Thursday, April 9, 2020

Road to Sundad - Still Socially Distancing...

Sundad, AZ
I'm antsy again.  This whole social distancing/shelter in place is driving me stir crazy.  So on Sunday, I took off - with Paul - to head out on a trail - which is really more of a graded dirt road - just to get out of the house and spend time away.  This was more about getting away than ultimately seeing something really cool - although we did find some cool stuff!

Arlington Cattle Co.
Gillespie Dam
So we left Phoenix at noonish, and headed towards Arlington - I know, you are all getting tired of Arlington.  But I wanted to show Paul the cattle company, and of course, I do love the place...I love the drive through all that farm land - it smells heavenly - a mix of hay, grass, cows, fertilizer and sunlight.  We also went back down to the Gillespie Dam - and Paul found that we COULD get down to the old driving apron - so we went!  It smelled terrible. But there were several families down there fishing and trying to catch, I think, crawfish.  So we didn't stick around for long - after all, we're supposed to be staying away from other people.  

Jackpot Mine

Back towards Arlington we head so that we can turn off on the Agua Caliente dirt road and head on to Sundad - our ultimate destination for Sunday.  Its a slow and leisurely drive.  The desert is really green from all the rain - but it was a warm and slightly dusty day.  We bounced over the train tracks as we passed by the southern side of Palo Verde, the nuclear power station outside of Phoenix.  We were singing along to a bunch of 80's music.  We stopped to look for the Dixie Mine, but my Gaia app isn't doing what I want it to, so we end up at another mine - the Jackpot Mine - which is in the middle of the lava rock field and has wide open views all around!  We decide to stop for some lunch here - I packed the usual - cucumbers, carrots and mushrooms with ranch, salami and cheese - and Paul got to try radishes for the first time, and we had some awesome deviled eggs! 
Arizona Ocotillo in Bloom

Feeling quite full, and ready to keep driving, off we go in the FJ to search out Sundad.  We drive past  Dixie Peak and the 4th of July Butte, and head into some beautiful low-hill country full of saguaros and blooming ocotillos.  As we sing along to Blondie, Billy Idol and Poison, we occasionally stop so I can take photos of some random cactus or vista that strikes my fancy.  Watching the Gaia app regularly, we come to the Sundad turn off - where there is rock art right next to the main road.  Now this is the entirety of what I have seen in the past.  It doesn't appear that I followed the road back into the rest of the foundations and rock art outlines, along with one memorial.  We poke around all over the place - Paul picking up random metal and finding some cool things - like this Motor Oil can.

Motor Oil Can in Sundad

The "Sundad" rock art above is from this area of Sundad.  Sundad was meant to be a sanitarium - a place for tuberculosis patients to try and recover.  It doesn't appear that the sanitarium was never built, however it is clear by the numerous foundations and other concrete structures that something went on here - as we started to head back, we both saw a concrete structure, and what looked like fencing off to the right.  We went to investigate and found another small concrete structure, and then we saw the large mine covering off to the right, with another caved in mine off to the left.  Above the covered mine was a large concrete water "tank."

The Sundad Mine, aka the Maricopa Chief Mine
There are lots of unanswered questions about Sundad, AZ.  I read on one website that it was a leprosy colony, but everything else I've read said it was a sanitarium in the 1920's.  But there are no foundations that really show a sanitarium having been built or existing in that space.  I had always been told the sanitarium was meant to be built, but never was.  But clearly something was here - and it wasn't all that old either.  The open mine shaft is covered by the Arizona State Mine Inspector's heavy metal grating, although someone has dug under the edge of it.  I've read that owls roost in this particular mine.  The other mine - not even 100 yards from the first, is caved in, and fenced off - are they the same mine?  So many questions - questions that will likely never be answered.  

And it was time to head back to Phoenix.  I wasn't paying attention to the route on Gaia, and missed the turn off to keep heading South.  Next thing I know, we're heading towards California on some old dirt farm roads.  So I have Paul turn and head South - because "it looks like all the roads just go down to the Hyder road."  Right.  Well, for once, my navigation skills were NOT on point.  As we are heading down the "road" - actually more of a river bed, and the sand is getting deeper and softer - Paul was like "um, we need to turn around and get out of this."  Luckily, the FJ was a total trouper and she got us both in, AND out, of a sandy situation that could have been really bad (ie - miles from anyone with little to no service).  Yay FJ, and yay Paul for knowing how to driver her in those conditions.  I would have been stuck.  And miserable.  And probably fairly whiney.  Which is why I shouldn't go exploring by myself. 

Another beautiful day in the Arizona desert - staying away from people - enjoying my time with those I AM around - and discovering that I know even less about my State than I thought...

The Jackpot Mine overlooking the Gila Bend Mountains

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