Where were we? Oh yeah, we've just entered an aerial military-combat training range, and wildlife refuge, on the remote southwestern border of Arizona. We have arranged our permit and called to check in before entering the range, so we should not be a target of any such training...but there's always a good chance of seeing/hearing activity. How about a sonic boom before breakfast?
Agua Dulce Mountains
It's a bit of a trek across the creosote-flats of the Growler and San Cristobal Washes. It doesn't get much better upon arrival to the appropriately-named Cholla Pass; the jumping variety are thick. There is a primitive campsite here; but...why? The most popular campsite in the Agua Dulce Mountains (Sweet Water) is at Papago Well. It features, uh, coupla picnic tables. Shunning popularity even in the wilderness, my favorite campsite is an even lonlier bit of cholla-free desert-pavement where the road bends around the north side of Sheep Mountain; the unmarked green dot on the map below. We sure had a purdy sunset there.
Last light on a ridge of Sheep Mountain.
Mother Nature paints a sunset tapestry behind Papago Mountain.
Sequence of a single sunset
behind the Sierra Pinta (Painted Mountains).
El Camino cloudscape.
In 1916, prospector Dave O'Neil died in the hills that now bear his name. According to Kirk Bryan: "His burros wandered away from camp in a storm, and after searching for them at least a day he died with his head in a mudhole." The grave has been desecrated at least three times...the first by the very men who buried him, who returned to retrieve O'Neil's tobacco which they had buried with him, "...and, lad, that tobacco chawed just as good as if it had been my pocket all them two weeks."
These two photos show off two of the local seasons, such as they are...a wet March and an earlier dry November. On my last visit, the grave had become something of a shrine with offerings of coins and small stones. What's up with that? Leave the guy a pack of smokes!
We have arrived at the lava fields of El Pinacate!
Not quite as spectacular as its Mexican counterpart, this part of the Pinacate is the northern edge of a 30 x 40-mile shield of volcanoes, cinder cones, and ancient lava flows spilling over the border. It's also where we pick up a more accurate reckoning the ancient El Camino del Diablo, having more indelibly etched itself upon this harder ground. Mexican Highway 2 continues a diverted but mostly parallel course not far across the border.
A cinder cone bookends the Sierra Pinta.
Rising to 4000 feet, the Sierra Pinacate lie far to the south in Mexico.
Cinder cone and grassy dunes.
Diaz Crater - interesting only in its sublime oddity. It is a nearly flat mar crater; walls eroded and center filled in with silt...but still visible in the pattern it has left on the ground. It was discovered on satellite photos of the area and later confirmed on the ground. Using those same photos I determined a barely-higher bit of nearby ground from where I could make a more modest photographic effort. The Sierra Pinta march to the northwest in the background; their sudden transition to a lighter color (behind a foreground cindercone) is not an illusion of distance but a faultline which neatly cleaves the range in twain.
1871 Nameer. That's all we know.
Continued in Part 3...