Full timing offers you a lot of freedom but you still cannot escape the chores of everyday living. You still have to grocery shop, pay bills, wash clothes, repair things, maintain things, clean, etc. After camping off grid with no hook ups for more than a month, we had some restocking to do and we had a ton of dirty laundry that needed washing so we headed south to Yuma, AZ.
Yuma is a favorite with RVers during the winter months because of its warm weather. During January, February, and March, the population of the city doubles in size. Consequently, you can find many of the large box stores and larger retailers here. We spent some our time running around getting groceries, picking up Amazon packages, refilling prescriptions, filling our propane tanks, dumping our tanks, filling up our fresh water tanks, washing our truck, and washing clothes at a local laundromat.
One of the highlights of our time in Yuma was that we got to meet up again with some our friends, Judie and Mark. We camped at the Paradise Casino together for three days. They had just returned from a trip to San Felipe, Mexico and we were anxious to hear about their experiences in Baja California. We had dinner at the Pint House in downtown Yuma and enjoyed catching up on their adventures.
This was our first time in Yuma. Since Mark and Judie had been there many times, they volunteered to show us around the area the following day and we were thrilled. Our first stop was Mittry Lake Wildlife Area. Located a few miles north of the city on the Lower Colorado River, Mittry Lake covers about 750 acres. It is great location for fishing and is also a lovely spot to boondock. We saw many campers enjoying this location as we rode around the lake. Surrounded by bullrushes and palm trees, this would be a great place to kayak or canoe. Next time we are in this area, we will have to spend a few days here and do some kayaking.
On our drive south into Yuma, we stopped by Martha’s Gardens. The Rogers Family established this Date Farm in 1990. They harvest Medjool dates from their 8,000 date palms that are spread over their 100 acre property. They have a nice store where they sell several types of dates, ice cream, baked goods, and their famous date shakes. We had heard our friends talk about date shakes but none of us had tried one before so we had to sample one. I have to say that the consistency was more like soft serve ice cream than a shake and it was delicious. No wonder our friends raved about these shakes. The shake was incredibly sweet and, even though David and I shared one, we couldn’t finish it. That has to be a first. We spend some time on the patio and in the garden area in front of the store where we enjoyed the view of the date palms, the artwork displayed there, and our yummy date shake.
After our stop at the Date Farm, we drove around much of Yuma. This city is not very compact. In fact, it extends for miles in several directions. We got a good overview and we found a number of interesting places that we would like to explore next time we find ourselves in the Yuma area. Many thanks to Judie and Mark for being such great tour guides!
We were ready to get back out into the wide-openness of the desert so we said “Hasta la vista” to our friends and headed west. We drove a few miles west of Yuma and crossed into southern California. For years, we have read about the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) boondocking areas off of Ogilby Road and we wanted to check them out. We were not the only RVers in this dispersed camping area but there is plenty of space to spread out here. We found a wonderful spot at the base of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. (What a strange name for a mountain range – more on that later in the post.)
There are a lot of gravel roads crisscrossing the landscape. The roads are numbered and many people ride their OHVs on them. We have seen a few over the past few days but they have not posed a problem. We will see if that holds true this weekend. We have also seen numerous helicopters flying low by our camper and fighter jets flying high overhead. The Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma is nearby and they do 80% of their training here. North of Yuma are the Yuma Proving Grounds and it is one of the world’s largest military installations. The Army conducts multiple tests of military equipment and operates various training schools there.
With the exception of some OHVs, some helicopters, and a few fighter jets, it has been a very quiet and peaceful place to be.
The remains of the Tumco Historic Mine and Townsite are about two miles from our camping spot so David and I decided to walk to it and find out more about this landmark. As we made our way there, we saw Ocotillo Cacti with blooms on them as well as other colorful wildflowers gracing the washes along the sides of the road. At the Tumco Historic Townsite, there is a 1.5 mile gravel trail through the old town site and mining area. There are some plaques with information about Tumco. Sadly only a few of the structures are still standing but it was interesting to learn about this historic site.
The town of Tumco (previously called Hedges) is the site of numerous abandoned gold mine shafts. Gold was first discovered by the Spaniards in the 1600s and this mine site is one of the earliest in California. It is located at the foot of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains which, as legend has it, were named for three boys (muchachos cargados = loaded boys) who showed up in the Spaniards’ camp carrying loads of gold ore. After the discovery of the mines, Mexican settlers remained there and operated them until the Mexican-American War. Later, as a result of the California Gold Rush in 1849, many miners staked gold mining claims in the region. The completion of the railroad from Los Angeles to Yuma in 1877 paved the way for corporate mining concerns to buy up claims and to build a 40 stamp mill that could process 100 tons of ore a day resulting in a $1,000 per day yield. The production at Hedges/Tumco grew to 200 tons per day, one of the largest in the state. To support these mills, they built a 12 mile pipeline from the Colorado River and it pumped over 100,000 gallons of water per day. What a phenomenal feat. Some of the mines reached depths of 1,000 feet so the railroad brought in needed mine timbers from northern Arizona to shore up the mine shafts. Later the mining companies added a cyanide plant to process the tailings and newly mined ore. You can still see the remains of the large cyanide vats on site.
In 1894, the mining camps created the town of Hedges which, in its heyday, boasted over 500 residents and had a church, a school, a hospital, a boarding house, a library, a miners club, a bar, and two cemeteries. Unfortunately, the mines went bust after a few years and shut down in the early 1900s forcing the residents to abandon the town. In 1910, the United Mines Company acquired the property, changed the name of the town to Tumco, and reopened the mines again. A lack of profits forced them to close a year later. Other companies made similar attempts to profit from these mines but failed. By 1949, Tumco became a ghost town.
Although Tumco itself is no longer an active mining area, we have heard that there is still some mining going on along American Girl Mine Road which is very close to here. If there is still some gold in them there hills, maybe we can find some.
We have had a great time in southwestern Arizona and are looking forward to seeing more of southern California.
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