2022 El Camino del Diablo Adventure Recap
January 17-22, 2022
On this adventure, we had nine 4×4 vehicles: 3 Jeep Gladiators, 1 classic Jeep Commanche pickup, 2 Jeep Wrangler JKUs, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Jeep Wrangler TJ and a Jeep Wrangler TJ Unlimited. We explored the extreme southwest section of Arizona, near the Mexican border, running the El Camino del Diablo (“the devil’s highway”) trail, and the KOFA Pioneer trail. We visited active and abandon mine sites, old ranches, oases of water in the desert, and saw incredible plant life and some desert bighorn sheep. One of the highlights was a tour into a mine which had luminescent minerals in the walls, which glowed in the dark. We camped out under the stars and had some epic, gourmet-style camp meals!
Next is a summary of each day of the adventure from participant David Knutson. More photos from the adventure follow.
Day 1 in southwest Arizona started off with a trip to the active mine in Ajo, Arizona. Then on to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the El Camino del Diablo trail itself. We saw amazing desert scenery, stopped at Bates Well Ranch, got extremely close to the Mexican border, and did a little higher-speed desert running before camping out under the stars.
Day 2 continued our trek on the El Camino del Diablo trail, starting off the day with a hike into the desert to visit Tule Well. While it was dry when we were there, you can tell it’s a watering hole and there was lots of green vegetation on much of the hike. After that, we visited a somber memorial where a family of 8 perished when they ran out of water in the 1800s. From there we continued on the trail until we got to the Fortuna mine site, where we could see down into the mine shaft and visited a water “tank” (cistern) high up in the hills and could see the ruins of some of the mining buildings.
Day 3 began with a very scenic drive on the KOFA Pioneer Trail and a short hike up to visit the abandoned Big Eye Mine. After that we visited an extremely well preserved ghost town called Castle Dome City (established in 1864) which included an incredible tour down into the Hull mine, the most notable aspect of which was the discovery in 2018 of luminescent minerals that would glow when exposed to black light. We camped that night in a valley and were well entertained by the musical stylings of participant Del Albright.
Day 4 continued on the KOFA Pioneer Trail with another fabulous breakfast followed by visiting an amazing oasis in the desert where there was a natural water source. Nearby the water, high on a hill, we saw a heard of desert bighorn sheep! Then it was time to hit the trail to visit the Antares Mine. We finally spent the night at Hoodoo Cabin, which is open to the public. And while you are allowed to sleep inside, we all chose to camp outside instead.
The 5th and final day of theadventure began with a fantastic breakfast of biscuits and gravy, then continued on the KOFA Pioneer Trail. We stopped at a windmill-driven water pumping station, then visited the Wilbanks cabin. From there we began making our exit from the KOFA Wilderness area, encountering some rocky sections of the trail, stopping to visit the KOFA Wildlife Refuge monument and finally visiting the KOFA Cabin.