Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sonoran Desert National Monument

This weekend we headed west of Maricopa towards Gila Bend. Much of that stretch of road is bordered by the Sonoran Desert National Monument a piece of Arizona set aside to protect the unique ecosystem of the Sonoran desert from the incursions of the modern world. Further closures have limited the access to non-motorized uses only. Perfect! Scouting around the country though I managed to find a spot where we could get our rigs in and a few miles off the highway. That allowed us to saddle up and head into the wilderness area. Amazing how when the motorized access is restricted there seems to be a lot less garbage and empty beverage containers strewn around the country. It was a beautiful ride without the constant reminder that somebody who couldn’t give a damn for the beautiful surroundings was wandering around the countryside also.

Well enough of that rant and onto the ride. We left our camp in the morning and picked up the old trail across the desert just a little south of our site.


Although the new highway travels a little further south this area has been a highway of sorts for hundreds, and probably thousands of years. It was not hard to envision the Indians and settlers winding their way through the pass or the rattle and thunder of the Butterfield Overland Stage coach as it raced it’s way from St. Louis to San Francisco. Can you imagine bouncing your way over that 2800 mile route in 22 days. Those coaches were on the move night and day stopping only to change teams and grab a bite to eat.


Although we had a lot less ground to cover we also keep on the move except for a brief stop to break some bread with friends.


We covered 21 miles altogether on Saturday riding parts of the Butterfield Stage route and then back through another pass to meet up with the Rock Cairn trail and back down a wash to the flat desert. Once we hit the desert we used that modern GPS technology to run a beeline back to camp as Brenda’s knee was kicking up. That and we had some pretty fine eating to get done once we got unsaddled and got our fire lit. Well actually we had such a great bed of coals from the fire Friday night that tonight's fire started itself once we put the kindling on the pit.


“K” deserved his rest by the fire as he had a big rock to hold out of the way for the rest of us to scramble by as we came down the wash into the desert.

"K" holding the rock up while the rest of us scooted by!

Brenda’s new horse, Wink, had another great test and once again passed with flying colours. She has a couple of things to work on but that just makes it more interesting.


You can follow this link to see the pictures of our Sonoran ride.


  1. What's the circular split rail fence around all the rocks on the ground..... Almost looks like some sort of a grave site...?? Is there some meaning to the fact that there is only one gate or break in the fence....? Puzzling...

    1. That is a cistern where they hauled water in 10.5 miles from the Gila River to supply the Butterfield Stage Line.

  2. That sure was a very nice ride-out in a beautiful western landscape.

  3. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult that Butterfield Stagecoach ride would be back then - especially with Indians after you!!

    So, how did your friend escape from under the rock after holding it up for you??

    Glad to hear Wink is adapting well and learning the ropes.

    Merry Christmas to you, Brenda and your entire family.

  4. I have to agree with your rant. Drives me crazy trying too! What a great ride in a tranquil area.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

  5. Makes one wonder if the Overland Coach passengers had any teeth left at the end of their trip, let alone a compressed spine!

    Merry Christmas!

  6. Hope your Christmas was a good one John and Brenda!