressed about Martinez Lake Village. The entire area seems to lack planning. In between houses (they were all vacant) old crappy trailers had been set up. The whole place looked like a slum. Some people had built nice quite large homes, but the neighbourhood witnessed about decay and abondonment. The little marina was mostly empty, except a few old decrepit boats, one being a destroyed still floating houseboat. 

The Colorado River is supposed to be at the foot of these mountains

American Irony