Friday, September 10, 2021

2021 Monsoon "Duner Memorial Border Run"

Lewis & Clark and Calamity Jane at the Frey Marcos de Niza Monument Outside Lochiel, AZ
Well we have the itch to go camping - to get out of the house, away from people, the tv, the computers and phones - but it's still summer here in Arizona - which means hot.  And it's August - which means hot AND humid!  But the annual Monsoon Duner Memorial Border Run was happening the first weekend of August, and I had never been, so as a tribute to Paul's best friend and someone I highly respected, Duner (Mike Schuette), we decided to go and hoped for the best with regards to comfortable sleeping.  We took both trucks this time because it was an AZFJ gathering, and we towed the camping trailer to sleep in.
The AZFJ group heading out from camp at Gardner's Canyon
We had been planning to take both trucks, hit up Nogales to pick up medications for my daughter before she heads to college, then head back up towards Sonoita near where our campsite was.  But at the last minute, due to what we perceived would be parking issues with a trailer, we chose to head to the campsite first, dropped off the Lewis & Clark and the Expedition (the trailer) and we took Calamity Jane to Nogales. 
A row of FJ booty...totally hawt!  You KNOW there's junk in those trunks!
As we pulled in to Gardner Canyon dispersed campsite number 5, we met Jimbolio, who was our trail run leader.  Also at the campsite already was CrazyJohn, who we met for the first time - he was our camp host - he had a huge RV and an ATV, but he did not go on the run with us.  He hung around camp and watched everyone's stuff while we galivanted around southern Arizona for an entire day.  CrazyJohn is also the gentleman who fabricated my friend VaderGirl's current mods on Vader.  
Some of the FJ's (and a 4Runner) at the border
We quickly found a great camp location under a huge tree, and we dropped off Lewis & Clark and the Expedition and off we went to Mexico.  The weather was VERY nice, and it appeared we were going to get some rain.  And of course we did.  Just as we parked Calamity Jane and headed to walk across the border.  Thankfully, it was quick and easy as there are pharmacies right inside the gates, and the place I usually go was open and we were in and out with an entire years worth of meds for $200 (I would have paid $3,480.00 if I had used my insurance in Phoenix).  Meanwhile, its pouring rain, and I kept warning Paul that the sewer system on the Mexico side of Nogales is seriously lacking and to watch out for puddles, and we needed to get back across the border to higher ground before we had a flash flood that washed through Nogales/Mexico.  As we head back out to get in line to cross back to the USA, Paul noticed the water bubbling up and out of the sewer covers.  The flooding was starting and having been in Nogales/Mexico after a big monsoon, the last thing I wanted to do was get hit with a deep water trudge back across the border.  So we rushed to the border crossing, and for the first time in my entire 30+ years of going to Nogales, there was NO WAIT to cross back over.  The border patrol agents were hilarious and were extremely pleasant to deal with, and just like that, we were in and out of Mexico in less than 30 minutes, WITH our purchases!  
Paul at the Patagonia Marshall's Office - which is closed.
We quickly made our way back up to where we parked Calamity Jane and we took off to head back to the campsite.  We noted all the canals and gullies were quickly filling up with water, and the Santa Cruz river was flowing/flooding.  As we headed North back towards camp, the rain let up, and we were left with a warm, sticky and humid evening.  If any rain had hit the campsite, you couldn't tell.  Dry as a bone.  But we got back before dark, and we made dinner (nachos!), and chatted with the other campers as they showed up.  Then it was movie night!  Jimbolio brings a computer, a projector, a "screen" and a little generator and we all gather around and watch a movie.  Dust to Glory was the movie about the Baja 1000.  It was interesting, but I got chilled towards the end and was tired.  So after it was over, we headed back to our little camp spot and crawled in the Expedition to get some sleep.  Now, it's still warmish and muggy - and then throw me AND Paul into a twin size sleeping arrangement, and it's not the most comfortable of evenings.  There were a TON of bugs out, so we closed up all the windows that did not have screens, but that left for poor air circulation, even with the fan, so towards morning, we opened it all up and blew the fan across the back of the trailer, which kept out the bugs, and let the cool air in.  Slept like babies for a few hours after that...
Calamity Jane and Lewis & Clark in Patagonia
We woke up on Saturday morning, not quite refreshed, but somewhat refreshed.  I made bacon, eggs, and pancakes.  Mr. Spock, Jimbolio's fun little pup came over to investigate.  He will do tricks for bacon, so he got some really tasty applewood smoked thick cut bacon for doing tricks.  We were instant friends after that.  

And we took over part of the parking area in Patagonia.
We then cleaned up camp, and then the rest of the FJs started showing up for the Border Run.  We had 14 trucks, I believe, on this run.  10 of which were FJ Cruisers!  We also had a Jeep, a F-150, a 4 Runner and of course Jimbolio's Lexus GX470, also known as The Phoenix (it rose from the ashes of Precious, his FJ, whose bumper and roof rack are now on Calamity Jane).  And off we were to explore southern Arizona and go see if we could get close to the border!
More of the trucks going on the run at Gardner Canyon
Our first stop was in Patagonia - I understand this is a normal stop for the AZFJ group - there is a bathroom there and ample space to park on an early Saturday morning.  This is also the turn off on to the Harshaw Road.  So we lined up the trucks all along the main drag in Patagonia for the obligatory pictures and bathroom breaks - then off we went down the Harshaw Road.  After a short drive, we left the main Harshaw Road and headed up Harshaw Creek Road (which is a shorter bypass to the Harshaw Road).  It was a stunning day for driving through the old Ghosttown trails of Patagonia - several small and muddy water crossings - and EVERYTHING was green!  SO GREEN!!We stopped several times for bathroom breaks and to take pictures - and to let everyone catch up.  It was so incredibly beautiful and green that everyone kept stopping to take pictures so our little group got very spread out...
First stop along Harshaw Road - so green!
Guajolote Flats - we went from the top to the bottom in just over a mile.
Guajolote Flats - looking back up the mountain
We stopped for lunch on the Guajolote Flat Road before the big "downhill on the switchbacks in 4L" portion of Guajolote Flats.  This portion of the trail gave me some anxiety - steep shelf road which required both high clearance AND 4L in my manual (otherwise I'll burn up the clutch and brakes riding riding them).  I'm driving alone in Calamity Jane with Paul and the Lewis & Clark in front of me.  Paul keeps reassuring me over the HAM radio, but I can't talk back with I need both hands to drive and shift.  About 1/3 of the way down I get the hang of using 1st gear (which is a granny gear in 4L for Calamity Jane) to engine brake and got more confident about what I was doing.  Was I slower than Paul?  Sure - but I made it, and by myself without anything except Paul telling me over the radio that I was doing awesome.  As I pull up to the group at the bottom and look back up at what I had just come down, I spotted a truck that had gone over the edge.  Couldn't even get a very good picture of it.  
The Sonoran Desert at its finest - the Octotillo were full and green, and the wildflowers were awesome!
Wildflowers, white, purple, yellow, orange...
Cabin at Sierra Tordilla Well
Cabin at Sierra Tordilla Well
After we all got down off of the Guajolote Flat Road switchbacks, we started heading towards the border.  First stop - about 700 feet from the border, Jimbolio had found this cool little watering hole and cabin.  I know absolutely nothing about this cabin and watering hole except it is a named place on the topographical maps.  I can find no history whatsoever on the internet.  Sierra Tordilla Well.  It was a beautiful little area - the perfect place for a little cabin.  I suspect the cabin is being used as a shelter for border crossers as there is a confirmed water source and there is no real fence at the US/Mexico border just 700 feet away (possibly a small barbed wire farm fence...but nothing discernable on Google Earth.  
Wall building resources - note the small wire fence where they tore up the other fence
Me and Paul - at the wall's end...
Paul and the Lewis & Clark at the border
Bobbi and Calamity Jane at the border
We poked around this area for a bit, then headed back up to the road that we would take to the border.  We drove around Piedragosa Tanks and went straight down to the place they quit working on "The Wall."  The Wall was stopped at the Grant Boundary just south of Kino Springs.  It was clear they intended on continuing, but it was stopped on at the Private Property line, and then the building of the wall was ended by our current administration.  The old steel criss-cross border wall had been yanked up for some length and nothing was left but a wire fence.  Not even barbed wire.  And lots of supplies to continue building the wall.  
The old fence iron piled up...
No real fence/wall, so to speak, for as far as the eye can see.
It was an interesting stop, and we had officially made it to the border.  Lots of pictures were taken, lots of investigating of the parts of the wall, and lots of jokes were made...but - we still had a long drive ahead of us to get to Sierra Vista for dinner.  We left the border and headed back up to Duquesne Rd. We flew past Washington Camp and then past Duquesne.  I've been to both places, as well as Harshaw, many times - and we didn't have time to stop so it's good that both Paul and I had been before.
Paul leaving the border fence - look at the wildflower bloom!
We hit Lochiel for some pictures - Lochiel is the place that it is said that Fray Marcos de Niza first came west of the Rocky Mountains on April 12, 1539.   The town itself is private property, and the border crossing has been closed since, I believe, 1983.  In my previous visits to Lochiel, you could go up to the gate, but a fence has been put across the road going in to town - now that there is no border crossing, there is no reason to let outsiders into the town...
San Rafael Ranch - barn buildings
The Greene Ranch House - as seen in the opening scenes of McLintock
Storm blowing in over Mexico and a line of gorgeous FJ's!

And then we were off again - there had been some discussions about the "John Wayne Ranch" - also known as the San Rafael Ranch (fka the Greene Ranch).  Once can see from the main road that the house is a stunning two story large farm house, with several barns and other outbuildings.  The road going up to the Ranch has always been closed and locked each time I've gone through here, as well as others from our group.  But today it was open!  So up we went.  
The storm over Mexico - looking southwest on Montezuma Pass
It was absolutely stunning with the green grass which had been freshly cut and storms brewing south of us in Mexico.  The ranch was never actually owned by John Wayne, but part of the movie McLintock, which John Wayne starred in.  In addition, scenes for Oklahoma! were filmed there (this tied in to a later trip we took across the US - blog on that to come later).  The gorgeous ranch house was built in 1900 by the Greene family, who were a ranching dynasty in their own right - see The Greene Cattle Company Collection for more information.  It is now part of the San Rafael State Natural Area, and has a local caretaker.  The property is being meticulously managed and cared for, and it like stepping back in time.  
Our babies at Montezuma Pass - spattered with dust and mud and looking truly bad ass!
By this time, everyone is getting a bit tired and we still have to go up and over Montezuma Pass to get to Sierra Vista.  So we head off towards the Huachuca Mountains and up to Montezuma Pass.   There is a big nasty storm brewing to the South in Mexico, but it missed us completely - when we stopped at Montezuma Pass to regroup, it was nice and cool.  One of our group (@airconditionednightmare) was having some issues and had to limp down the other side into Sierra Vista.  Paul and I took off to follow everyone down in a massive hurry to make it to the German restaurant - but I was tired and the switchbacks and steep drop offs got the better of me.  There was two way traffic, so I took it very slow - and it took a bit longer to get to the bottom for me, so Paul and I decided to head back to Sonoita and have a steak at the steakhouse there.  We finished our delicious mesquite grilled steaks and went back to camp, where we zonked out.  
Calamity Jane in her element!  
All in all, it was a successful Border Run.  Lots to see, and of course the desert bloom this year was amazing!  All the crazy clouds made for some beautiful pictures and now I can say that I've done one of the AZFJ border runs!  There is more that we did on Sunday on our way out, but I will save that for another blog entry!
At the Steak-Out steak house in Sonoita

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