Along For The Ride: V6E6 - Jeep into Boondocking Country
V6E6 - Jeep into Boondocking Country
Written By Chris Shontz / @Venture4WD
I had just spent a week driving the length of the Mojave Road, a 130 mile primitive track across the California desert, which had taken its toll on both myself and the Jeep. It was time to catch up on some life maintenance…
Or, more specifically, tend to some laundry and track down a shower!
This brought me to Lake Havasu City, which is a popular destination along the Colorado River in western Arizona. So popular, in fact, that as I sought a convenient place to camp in the nearby desert, I found it to be crowded with other boondockers, van-dwellers, and full-time RVers. This was understandable, as Lake Havasu is an enjoyable area offering relatively mild temperatures throughout the winter.
A quick search on freecampsites.net directed me to some BLM land in a shallow canyon, which was populated with many other campers. However, I found a four-wheel drive offshoot that gave way to a secluded spot where I could pop the camper for the night. The technical terrain nearly guaranteed that I’d have a private and quiet evening, which is one of the things that I love about living in a Jeep!
The next day, I drove into town to freshen up my laundry, followed by a short drive north to Love’s Travel Stop - a national truck stop chain where I often go for a shower. By mid-afternoon, I was freshly showered with an entire wardrobe of clean clothes.
I cannot overstate how wonderful it feels to be clean!
East into the Desert
My next order of business was to push eastward. I had made an appointment with a company located in Prescott, Arizona, to have my Jeep serviced the following week. While it was still days away, I wanted to head in that direction and explore Arizona along the way.
Google Maps suggested two routes to Prescott, from the Lake Havasu area, but both followed highways, and were fairly indirect, so I split the difference and plotted a course through rural desert roads, where I enjoyed another evening camped at the side of a BLM road among a forest of Joshua Trees.
In mid-February, while temperatures are fairly mild during the day, it drops below freezing at night, and your comfort level depends entirely on your elevation. You’re generally warm below 2000 feet. At 4000 feet, you’re close to the snow-line, and at 6000 feet, you’re going to want to bring a shovel for good measure.
The next day, my route passed over small mountain range, where the roads were lightly dusted, but posed no inconvenience. From Wikieup, Arizona, I then traveled south along the highway while scanning both sides of the road for my next adventure.
The Nature of Dead Ends
I had planned to cover a lot more ground, via highway, before I resumed exploring, but highway 93 is lined with countless primitive routes that wander through the desert. It didn’t take me long to give into temptation and venture westward, down an arbitrary, deteriorated track to some unknown end.
I engaged four-wheel drive and crawled along for miles through an open range where I saw grazing cattle, horses, and burros. I passed through an occasional public gate which I would open, and then securely shut. As I traveled, the road degraded even further. Washed out sections would cause the Jeep to be severely off-camber, and some overgrown limbs would scrape sharply along the sides of the vehicle.
It was wide enough at first, but this road hadn’t seen a passenger vehicle in quite some time, as I passed a bow-hunter on an ATV who seemed mildly amused by my unlikely presence.
After six miles of taxing four-wheel drive road, I reached the end - an unremarkable clearing with a windmill and a water supply for the open range cattle. While I prefer more meaningful ends, I reminded myself it’s about the journey, not the destination, and that’s one more primitive road that I’m now acquainted with.
I backtracked to a beautiful clearing, not far from the highway, where I enjoyed a campfire and a wonderful evening in the desert before continuing south the next morning.
Among the Saguaros
Upon arriving in Wickenburg, Arizona, I had lunch with a couple who identified me from my videos, whom I was grateful to meet for the very first time!
Bill and Maureen graciously invited me into their home and treated me to some delicious food and drink while we discussed interesting places to explore in the area. They’re avid adventurers who reside in Wickenburg during the winter, and Bill pointed out several areas that I should visit on his GPS - which was strewn with local track logs and waypoints.
Clearly, I was in the right place!
After a fond farewell, I was off to explore the desert south of Wickenburg, near Vulture Peak, per Bill’s suggestion. This area consisted of a vast network of recreational OHV routes - most of which didn’t appear on my map. I followed them over steep hills and through sandy washes until they emptied out onto a lush plain surrounded by Saguaro cacti, where I then set up camp.
The roads here seemed well-traveled by ATVs, though I didn’t see see or hear a soul during my stay. The desert was dead-quiet, and it was a wonderful place to spend the night.
Summiting Vulture Peak
Vulture Peak was tantalizingly close. At this point, I was eager to do some exploring on foot, so I followed the OHV roads to the trailhead for the hike to the summit, which I discovered on alltrails.com.
It was a two mile hike from the parking lot to the saddle, near the top of the peak at 3400 feet, but if you’re feeling bold, it’s another 200 foot scramble to the summit. You’re going to want to put your camera away for this last stretch, because you’ll need to use both of your hands and your feet!
The 360 degree view from the top was breathtaking. Wickenburg loomed to the north and a vast expanse of desert to the south. After taking some time to rest and admire the scenery, I returned to the Jeep, having hiked a total of four miles.
Stetsons are Cool
Wickenburg, Arizona, is very much a cowboy town. In fact, the profoundly western vibe is intoxicating, as I greatly enjoyed immersing myself in it. I could’ve donned a Stetson and some Wranglers during my visit, and I would’ve fit right in!
It felt like home, as I walked around, acquainting myself with the shops and the restaurants. Everyone I met was wonderfully friendly. The food was delicious, and the town had no shortage of history.
One of Wickenburg’s foremost past-times is roping, which I didn’t have a chance to see for myself, but the whole community is passionate about it - much like how you and I might be passionate about four-wheel drive travel.
When you surround yourself with people who are passionate about an idea or a thing, it’s hard to not be passionate too.