Our perfect view...for a while anyway

Our perfect view…for a while anyway

I left you in the last post with visions of golden grasslands and romantically deserted views. Ah yes, it was indeed just so…until it was not. We were lounging in our spectacular spot over a quiet cup of early morning coffee when the wheels started rolling down the road. First one, then three, then more…”What the…??” These are the times where the strength of your boondocking etiquette comes to the test…when you’ve already settled into an ideal site and your peace gets interrupted in ways you didn’t expect. So, what do you do?

“What’s all the commotion?” I asked a guy rolling down the road
“Oh, we have a big group of women javelina hunters coming this week-end” he responded with a friendly smile
“Err, I see….how big a group we talking here?” I asked, suddenly feeling a tad nervous
“About a hundred or so” stated the man, rather deadpan I thought
“A HUNDRED????!!!! Really??? Here???” I managed to squeek “Oh S..T!”

Morning reflections in the grasslands

Morning reflections in the grasslands

And no, he was not joking. Moments later a generator starting rumbling and porta-potties rolled down the road. Argh!! This was not the scene we expected and there was no way we were going to change it. So, following tip #7 we did the only other possible thing we could do…raised our jacks and moved. Yeah, these things happen in the boonies, even in the most remote of spots and when they do you just gotta go with the flow. We drove a few miles down, found another sweet spot and settled in. New view, new site…nearly as gorgeous as the first, and totally quiet. Ahhhh….!

But WHERE is all this happening, for goodness sake!! Our remote little hideaway is in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in the far south of Arizona. It’s a unique 118,000-acre natural habitat of semi-desert grasslands stretching from the base of the sacred Baboquivari mountains to the border of Mexico. Poised at ~4,000 feet it sits high above the desert floor and supports over 330 species of birds and animals. It’s also around 10 miles from the sleepy little town of Arivaca, a mostly week-end destination of only ~700 inhabitants. This was the set of our lovers week-end…and once the hundred hunters were left to themselves it ended up exactly as planned.

Hiking at our new boondocking site

Hiking at our new boondocking site

In our new spot we settled down to a warm & relaxing few days. In sharp contrast to the blast-freeze happening up north, southern Arizona is currently having a heat-wave with some of the hottest temps on record for the season. We reached a toasty 85°F (=29°C) in our little spot…and this compared to SNOW that we saw this same week last year just 60 miles north in Tuscon! The forecasted heat wave was the whole reason we moved to higher elevation, mainly to get a few degrees cooler (and of course to bask in romantic soup). Even the flip-flop barometer isn’t perfect all the time, and being flexible is just one of the keys to a happy journey. True for RVing…true for life, eh?

But before I digress into philosophical babble, let me introduce you to this little corner of paradise. Apart from the gorgeous grasslands, which I’ve already aptly described, the surroundings here have several interesting attractions:

Birding Trails

Southern Arizona is a hotbed of riparian zones. These sources of seasonal water create unique little biomes that, in turn, attract the birds. We’ve visited some of the spots in SE Arizona before, but have never explored the Arivaca area. Turns out there are two excellent, partially shaded and very easy trails on both sides of town where you can let your binoculars go wild. The Arivaca-Cienega Trail and Arivaca Creek Trail, both pooch-friendly with options to go on longer hikes for those so inclined. We conquered both of these allowing display of my extensive birding experience (which run along the lines of “Oh look, a tweety bird…how pretty”), and indulging a bit of mystery too (a rather intriguing abandoned ranch). Quite the cool spots, even if you aren’t as accomplished a birder as myself :)

Arivaca Townsite

The sleepy little town of Arivaca hides quite a few gems for it’s diminutive size. A quick walk around town will pass by the Mercantile, the artists Co-Op, the local bar and an outdoor Mexican food-stand. We hit the cute farmers market on Saturday where we picked up the most fabulous tamales ($7 for 1/2 dozen -> honestly don’t pass these up if you see them) and then motored on over to the local Gadson Coffee Co for a rather excellent mocha with a shaded view of the valley. The perfect little getaway for a week-end outing.

Back-Roads & Outings

Driving the dirt roads of Buenos Aires NWR

Driving the dirt roads of Buenos Aires NWR

Buenos Aires Refuge boasts a cute little visitors center (although it never seemed to be open when we went) as well as masses of miles of back-road trails including the 10-mile Pronghorn Drive scenic loop. For those looking for a little more adventure the 25-mile Ruby Road Drive takes you on scenic back-roads from Arivaca to just north of Nogales, with the option for a stop at the local ghost town….ooooooh! We didn’t make this latter one, but I have it tucked in our back-pocket for a return trip.

And the hundred hunters? Well, our new spot is well protected from the onslaught and we’ve heard nary a peep from the many rifled women, despite being just a few miles away. Apart from a few outings to town and a couple of short hikes we’ve passed our romantic week-end lounging peacefully at our site, soaking in the neon sunsets and meditating in perfect harmony with nature’s grasslands. We’re planning a few more days before we head on to parts unknown. By that time the hunters should be gone, week-end warriors back at work and the boonies should, once again, belong to us.

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68 Responses to A Hundred Hunters (And A Few Birds) – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, AZ

  1. Ray Burr says:

    Hey Nina and Paul looks like a cool spot. We had a great couple days camped right in Organ Pipe, beautiful and blue skies, sunny! Did a really neat hike to Weeping Springs which was full of bees but fantastic views. Now back at Gunsite and it has been near 90f last few days. Some reports of rattle snakes coming out, one was spotted in the wash near where you guys were camped. Yikes! have to watch where that beagle puts her nose.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yikes indeed!! The unseasonably hot weather is bringing out rattlesnakes when they should be asleep…eeeeek! I think we’re going to try and stay away from the lower elevations for now.
      Nina

  2. MonaLiza says:

    By just the look of it, Im going to love this place. On the list, when we get our butts back out there.
    Love those desert sunsets!

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s a pretty amazing spot. Actually I’ve been blown away by ALL the wildlife refuges in Arizona. Lots to see and do here.
      Nina

  3. Ahh hunters and a huge crowd too! A hundred people blasting awsy at game could be dangerous!!! Best thing was to move, I agree.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We were kind of worried when we heard about such a large group, but it turned out to be a non-issue. I guess the hunters had their “spots” where they went to hunt during the day and then they just hung out at their campsites at night. We saw a few cars go down our road, but nothing else. Moving was most definitely the right move!
      Nina

  4. Pleinguy says:

    That looks like a really nice area. Plenty to do for such a small place too. Thanks for letting us know about it.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, a surprising amount of stuff to do here most of which I hadn’t even imagined before we came. Always stuff to discover when you travel!

      Nina

  5. Paula says:

    Hi Nina ~
    What a beautiful area and such stunning sunsets. I love it!
    Paula

    • libertatemamo says:

      We’ve been granted some pretty darn stunning sunsets lately. Just the right amount of cloud and color! I’m just lucky to be here.

      Nina

  6. LaneVids says:

    What’s the history on that awesome looking ranch?

    • libertatemamo says:

      So apparently there IS some interesting history on that ranch. From what I gather it’s the setting (childhood home) for the book “A Beautiful, Cruel Country” by the author Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce. Used to be a big ranch in the area.

      Nina

  7. Janet says:

    Your photography is absolutely stunning. I very much enjoy your pics and posts.

  8. Dave says:

    Be sure to check out the ghost town of Ruby on your next visit. Well worth it!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, I really, really wanted to make it out there but we ended up being kinda lazy. It gives us a good reason to return!
      Nina

  9. Mark Gehring says:

    Just thought you might like to know, when we stayed in Ft. Davis SP in Texas, they told us that javelinas ( which were all over the place ) will surround and kill dogs. They will not hurt people, but they did emphasize that one must keep one’s dogs away from them.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, I knew that but it’s a good warning for others who don’t. We always keep away from Javelinas. Don’t particularly like them. Despite the big hunting party next door, we’ve actually not seen a single Javelina since we’ve been here…maybe they hide somewhere else in the refuge or the hunters got them all?
      Nina

  10. Paul says:

    Very smart decision to pull up stakes and hightail it outta’ there.
    At first I thought you’d been surrounded by spear-throwing Amazons!
    I had to “Google” javelina.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It was most definitely the right move! Made for a peaceful weekend rather than a crazy one. Javelinas are quite common here in southern Arizona…nasty little fellows esp. if you’ve got a dog (they can be quite aggressive), but if you leave them alone they’ll do the same to you.

      Nina

  11. Gunta says:

    Damn! I miss that “like” button and the notices when you reply to a comment (not every single comment, just mine!) :)
    Looks like you’re having fun though. That’s the important thing…. :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, I still haven’t been able to figure out how or even if I can get those features back on the self-hosted blog. Not easy…this transition.

      Nina

  12. JC Lewis says:

    When you left, did you have to lower your panels? Did you raise them at the new site? What do you consider when deciding to raise them? For example, later in the Spring and farther up the states, how many inches that your charts tell you to raise them to get the right angle is too few inches, and you decide it’s not worth the trouble for just that far?

    JC

    • libertatemamo says:

      Since we only moved a few miles this time we left our panels raised, but typically if we’re motoring from one site to the next we’ll lower them before leaving and raise them again at the new site.

      The only real consideration we have is parking the right way (facing east-west or west-east) and tilting the right direction (panels tilted to the south side). We “could” calculate perfect tilt angle from flux models, but honestly we don’t bother. We have a single angle on our panels (around 45 degrees) and simply tilt all winter and into early spring…then once the sun gets consistently high in the sky we stop tilting altogether. We have enough solar where this method works out fine, but if you want to get more fancy a few different tilt angles (a bigger one for winter and a more shallow one for the bridge months) will get you more output over the long run.

      Nina

      • Although Jim just recently fixed our panels to tilt, he tested and found we actually we getting less by tilting them now. Wished we had done it back in December, but the sun has now changed to where just parking east to west is giving us plenty of solar. But at least we now have that option.
        We didn’t make it to Buenos Aires last time we were in that area but it is definitely going on our list.
        And as for the hunters, you just never know what’s going to transpire while boondocking. So far at Mittry Lake we’ve had a bluegrass jam and rowdy party types. Keeps things interesting!

        • libertatemamo says:

          Interesting. We’re still getting a good boost out of our tilting, but it will start to change in a month or so. Might be our angle too…we have just around 45-degree tilt on our panels. It’s a nice in-between angle for the bridge months yet it still gives us good boost during the depth of winter months. We only have the one tilt angle…others get more elaborate and have more.

          Your time at Mittry Lake has certainly been varied! Like you said, you never know what might happen in the boonies.

          Nina

  13. Sharon says:

    We volunteered at Buenos Aires NWR several years ago. If you like hiking, there’s a great trail that goes through the saddle of the mountain… it’s about half way between the refuge headquarters and Arivaca…. the homestead where the writer lived. (darn… can’t remember her name). Anyway, if it’s still open, it has some really great views.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You volunteered here? How cool! I didn’t know they had positions available. The trail you’re referring to is the Mustang Trail which is a longer option off the Arivaca Creek trail. And the author who homesteaded here is Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce :)

      Nina

  14. Are you sure you aren’t hired by the AZ Tourist Council? Another wonderful informative post.

  15. Dawn On Camano Island says:

    We love small towns & appreciate how many of them you & Paul find! Thank you!

  16. We almost bought a little ranch house in Arivaca many, many years ago. Beautiful area!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I can just see you guys with a ranch here. It’s your kind of pretty and natural spot. Hope you see some heat soon!
      Nina

  17. LuAnn says:

    Given the many years I spent in AZ, I had never heard of this beautiful place. Leave it to you Nina to find such remote beauty. We are so looking forward to being back out west. No grand vistas to be seen in Florida. ;)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, it’s the one thing we missed the year we travelled to Florida…lots of pretty beaches and trails over there, but no grand vistas. We do love the big views.
      Nina

  18. Doug says:

    Eek, hunters—the bane of all true boondockers. But as Dolly Parton says, “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.”

    On your way out of Buenas Aires, check out the nearby Mount Hopkins Observatory bus tour and the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We missed the Observatory, but we’re planning a visit to the Titan Missile Silo next week. Looking forward to it!
      Nina

  19. Robin says:

    Thanks so much for your blog! I’ve used some of your boondocking sites in the past and plan to use a few more next month when I go to Arizona. I understand the rattlesnakes are already out. Do you worry about that?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, the unusually hot weather is bringing out rattlesnakes when they should be asleep! It’s completely out of the norm for this time of year. I do worry about it and keep a close eye on the pets. We also try to stick to walks during the cooler parts of the day. As with all wildlife, the best you can do is be vigilant.

      Nina

  20. Gina says:

    Love, love, love your photos, especially of Taggart’s. She is a handsome devil, isn’t she? My husband and I visited the area you are in right now. We stayed in Arivaca in B&B when birding. There were lots of exotic birds migrating at that time but we were there around the end of March.
    I tried to find information in your blog about your internet services and hardware for it. I did not succeed. You provided me already with so many helpful hints as I prepare for my quiet and more peaceful nomad life. Thank you so much

  21. Emily Fagan says:

    Beautiful photography and a great story, Nina. Thank goodness there was room enough for you AND the gun-toting women to find your own spaces. But those poor javelina…! Looking forward to following in your footsteps someday and spending some time in that area.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I was actually amazed how quiet our weekend was with the nearby hunters. Not nearly as crazy as I imagined. You guys would enjoy this area…very remote and natural. Also hunting season in the refuge will be over end of this month, so should be no more big hunting groups in the area.

      Nina

  22. Gina says:

    Another thing, how do you cook, eat, use tamales?

    • libertatemamo says:

      They’re already cooked, so you just re-heat them either on the grill or in the oven. Once heated remove the corn husk and eat. You can pair them with salsa and salad, if you wish. Absolutely delicious and good to go!

      Nina

  23. Jutta says:

    Hey, I was one of those gun-toters and it was great! :-) Wish it had been 15-20 degrees cooler though. Few of us “scored” (total take was 5-6 animals) but the focus was on learning, gun safety, and cameraderie. This is an annual event, so if you happen to be in the area next year around mid-Feb, swing by and say Hi! cheers

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well hey there! Just wanted to let you gals know it was a pleasure to have you as neighbors….we had a wonderfully quiet week-end and I’m glad you got to enjoy it too (despite the hot weather). Lovely to see your comment!

      Nina

  24. Marshall says:

    Wow a new place I have to add to our bucket list. How long do you try to stay at a great boondocking site like this? Or do you refresh tanks at time.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We are able to boondock on average 2-3 weeks (we’ve made it up to 4 weeks but that’s a big stretch) with our tanks. Since most of the locations we visit have 14-day stay limits that works out just fine.

      Nina

  25. Brenda says:

    Wow, beautiful place, beautiful kitty, beautiful sunsets. Your photographs are wonderful.
    Brenda

  26. Barbara says:

    Hi Nina & Paul:

    You may have said at some point but how do you deal with the dry air of the SW? When I travel in that area I have an awful time with the dryness making my nasal passages swell up so I have a stuffy nose all the time. How on earth do you deal with that?
    Thanks for all the great info. you share on your blog!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      We both seen to adapt pretty naturally. I use coconut oil as a moisturizer and that works well on my skin, but I have no issues with my nasal passages. The only problem we seem to run into is our feet (heels in particular) get dry and sometimes crack. A good Epsom salt soak will cure that one. Sorry I can’t give more help…I guess we’re just natural desert animals :)

      Nina

  27. We have maxed out at 2 weeks. It sure is fun having the freedom to just stop and enjoy great sights.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Two weeks on your tanks will put you just about right for most of the stay limits in the BLM, national forest & refuge areas. Almost all of them have 14-day limits.

      Nina

  28. greg gino says:

    Gosh, awesome stories. We are going to be first timers on the road. How do you find this boondocking spots? Thanks and hope to see you somewhere.
    ggv

  29. What a beautiful place, love the sunsets and will have to add this place to our list for next winter. We love bird watching as well and I just checked our list….. No…we have yet to see the elusive “Tweety Bird” hopefully they are still in the area next year!

  30. Jil mohr says:

    How far is this pace from Benson? It sounds familiar…..we really enjoyed the Titan Museum…hope you do…

  31. […] A Hundred Hunters (And A Few Birds) – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, AZ […]

  32. greg gino says:

    I apologize if you have previously discussed your photography tools, but what lens do you have? I have a 70-200 and a 50 mm with a macro. I love taking pictures as well and would appreciate your experienced opinion.
    ggv

    • libertatemamo says:

      I think you have exactly the right gear. Maybe add a wide angle if you want to do more landscape? I have two cameras…a pocket-size point and shoot (Canon S100) that I actually use for most of my shots, and then an SLR with two lenses 18-200 and 50mm. That’s it! If I were into bird photography I’d probably invest in a longer lens, but I haven’t found the need yet. Also a dedicated wide angle would be nice, but the 18-200 does the job. For macro shots I use good old-fashioned extension tubes. They’re fiddly, but they work great.

      Nina

  33. greg gino says:

    I have to ask because of all the “Border Issues” we hear about, did you see or meet any Border Patrol Personnel, or “Foot Traffic” from our Southern Neighbor?

    • libertatemamo says:

      We do see a lot of Border Patrol in southern AZ, but we have not personally seen any foot traffic from Mexico. I’ve met RVers who have, but it’s not common at least not in the places RVs tend to go. Mostly the folks just want water and to move on.

      Nina

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