Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Off-roading with the Arizona Sunriders in Quartzsite, AZ - 2022

If you are in Quartzsite and enjoy off-roading, I highly recommend you hit the trails with the Arizona Sunriders.  This is especially true if you are newbies and/or are unfamiliar with the hundreds of trails within these desert lands.  The Sunriders typically organize rides 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), and they always take us to interesting sites.  They are extremely safety conscious, using a lead, tailgunner, and radio communication on each ride.  We also use a rotation system during rides, which is especially important when we have 20+ units in our group.  The rig directly behind the lead will be prompted to stop and point the direction which other units should follow. Once all units pass the pointer, that rig gets at the back of the line right before the tailgunner.  This gives folks a chance to get to the front of the pack and not eat as much dust, which is not a very tasty menu item even for stuffed rats.   Furthermore, with this system you will always get behind the unit you initially started behind.   So, it provides an easy way to check up on our fellow riders to ensure no one is missing. 


Membership in the AZ Sunriders OHV group is not required to participate in their rides.  But trust me, you will want to become a part of this terrific group of off-roading enthusiasts.  They work diligently at protecting our trails while advocating for our rights to utilize them.  They are community minded, too, doing trash pickups, assisting at the LaPaz County Fair as gate guards, and donating to worthwhile causes like the Roadrunner Gem/Rock Club Scholarship Fund.  Membership with the Sunriders is only $10/person per year. 


The rides are of varying skill level, distance, and location.  Some are more technical, some require you to trailer your unit to a drop-off location, and some need special permits and/or licensing, but ALL are an awesome riding experience.


All residents and non-residents are required to obtain a decal to off-road on Arizona trails.  As non-residents, the cost for us for 2022 was $30.  The on-line order process asked only for name, USPS mailing address, email address, and phone number.  No information about the actual off-road unit was collected.  We received our decal within 2 weeks via USPS.  Easy-peasy.


An additional permit is required to off-road on Colorado River Indian Tribe (CRIT) land.  We phoned ahead to find out specific location for purchase within Parker, hours of operation, etc.  Since we were not told of any documentation requirements during our phone inquiry, we presumed the process would be like that of the State of Arizona.  Au contraire, we needed registration and driver’s license.   Unfortunately, our home State of Texas does not allow us to register off-road vehicles.  Though we are fully insured (collision/liability/bodily injury) and have added all required safety equipment, we do not have any license plate.  We learned that in lieu of registration, we would need a notorized copy of our bill of sale and title, which were back in Quartzsite.  There were 5 other people all trying to get their CRIT permits that day—only 3 of them were successful in the endeavor.  Me thinks CRIT really doesn’t want folks riding on their lands.    Now some non-residents by-pass this permit obstacle by just registering their off-road vehicles in Arizona.  In fact, a DMV office is right across the street from the CRIT office.  They use the address of a friend/family member, RV Park at which they stay, or in the case of a few people we met, the mile marker off AZ-95 representing Bureau of Land Management’s LaPosa Long-Term Visitor Areas (BLM LTVAs)!   We don’t like to confuse our domicile issue, so we use our Texas address for ALL legal purposes.  So, with the many other trails in the area, we decided to just forego getting the CRIT permit this year.  It was not worth doing a second round-trip from Quartzsite to Parker to bring the documents they wanted.


We were precluded as well from joining any rides within King of Arizona (KOFA) National Wildlife Refuge because the government powers-that-be at KOFA require all off-road units be registered.  Again, with few exceptions (none of which we meet), we cannot register our Polaris side by side in Texas.


We didn’t fret about being unable to do the CRIT/KOFA rides too much.  Since we had receivers welded to our medium duty truck, we are now equipped to transport Rat Patrol II via our swivel wheel.   This opened up several riding opportunities for us.


All of the rides originate at the AZ Peace Trail OHV Staging Area on Quail Trail.   Access is off N. Plymouth Road, between the Quartzsite Justice Center and Quartzsite Municipal Building/Library.  The rides average about 6 hours, so it is always recommended that you bring lunch.


So, here is a short synopsis of the rides in which we participated.


Alamo Lake.  We trailered out to the lot near the Wayside Inn.  We had 17 units unload and hit the trails.  It was a bit chilly (59F degrees), and we encountered some rain showers initially.   But it didn’t dampen our spirits, and we were later rewarded with bright sunshine.  I was excited to see wild burros, but they were a bit camera shy, hiding among the many Joshua trees.  We stopped at Date Creek Wash and then visited Palmerita Ranch.  The Ranch was established in the mid 1800s.  I’m not sure why the owners abandoned this homestead.  But they left behind water tanks, a house with a nice fireplace, and several family members buried on site.  The grounds contained a huge Eucalyptus tree, from which I plucked a few leaves for my first aid kit. We headed then to Mud Canyon, which fortunately did not live up to its name.  I met Buddha there—he was quite hospitable, allowing us to explore his private domicile.


Our Mascot Wilbur and his Mom Christine

Crested sagauro

Burros hid within the groves of Joshua trees

Date Creek Wash

Palmerita Ranch

Graveyard at Palmerita Ranch

Mud Canyon

Buddha dwelling in Mud Canyon

Patton’s Cave.  Though we visited here last year, this time we took a completely different route, approaching from the North.  The cave once held the communication equipment used by General Patton during World War II training.  The cave gave Patton a bird’s eye view of the Bouse camp.  We stopped at the rocks that spell “Quartzsite” with directional arrows, which were used as navigational tools for training pilots during World War II.  Another set of navigational rocks spelling “Vicksburg” is on the other side of the mountain.  We visited Jasper Mountain, where we searched for some gems.  I found only a very low-grade specimen.

Just one of the many rides where Lefty joined us

Tia joined us on several rides, too

A funky sagauro

The group climbing up to the cave

View from the cave

View from the cave

The "Q" of "Quartzsite" letters

Ramsey Mine.  Two aspects of this ride I thoroughly enjoyed:  1) It included 4 canine companions, Ziggy, Midgie, Lefty, and Lola, and 2) After visiting the abandoned Ramsey Mine, the ride included a stopover in Brenda for lunch at Buckaroo’s Sandwich Shop.   This is a quaint cafĂ© with exceptionally efficient workers and surprisingly good food for such a small operation.  They make their French fries in house, slicing the potatoes through a handy-dandy wall gadget.  And they offer a vegetarian option for Dad which scores them bonus points.  We loaded up the buggies and continued riding past the New Water Mountain Wilderness to view a natural oven.  Then we headed to the blue wall, named for the rock color.  



Ramsey Mine

Lunch at Buck-a-roo's

Natural oven

Blue Wall

Havasu Mesa.  This trailered ride took us to the spillway of the Central Arizona Project Canal off the Colorado River, which commences in Lake Havasu and ends 336 miles later in Pima County.  The Mesa offered spectacular views of the Bill Williams River.


Dog Monument.  This was the most widely attended of any of the rides we did with the Sunriders, consisting of 27 buggies.  Owen (AKA Otis), Lady, Gus, and Archie joined us to visit the monument paying tribute to a fellow canine, Tikaani, who loved to off-road like them.  This unique memorial includes a satellite dish that reflects a sunspot on nearby Gold Nugget Road at noontime on the date Winter Solstice commences, commemorating the date/time Tikaani passed away.    As we hiked up to the memorial, we ran into a couple of celebrities.  You just never know who you will meet on a trail.


Owen AKA Otis


Gold Nugget Road in the background

We met Gumby and Pokey on the trail!

Diablo Pass.   The ride started off with a visit to the Joseph Freemont cabin, where the pipes to hang meat in the smokehouse are still visible.  Next up was a stop at Gold Eye Mines, where you can actively stake a claim.  The site contains a stone cabin built by Lehre Erdman, who mined on site for 63 years until he passed away in 1996.  The cabin is filled with memorabilia from years gone by, and the property has a unique toilet garden.  I am always amazed at the unusual rock art found in the desert.  We witnessed two such renderings, one of an eagle, the other of a ram.    The main event of this ride was going to Diablo Pass.  This is the second time we have trekked to the Pass through the years.   The road, with its variety of terrains, was a bit rough this time, jostling me around quite a bit.  But my discomfort was quickly forgotten when I witnessed the awesome views from the Pass.

Freemont Cabin
Freemont Cabin Smokehouse

Erdman Cabin

Gold Eye Mine


Eagle rock art

Ram rock art

Views from Diablo Pass

Hogback.  We had gorgeous weather for riding and a smaller group (9 units).  Our route took us South to North, which proved to be exceptionally scenic.  We saw Elephant Mountain, then stopped at Apache Chief Cabin for our picnic lunch.  We continued with cabin tours, visiting Gold Nugget and then Belle of Arizona.  The latter was believed to have gold hidden within the walls, so seekers of riches tore it apart through the years.   Their efforts were futile—no gold was ever found.

Ocotillo blooming


Elephant Mountain

View of the trail from the top of Hogback

View from the top of Hogback

Lunch at Apache Chief Cabin

Humorous desert art

Memorials are found throughout the desert

Gold Nugget Cabin

Remains of the Belle of Arizona Cabin

Huaqahala Observatory.  Friends Sue/Marlin joined us for this ride and graciously trailed our buggy with their own on their 20-foot utility trailer.     It was quite a long drive out to the staging area on Eagle Eye Road—about 1.5 hours.  But it gave us time to chit chat with these fine folks.  Our first stop was the Black Rock/Manganese Mine, where I explored tunnels and the open pit.  Then to the highlight of our ride:  Huaquhala Observatory.  The nearly 11 miles of trail leading up to Southwest Arizona’s highest point (elevation 5,691 feet) was recently regraded, so in very good condition.  The original observatory was constructed in 1920 to measure and record solar activity.  Abandoned in 1925, now the site is home to the communication antennae used by the Central Arizona Project Canal.   Viewing magnificent panoramas, enjoying glorious weather, and sharing the experience with great people—priceless.     


Friends Marlin/Sue along with Ole and Elsa

Black Rock/Manganese Mine

Views from the trail to the observatory

Views from the end of the trail at the observatory

Preacher’s Pass.  We headed Northeast off Kuehn Road.  Along the way, we spotted a badger.  Rather than running away from the buggies, he followed alongside us for quite a while.  I guess he heard we were on our way to lunch at Buckaroo’s.  I've got to tell ya, I love incorporating a formal lunch stop into our rides.  It reminds me of our motorcycle club runs, where we would ride to different eateries.    After lunch, we witnessed great vistas of the valley as we traversed to Preacher’s Pass, named for the route used by traveling clergymen.  We then visited Shooter’s Wall, part of an old stagecoach stop. 


As you can tell from JeanAnn's sign, she and Stewart were out of commission for this ride.  But they met us for lunch since they are staying in a nearby RV Park.

Lunch at Buck-a-roo's

Views from the valley

A view of the trail

Shooter's Wall

Once again, we thank the Arizona Sunriders for providing us with a terrific riding season!  We look forward to joining them again next year!





 PS:  You can watch Go-Pro videos of some of these rides on my youtube channel: