A friend filled week in Ajo, Arizona

We’ve been here at our super stellar boondocking spot in Ajo, Arizona for one week now. While we’re in love with the scenery and still in awe of the giant Saguaro Cactus that surround our home, what has really made this week special is the company we’ve shared it with.

Ajo, Arizona
Saguaros in the night sky

When we arrived last Sunday Leigh and Brian were already here and had scouted around to find us the perfect spot to park. It was a good thing because it took us longer than we thought to get a move on that day and when we pulled in the sun was already setting. With darkness quickly falling they met us at the main road, flashlights in hand, and guided us up to a clearing among the cactus and scrub brush. This area is quite dense with  foliage compared to the last two places we’ve been and it took a bit of maneuvering to get into our spot. Luckily with the four of us working together we managed to figure a way to get us backed in and level with no new scratches on the airstream, and only one kind-of squished bush.

Ajo, Arizona
Airstream + bushes + cactus

First up on the social calendar for the week was a birthday party of the dog variety. Curtis turned 13 last Monday and Phineas was invited to celebrate with him! Over the past month the two of them have become good buddies. To the point where when we let them outside they both run over to each other’s trailers to see if the other can come out and play. It’s pretty cute watching the two old dogs running and chasing the tennis ball together. The birthday party was a pretty simple affair. I made hats for them to wear, and Leigh made two mini cakes with rice and hard-boiled eggs topped with carrot “candles”. We tried to get a photo of the two of them wearing their hats, but Phin was having none of it. Leigh did manage to get a really cute picture of Curtis though. And a shot of the two of them waiting for their cake. Later we got a quick picture of Phin with his hat- but he wasn’t happy about it. He’s already requested a no hat kind of party when he turns 13 in April.

Ajo, Arizona
Not a hat wearing kind of dog

Next up was our first Geocaching adventure. Well the first one for Tim and I. Leigh and Brain are experienced Geocachers and were eager to share this fun game with us. For those of you who don’t know, Geocaching is a treasure hunting game where you use GPS coordinates and clues to find hidden objects. Sometimes the objects are just tiny containers with a piece of paper to mark your name and the date. Other times they are bigger containers with mini treasures that people have left behind. For our first one we hiked up a small hill on the side of the town and searched around for about half an hour before Tim spotted the box hidden under a pile of rocks. Someone had gotten tricky and painted the box to match the rocks and then hidden it really well so it was a hard find.

Ajo, Arizona
Tim with his find, Contents of the box

After that we were hooked and on the way home we even stopped for a quick roadside find by flashlight. The next night the four of us went out for a night on the town and couldn’t resist sneaking in two more quick Geocache finds on the way. I think we are now official Geocache nerds! After filling our treasure hunting quota for the night we began the evening at one of Ajo’s two dining establishments. Brian had asked around town and the consensus among the locals seemed to be that Marcela’s was the place to go. So off we went. The place was not much to look at, with fluorescent tube lighting and old table settings that looked like they were salvaged from a bygone era. But it was full of patrons happily eating away when we walked in, so we decided to give it a shot.

Ajo, Arizona
Nice local artwork, Leigh and Brian looking happy (before they tasted their meals), Outside seating

Umm…I think the locals were wrong on this one. We didn’t have high expectations to begin with, but it was a truly terrible dining experience. I want to say something good about this locally owned restaurant, I really do. But the food was simply bad. There’s no other way to put it. Tasteless, visually unappealing and down right disappointing. Guess we won’t be going back there again. The night was not lost though because our next stop was at the local bowling alley. Things began looking up the minute we walked in the door to find a vintage style bowling establishment with not another bowler in sight.

Ajo, Arizona
This is what bowling should be like!

The bar was pretty packed with people though and after discovering how super cheap the drinks were we knew why. We ended up playing two games and having a blast laughing at each other and our not so expert bowling styles.

Ajo, Arizona
Old fashioned scoring, my velcro shoes, an array of vintage shoes, Tim’s ball choice- Hammer & Claw

At some point during the first game a local couple wandered over from the bar and started heckling us about our form. I am a particularly terrible bowler and the guy was appalled that no one was showing me how to properly throw the ball. In my own defense I’ve probably only bowled a half dozen times in my entire life and I am sure I’ve never been given any pointers other than to aim the ball straight down the lane. After a bit more teasing, and yelling from his wife about how we should be playing girls against boys, the guy did end up giving me some pretty good advice. Not that it improved my game any. Oh well, we had fun anyway.

Ajo, Arizona
Leigh after winning the first game, Brian in motion, Tim about to throw a strike

The social activities were ramped up even more later in the week when we were joined once again by Cassie & Kris. They pulled in on Thursday and after settling in and looking around the first thing Kris said was “I bet the view from the top of that mountain is good”. The mountain he was referring to lies right outside our door. It’s one of those classic southwest mountains covered with layers of rock and not a tree in sight.

Ajo, Arizona
Our backyard Mountain

Despite his enthusiasm, Tim was the only adventurous one of the group who wanted to join the hike. The next morning they set off to blaze a trail. Tim said it wasn’t an especially steep hike but that there was lots of loose rocks and at the end they had to hike on a narrow ridge to get to the very top of the peak.

Ajo, Arizona
View from the top, Kris in mountain man pose, Narrow ridge, View of the copper mine and town beyond

We did get in one good group hike with all six of us in attendance. This time the destination was Camelback Mountain where we hiked to the top in search of, you guessed it, another Geocache. The Geocache was hidden at the top of the mountain where a large cross stands in tribute to John Cambell Greenway, the deceased owner of the copper mine that dominates the landscape below.

Ajo, Arizona
A true Geocaching adventure!

After searching around for a trail up the mountain that wasn’t on private property we decided the best route was up the backside of the mountain. With Kris as our fearless trailblazer we set off for the top. The hike up was not terribly difficult, but there were lots of loose rocks so you had to really watch your footing on the steep sections. The hard part about hiking in the desert is that everything has thorns on it. This means absolutely no grabbing on to branches to help you gain your balance, and try not to take a tumble because chances are a cactus will be more than happy to soften your fall. We managed to make it with only minimal injuries- 1 scraped knee and three instances of cactus thorn removal. Not bad for a steep desert hike surrounded by cacti.

Ajo, Arizona
Up the trail, Hiking through a Cholla forest, Tim removing a Cholla from Leigh’s leg

The views from the top were incredible. You could see the mine below, the town of Ajo, and more mountains off in the distance.

Ajo, Arizona
Mountain top views

Once we reached the top the search for the Geocache was on. I am proud to say that I was the one who found it tucked at the base of thorny bush under a pile of rocks. It was a triumphant moment since this was our fifth Geocache is the last week and I had yet to find one. The best part was that we were only the second people ever to find this Geocache! We then had a moment of panic when it was discovered that not one of us brought a writing utensil with which to sign our names. Fortunately Kris pulled through with an emergency match that he lit, blew out, and broke of the end- making a perfect marker for me to sign our names with. Now that’s ingenuity.

Ajo, Arizona
Inside the Geocache (notice the lit match writing implement on the side)

We ended our week of social time in Ajo last night with one final happy hour & potluck. It was a nice night so we sat outside around a pleasant fire enjoying a delicious meal and  awesome company.

Ajo, Arizona
The crew around the fire, Before and after shots of our feast

This morning Leigh and Brain left for Tucson and after spending a month boondocking with them in three different spots it was sad to see them go. We already have plans to meet up at the Tucson farmer’s market next weekend, but we’ll both be staying at different campgrounds by then so it won’t be the same. After that it might be late summer by the time we see them again. Cassie and Kris are still here with us today, but tomorrow we plan to depart and then will be traveling on different paths and not likely to meet up again any time soon.  We miss our traveling companions already and look forward to the day when we meet on the road again. Geocaching anyone?

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8 Responses to “A friend filled week in Ajo, Arizona”

Comments

  1. Brent

    We watched the Superbowl in that bowling alley last year. Glad you are enjoying the area!

    Reply
  2. Leigh

    Awesome re-cap of the week.

    I loved this sentence: “The Geocache was hidden at the top of the mountain where a large cross stands in tribute to John Cambell Greenway, the deceased owner of the copper mine that dominates the landscape below.”

    We miss you guys too!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      That sentence is quite a mouthful I guess :) Hope you’re enjoying Tucson!

      Reply
  3. Wheeling it

    Geocaching yeah!! Pick me, pick me..l love it.
    Totally enjoying your pics of the area. Do you think we can get “the beast” in there?
    Nina

    Reply
    • Tim

      For sure you could find a spot. You may have to stick to one of the spots off Darby Well before where it splits. If you go past the Y, stick to the right.

      Reply
  4. The Sonoran Desert « Juniper Road

    [...] happy hours, hikes, and a perfect fireside potluck dinner. For a different perspective, Leigh and Amanda both have great blog posts about our adventures, plus they both take excellent [...]

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