Sometimes, a drive forty miles out of the way is not only necessary but worth it!
Especially if there’s an abandoned old bridge at the end of it.
Before leaving Yuma, we drove east on highway 95 to see the Bridge To Nowhere, other wise known as the McPhaul bridge. It was named after Henry Harrison McPhaul, the only Yuma resident who ever became an Arizona Ranger.
The bridge is an 800 foot long suspension bridge built in 1929. In later years it was considered too flimsy for modern traffic and when a dam diverted the river in 1968, the highway was rerouted over a smaller bridge.
This bridge is rumored to have been a model for the Golden Gate Bridge.
Unfortunately, access to the bridge is limited. You can walk up to it and explore under it if you dare. Getting underneath requires some scrabbling through sand and sagebrush. The bridge itself is blocked by a chain link fence.
If exploring around an abandoned bridge is not fulfilling enough, you can convince your significant other to exchange vows in it’s shadow. From the Farm, is a “farm to table” cafe, antique store and wedding venue that sits at the entrance to the abandoned bridge.
But all good things come to an end and it’s time to leave Yuma for Ajo, Arizona.
To my delight the drive to Ajo passes right through Dateland Arizona. For years it’s been my personal goal to experience the Date Shakes everyone raves about
I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I can honestly say that all the hype is correct, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, sweet but not too sweet, with chewy date pieces mixed in. If you’re not the adventurous type you can opt for the standard shake flavor like chocolate and vanilla.
The store also boasts a date tasting bar which features dates popular in different regions of the world. I sampled them all and I had no idea there was such a variety of flavors in one small fruit.
After purchasing a bag of dates and some cactus candy it was…
Onward to Ajo Arizona!
Home sweet home for four days is shadow Ridge RV Resort in Ajo. This park is tucked up against the mountain and is very quiet and peaceful. Javelinas run through the park at night so we were warned to keep all food inside and bring shoes in as well, the Javelinas are notorious for stealing them! We enjoyed hearing them squealing and the coyotes singing in the night.
The only downside to this park is that the roads are narrow and it takes some maneuvering to get into the space. We’re on the small side and it was a bit of a challenge even for us.
Ajo Arizona is a company town which was built to serve the New Cornelia Mine, a large open pit copper mine. The mine dominates the landscape. It’s one and a half miles across at it’s widest point and 1100 feet deep at the center. It was shut down in 1983 but is still quite a sight. There is a visitor center and overlook at the rim but it’s only open from May to December.
This picture is through the fence.
It was interesting to drive around the top of the mine and imagine what all the foundations and odd little pieces of equipment might have been for.
The St. Catherine’s Indian Mission sits a quarter mile west of the mine overlook. It’s now the home of the Ajo Historical Society. They have a small museum on site which closed just as we got there of course! Some large equipment sits outside the museum and we were hoping for a better view of the pit but it was not to be.
The massive old company hospital at the base of the hill is an imposing structure. The hospital building is for sale, recently purchased by a private investor and rezoned for a community center. The website shows it to be in decent shape, a lot of infrastructure was refurbished but the building needs a new roof. I can’t help but wonder if the town of Ajo is barely hanging on and trying hard to find ways to attract new business. A project of this size seems daunting. I wish them the best of luck in salvaging such a unique building. My drive by picture does not do it justice, it’s more interesting looking up at it from below.
The town center has some interesting old architecture. We didn’t have a lot of time, the hour was late. I tried to take a few pictures out the window.
The Catholic church.
The old train depot surrounds the central plaza. Today the depot is a visitor center. Hard to photograph in a drive by!
Ajo has been redefining itself as an arts destination. They recently revamped a building called The Curley School and turned it into artist residences.
Incredible art can be found all over town, even in the alley.
Like many others before us, we came to Ajo for the sole purpose of visiting the Organ Pipes National Monument, so as the next day dawned bright and early we struck out for the desert and new sights to see.
Organ Pipes sits on the border with Mexico and nowhere is this more apparent than the visitor center itself. The center is named after Kris Eggle a Park Ranger who lost his life protecting the park and patrons from violent drug smugglers. A touching memorial to this brave young man sits at the entrance. He gave his life selflessly so that others could enjoy views like this in safety.
There are different ways to enjoy the park, both driving and hiking opportunities. We chose the 40 mile, high clearance vehicle, loop into the back country. The first short section of the drive is a well graded and paved road until this sign appears.
Considering ourselves well warned we proceed with caution.
The road isn’t bad, though there are a few rough spots which I wouldn’t recommend for a low slung, passenger vehicle. The views are gorgeous.
This is desolate country. We passed a few people who were stopped at hiking areas but for the most part we were well and truly alone.
Until we came to this profound sight.
A tower with a panic button. Water stored in a crate underneath. We’ve never encountered anything like this in all of our travels. I saw an article recently which told the story of a group of illegal immigrants including a mother and children, who pushed the button, were rescued and subsequently deported.
It is extremely unforgiving country.
After driving for quite some time, another rescue beacon appeared in a clearing with an abandoned mine.
Seems like a good place for lunch, time to deploy the Jeep table.
Best thing we ever bought!
Lunch completed, we drove a little further to Bonita Well.
Bonita Well is a site that was part of the Gray Family ranching empire.
I found this animal pen interesting because of the stout pole embedded in the center. My farrier from years past was an “old school” horse trainer. He used to boast of training horses by tying them to “Mr Pole” (his term).
He’d leave them there without water for long periods of time until they were broken and ready to be trained.
This pole was worn soft on the sides, I wonder if horse breaking was it’s purpose?
Grandpa photographs Grandpa.
Back in the Jeep and eventually we arrive at the Mexican Border fence. The plaque at the visitor center explained that after Kris Eggle’s death, this stout iron fence was built to keep vehicles from driving straight over the wash from Mexico. What they don’t mention is that this is the only fence there is, less than a hundred yards away across a little dip is this, Highway 2 in Mexico.
We traveled along this border for several miles, where the fence was the only barrier across several washes and lots of open land. We wondered out loud how hard it would be to have someone pick up a walker and drive them up the 4 wheel drive road that leads straight to Ajo and beyond. The most distressing thing of all to see, were the Mexican residences built right up against the fence, their piles of trash spilling over and blowing into this pristine National Park. A wall doesn’t look so bad then. Being from California, we were very surprised by this lack of barrier. we imagined that all border fences were tall like the fence in San Diego.
As we drove along, we saw a couple of flyers, feathered and otherwise.
This one bringing home dinner to a nearby cactus nest.
This one and his twin flying low along the border, purpose unknown.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ajo and the surrounding desert but tomorrow it’s on to Tombstone and new adventures.
Goodbye for now!