This is part 2 of our The Desert Around Ajo post. See part 1 here.
April 20 – April 26, 2020.
I was looking forward to visiting the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, even though it wasn’t going to be too much different from the 4 days we had just spent camping on BLM land outside of Ajo. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take the route into the refuge I really wanted to travel along – El Camino del Diablo (The Devil’s Road). This ominous-sounding bit of road runs along the southern edge of the refuge along the US/Mexico border and requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Starting in 1540, it was an important route between Yuma, AZ and Sonoyta, Mexico for Conquistadors, missionaries, prospectors, and traders. The road’s devilish name was inspired by the many who died along the route due to the treacherous terrain, searing heat, and lack of water. Some of the graves of these unfortunate souls can still be found along the road. But where we were going, besides all the wildlife, the most interesting thing we might find was out in the desert would be unexploded ordinance (military talk for live bombs).
Yes, live bombs. Apparently the military has used the refuge as a gunnery and bombing range. And, I guess, it is OK to leave all their unexploded ordinances out in the desert. Perhaps this is why we needed to get a permit to enter the refuge. And because as part of the permitting process, we were required to watch a half-hour online video that basically told us not to touch the bombs, I guess it was OK for us to be out there too.
Although we didn’t see any bombs, we did see tons of wildlife. Something new every day. It seemed like there would be no end to it. But finally, rising temperatures were threatened to rename Ballena Blanca to El Diablo de la Combi. So after 4 days at the refuge and 2 more at the Barry M. Goldwater Range (a gated locked military range the same permit allowed us to enter), we finally said goodbye to the desert around Ajo – all the birds, flowers, blooming cacti, baby hawks, rodents, lizards, and all the unexploded bombs.
* Click pics to enlarge and open into a slide show.
** And BTW – if you are wondering how id all these plants and animals, we have an iNaturalist account. You can see our observations on the account and follow us here.
It has been a beautiful spring here in Arizona and we feel so lucky that despite all the things that are closed down we can still get outside and enjoy nature. Have you been having a nice spring where you are right now? Have you been spending more time outside lately? Have you seen anything exciting out in the wild or even in your back yard lately?