Section 3: Yuma to Nogales
Another cold night that is difficult to wake up from. As we walk along meandering roads, we come across a construction area with “Rent a Fence” fencing, several bulldozers, a RV rig and other signs of equipment.
It was probably a mining site, yet we joked, "is this an amusement park being made in the middle of nowhere"?
It’s a theme of our trip; areas busy with construction and machinery but completely empty of people. We have no idea if this site had workers here yesterday or if it’s been sitting half-finished for years.
A couple miles in we were thrilled to follow the sound of trickling water to a beautiful lush creek bed below us. A little pool of water came out of the ground, then disappeared again. A water catchment tank was close by which suggested this was a reliable source of water. So far we have mostly speculated about the lushness of this area and we were excited to finally see the proof. Cow patties and hoofprints covered the entire area - prime giardia conditions - and we were especially cautious to filter everything.
We followed to main road, a wide, hard-packed, dirt trail that will take us almost all the way into Nogales, for the rest of the day. A couple miles in we intersected a Forest Service employee named Jesse, who had stopped by the side of the road to trim some brush back. He was young and funny and found us absolutely hilarious. Everytime we answered one of his questions about the trip he would yell “shut the front door!” and bend over in laughter.
What's so funny? Just kidding, it was awesome.
We had a ton of fun joking around and telling stories. He couldn’t believe we were out here (apparently there aren’t many walkers on these roads) but he only had positive energy for us, as well as helpful info about the road to come. We reluctantly parted knowing we had to get some hiking in.
The road brought us to the old mining town of Ruby, which is now a ghost town and popular tourist destination. In the early 1900s, the mine was once one of the largest producers of zinc and lead in Arizona. It closed in 1940 and left buildings and equipment behind. We hoped to check it out and get some information about the road ahead, but the gate was locked and the caretaker absent. Several other cars were parked in front, tourists out for the day, and they also had plenty of questions about what we were doing out here. We all chatted for almost an hour, hoping that the gates would open, but no one came and they eventually drifted away, car by car, until we were the only ones left.
Other than a few tourists and Border Patrol, the majority of cars that passed us throughout the day were hunters, most in small OHVs loaded with guns and camp gear, a piece of camo flapping idly to the side. They drive around to various locations during the day and return to extravagant campsite setups by night. We eyed every single camp that we passed with envy. Their tents were spacious, their coolers full of soda, beer and other delicious treats.
Anyone want to adopt us for the night?
At the end of the day, we stopped to chat with two hunters returning from their day with empty bags. They were on foot (!!) and very nice, warning us about the cold night ahead.
We could feel the temperature dropping as we walked, and we looked for a protected spot to camp. All we could find was a little wash that clearly served as a popular cow hangout. Cow pies everywhere. Oh well. We’ve set up a tent in worse! We got in our sleeping bags as quickly as possible so we could start the long process of warming them up. As the light faded, we heard the distant sound of heavy plodding footsteps moving closer and closer. They would blunder forward then abruptly come to a stop.
As we lay listening, Claire mouthed the ridiculous question, "cow or smuggler?”