Posts Tagged ‘Yuma Proving Grounds’

Happy New Year!

What are the chances a little ghost town would be open for tours on New Years Day? But it is, so off we go. Right back up the road past the Yuma Proving Ground closer and closer to the funny looking mountain we saw yesterday. My tiny bit of understanding of geology suggests that it’s the core of an ancient volcano with a great deal of the original sloping mountain eroded away. We soon discover it is known as Castle Dome Mountain.

It dominates the landscape as we drive north but then something else captures my attention. “We’re actually catching up with that plane.” “It’s probably a chopper, it’s going so slow.” “No, I think it’s one of those blimpy things. But it’s strange…it’s painted funny. It’s dark on the bottom and light on the top.” A few miles later, it is obviously a tethered blimp, similar to the one we saw at White Sands two years ago. It isn’t painted funny…it is pure white all over but the sun was so bright the shadows were very dark.

About ten miles up a very well graded gravel road we come to the re-created ghost town. It turns out that Castle Dome and the hills below it were laced with silver and lead. As many as 80,000 people dug holes and blasted shafts all over those hills. Over time, most traces of them have gone away, so someone started saving what was left and put it together in a well-done collection of old buildings and their furnishings.


There is also a portion that is as it was, mine shafts and all. As we’ve heard before, miners were really good at digging holes. They were pretty lousy at filling them back in. Nobody in their right mind should go poking around old mine shafts, shored up with now rotten timbers.

The “Arizona Road & Recreation Atlas” shows us a neat road…actually a continuation of the ghost town road. It wanders around through the hills, into the Kofa Wildlife Preserve, and back out to the highway many miles farther north. Why not? We’ve gone a couple of days now without any real adventure, so let’s take this road and see what we can see before it comes back out on the highway at Stone Cabin.

It’s a lovely road, winding high along the bajada…the sloping land at the base of the hills. We’re up a couple of thousand feet and oh, by the way, it’s cold! Back at the ghost town, there was a fire burning in the woodstove of the office/gift shop and it felt wonderful. That sharp north wind is still blowing and whistling through all the cracks in the wooden buildings. We said more than once we were glad we didn’t have to live in cabins like those. But our truck is warm, the scenery is beautiful, and the road deteriorates rapidly. Nah…we don’t need another adventure like that.

So back down our lovely wandering road, down the gravel road, back out to US 95. Do we turn left and head back to Yuma or turn right and find out what remains at Stone Cabin? We turn right. The highway is quiet. Maybe it’s too early on New Years Day for revelers to be out and about. We enjoy the scenery at highway speeds and finally come to Stone Cabin. It was, depending on the story you read, built by early explorers at the end of the 18th century or by someone else in the mid-19th century. Anyway, there isn’t much left of it now but for years it was the only stop along that road and always a welcome sight to travelers, regardless of the century. Two women, I think sisters, owned it and operated a cafe there for much of the 20th century. Now, it is almost hidden by an adobe-appearing building, a few RV’s, a mobile home, a gift shop, an ice cream stand, and a hamburger stand, all run by the same ex-Marine. You can get the world’s messiest burgers, with all manner of accompaniments, scrumptious fries, and at least two days’ allotment of cholesterol for a really reasonable price. Make sure to grab plenty of napkins and plan on a bath at your first opportunity. Man, talk about tasty! Lunch and supper in one burger.

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We’re parked on the eastern edge of Yuma, with a very busy railroad track and a fairly busy highway nearby. Fortunately there seem to be no crossings of the two, so all we hear of the trains is the rumble as they pass. Unfortunately, the highway seems to have more than its share of sirens and traffic sounds and we are already missing the peace of the desert. (more…)

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