Friday, February 11, 2011

Circle The Wagons Ride

Lynn and Jude were off visiting Chicken Mike and Miss Lou at their new digs in Tubac and taking in the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, so in their absence someone needed to step up and lead the rides. And for this ride, Don was just the fellow to do that. Now Don is just about as friendly and as funny a guy as God ever put on the face of the earth. He is a joy! He is an excellent rider and drives a big "side by" that is really great because he can carry chairs and spare fuel for those of us that are size and gear restricted. And he knows lots of good things to head out to discover from our camp here in Brenda. Like all of us out there, Don carries a GPS. Note: I said "carries." I did not say "uses," although he can use one with the best of them, Don prefers to navigate by the stars. Well, OK, not the stars, since rides take place during daylight hours. But Don likes to navigate by the sun (and hey that's a star) and the moon and the mountains and other desert profiles and elevations that are visible to those who pay attention to their position on the horizon. He is good at it. But because there are literally thousands of trails and washes from which to choose one's path, not using the GPS can, and does, occasionally lead to dead ends that were not anticipated, or a path that just plain can't take you where you actually wanted to go. We have come to call them "circle the wagons." You might think that turning around and reversing directions in the desert would be a piece of cake. Oh, contraire! Many of the trails, especially those that pass through the mountains, are narrow and "single lane." Turning around in a place where there isn't room to do that can be downright dangerous. Finding a place for a turn-a-bout for a single rider, let alone a train of riders that then have to pass each other, can be difficult in its own right. So when this does happen, and we eventually find the turn around opportunity, we like to "follow the leader" and raise our non-accelerator hand in the air and make the sign of "circle the wagons." If this happens once or twice it is considered par for the course. If it happens multiple times, it starts to become a running gag, complete with whooping and hollering. If it happens way more than it should, then it really starts to be fun! And that was more or less the case on this ride- hence the title for the post.

I miss Marlene! What does that have to do with anything? Because Marlene is not in camp right now. Were she in camp, she no doubt would have been on this ride. And that is important to the story why exactly? Because in true Western fashion, Marlene carries a gun. And I hear tell she's not afraid to use it on those found to be "wondering aimlessly" in the desert. And she has been known to shoot Don on more than one occasion for making it necessary to circle the wagons. Good thing for Don that the gun Marlene carries is a squirt gun. True Grit he gets wet every time he has to make the group "about face" but aside from getting a chill on a cool and windy day, "wet" in the desert does not last long and there are no long term results or scars from getting shot. I have never seen her gun, but it must be pretty big and for sure, according to local legend, her aim is without question at the marksman level.

So on this ride we first visited Yuma Mine (as it is shown of the gps) although Don also refers to it as Fiddler's Mine. There wasn't much material available to find out about it but certainly there must have been copper in that mine judging from the Chrysocolla veins (low grade copper ore on the edge and oxidation zone of copper ore deposits and a gorgeous blue mineral often mistaken for turquoise) that were still readily visible outside the closed off portion of the mine. And signs posted indicated there was still activity at the mine although on this day there was none.

Then we poked and prodded our way around the hills and eventually came across probably another half dozen or so old mines- each with its own points of interest. There were many active claims posted in the area and I'd bet you rags to riches there was gold coming out of some of them- the signs were just that strong. I brought a few small baggies of sand from the wash where we stopped for lunch to "test" for small particles of gold, which I haven't gotten around to doing yet. I figure that is the best possible way to recycle plastic sandwich bags ever!

That's Don in the orange hat

After a few more "circle the wagons" and a lot more fun and great riding, we eventually headed back for camp. We stopped to snap a picture when we crossed the CAP Canal- a canal that carries irrigation water through the desert. The two Flattop mountains on the horizon pointed the way, and from our elevation before leaving the hills we could see some small communities and a ranch or two that confirmed the path home. Closer to camp, there are three water towers and some cell phone towers that lead you back home too. But who needs that? Just tuck in the dust behind Don and put some grit on your teeth and some dust in your eyes! Keep rolling. It's almost Beer-thirty!

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