Kofa Queen Canyon

Although I’m still waiting for the KLR’s clutch cable, I still managed to have a bit of an adventure yesterday. Melinda, my sole remaining campmate, invited me to take a ride with her down to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, just a bit south of us down Route 95 on the way to Yuma. I’ve been meaning to explore beyond Quartzsite itself anyway, and the bike being down has thrown a wrench (literally) in those plans. Getting away from camp and hanging out with Melinda and her dog, Shadow, was a great idea.

We’d actually meant to explore Palm Canyon, but took a wrong turn down the road for Kofa Queen Canyon instead. Oh well! We were out for an adventure, and it was all new to us anyway. Palm Canyon isn’t exactly going anywhere.

There’s plenty of dispersed camping available here, by the way. It’s the same as BLM rules — free, no facilities, 14-day limit. If you’re self-contained and would rather not pay the LTVA fees like I did, definitely add this to your list of places to stay near Quartzsite. It’s about 25 miles away from the center of town, meeting the BLM requirements to move that far every 14 days. There’s also an argument that since it’s a national wildlife refuge, it also meets that requirement because you’re leaving BLM land.

The farther we went, the more narrow and rough the road got. Before long we passed the point at which I wouldn’t have taken my van any farther. But Melinda has a standard-length, low-top Chevy cargo van. She doesn’t have the huge rear overhang that my Ford does, nor is her van as top-heavy as mine. Between good all-terrain tires and a good set of shocks, it handled this road like a champ.

Because yes, technically, this is a road, not an off-road trail. My bike would be legal here regardless of whether I have a trail permit or not. Yet the only other road vehicle we saw was a Ford F-150 4X4, along with a dual-sport motorcycle and a fleet of ATVs and UTVs. I got to explain the off-road etiquette of using your fingers to show oncoming traffic how many more vehicles are in your group to Melinda. She’d never experienced it before, but I did when I had an off-road permit for my bike in New Hampshire, and explored the trails in a couple of state parks when I lived there.

It was slow going, but steady, and soon we found ourselves in the canyon itself. The “road” alternated between soft gravel and rocks, but Melinda and her van got through just fine. We’d brought lunch with us, and paused at this pull-off for a bite to eat and to take in the scenery.

Soon after, we met that same Ford pickup coming in the opposite direction. We made room for each other to pass. Melinda asked them what was up the road, and they told us all about a small cave and even some petroglyphs about a mile from where we were. The driver even got out and showed us pictures on his phone. This motivated us to keep going and see them for ourselves, even as the road continued to become less of a road and more of a goat path.

We made it, though, to what the locals call Skull Rock. It’s… well, a rock, that looks kind of like a skull. This is what the Ford driver showed us on his phone. According to him, Natives used this place as some kind of kitchen. I don’t know how true this is, but it’s definitely a place where people have stayed in the recent as well as distant past. In fact, it would be completely legal for us to camp right here today. What amazed us is that there was no broken glass, beer cans, or litter of any kind to indicate there had been wild parties down here. It looks like a great place to do that, but it’s even better that no one has.

Next to and up a short, steep hill from Skull Rock was this interesting rock formation. There’s very little actual rock holding it in place anymore, yet here it stands anyway. It was up here that the Ford driver said there were petroglyphs. I’m not in nearly as good shape as I used to be, but I had my hiking boots on, so I climbed the hill to the base of this rock. And there they were.

It’s clearly a picture of two hunters chasing an antelope. I’m not sure what the concentric circles mean — maybe the sun, or maybe the night sky, which is filled with stars and the Milky Way every night. Who knows how many hundreds, or even thousands, of years old this cave graffiti is. European and American settlers, even the Spanish who were out here in the 1500s, are relative newcomers to the area compared to whoever made this.

The road continued a bit farther, but this was a good place for us to turn around. There was room to do it, which is one big factor. It was also around 3:00 pm, and we wanted to be back to camp by dark. It took us an hour to get out of the canyon, and we arrived at camp shortly before another amazing Arizona sunset.

This trip was good for me. With our campmates leaving, one by one, and also my motorcycle being out of commission, I’d been getting a bit lonely sitting around camp. It’s a little strange because I’ve gotten used to being alone. I think it was both the mostly empty camp, plus being forced to remain stationary because of my bike issues. I’ve never liked being stuck in one place against my will, even before I became a nomad. I mean, I can always take down my antenna masts, but it’s a pain to put them away and set them back up every time I want to go somewhere. This is where living in a camper would be good. I could leave my home set up, and still drive away to explore, get supplies, or socialize if I couldn’t take the bike.

Once my antenna coax connectors arrive, I can fix the mobile antenna on my van and put my J-pole and its mast away. The place I bought my flagpole for the internet antenna also sells a stand for it that you can pound into the ground so it’s self-supporting. I wouldn’t have to attach it to the van, just disconnect the ethernet cable and drive off. I didn’t buy it at first to save money, but I think I might go for it for the convenience of making my van a bit more mobile. Also, I’m told that as more and more people arrive in Quartzsite, there will be long lines at the stores, and they’ll often run out of supplies, meaning I’ll need to go to Parker or beyond from time to time. I might as well take the van for that, and make it easier for me to do so. Easier socializing is also good, especially since the nights have gotten a bit chilly for the bike at times.

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