Tag Archives: Highway 85

Roadside Table

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Milepost 55

Previously, I wrote about the Gunsight Wash BLM camping area. I explained that Gunsight Wash is located on Arizona Highway 85, just past milepost 55, across the highway from a roadside table. Now I am going to write about the roadside table.

First of all, I think the term roadside table is unappealing. I understand not calling it a rest area. When people in cars see rest area, they think restroom. It would be cruel to call this spot a rest area because there is not a restroom here, not a pit toilet, not a porta-john. But roadside table sounds so bleak to me, probably because I imagine a lonely table stuck by the side of the road. Why can’t we call it a picnic area? Picnic area sounds so cheerful. Doesn’t everyone like a picnic, especially when there’s a table involved?

Secondly, there is not just one table in this picnic area. Oh, no. There are two tables in this picnic area. To be accurate, the sign should read roadside tables.

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Roadside tables, trees, and trashcan

There’s more than just a couple of tables going on here. There are also trash cans and trees. Trees are a pretty big deal in the desert. I think the area could get some attention if the sign read, Roadside Trees.

There’s also a sign in the picnic area which makes it pretty clear that people are not supposed to camp here with the IMG_5674roadside tables and the trees. I wonder why the sign doesn’t direct wanna-be campers to the BLM land of free camping across the street?

The trashcans at the picnic area are a bit controversial. I read a couple of notices on the sign board across the road on the BLM land and learned a few things. The roadside table/picnic area is managed by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). ADOT is responsible for hauling away the trash left in the trashcans at the picnic area. ADOT does not want pesky BLM campers crossing the highway and leaving their trash in the ADOT trashcans. It sounds like when trash generated in the BLM area is left in the ADOT¬† trashcans, ADOT is ready to declare all-out turf war. I know I’m making light of the situation, but disposing of trash really is serious, people. If there are no trashcans where you camp, pack that trash OUT!

One part of the deal with your trash notice at Gunsight Wash that caught my attention was where it said the workers who remove the trash from the ADOT roadside table area have expressed disgust at some of the things filthy BLM campers have crossed the road to leave in pristine ADOT trashcans. Items mentioned were jugs of urine and used motor oil. Jugs of urine? Jugs? Who’s out there with jugs of urine? Are we talking one gallon jugs? Five gallon jugs? I pee a lot, but I never have to dispose of jugs of urine. If you’re out in nature, people, discreetly sprinkle your urine on the outskirts of your camp (not in the same spot every time). And while I suppose some do-it-yourself types will change their oil while boondocking, is an Exxon Valdez amount really being dumped in ADOT trash cans? Who are these ADOT workers who are disgusted by urine and motor oil? Perhaps if such things make one squeamish, one should have a job which does not involve emptying trash cans.

The final interesting aspect of the roadside table/picnic area is what I can only guess is a gate to let people pass in and out of the area, but exclude cattle. IMG_5675If that is what the contraption is for, I suppose it was doing its job, as I saw no bovines picnicking at the roadside tables.

I took all of the photos in the post.

Gunsite Wash

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During my first trip the area around Ajo and Why, AZ, I did not camp on the Gunsite Wash BLM land. I was enamored with the free camping on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop and didn’t have much motivation to move my butt anywhere else. But since I like to see new places (and write about them!), during my second visit to the area, I decided to spend a night at Gunsite Wash.

During my first visit, the Divine Miss M and I had pulled into the camping area on our way to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and had a quick look around. Although the area has no amenities (no running water, no trash cans, no toilets–pit or otherwise, no showers, no picnic tables, and no shade covers), it does have several desirable features.

First, if one wants to visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, this camp area is in a great location only twenty miles from the Monument’s Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Gunsite Wash would be a great free area to leave a travel trailer or 5th Wheel while visiting the Monument.

Second, the main road was in good condition when I visited (April 2016). There are many spots accessible to vehicles with low clearance. While friends in a minivan and a Prius had trouble finding sites for their vehicles on the Ajo Scenic loop, I think most anyone could find a workable spot in Gunsite Wash.

Third, there is a lot of room in Gunsite Wash. Unless this place gets super crowded in mid-winter, there should be no reason for people to camp on top of one another here.

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I was facing south when I took this photo. The roadside table is on the east side of the road. The camping area is on the west side of the road.

Four, it’s really easy to find. The Gunsite Wash camping area is on Highway 85, just south of milepost 55. Right before the camping area is a sign for a roadside table. (The sign also shows accessibility for folks with disabilities.) The roadside table is on the east side of the road.¬† The entrance to the camping area is on the west side, directly across from the entrance to the roadside table area.

After making the turn into the camping area, look for a couple of tall saguaros and a small sign that says “RVs”. Follow the sign’s arrow to the right.

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Drive a very short ways and look for the cattle guard on the left. Cross the cattle guard. You are now in the camping IMG_5663area!

To the left of the cattle guard is one of those signs warning about smuggling and illegal immigration. During my day and night at Gunsite Wash, I saw no one who seemed to be smuggling or immigrating illegally.

IMG_5664From reviews I read of this camping area, I expected to see a camp host. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was a camp host there in January (2016) when Miss M and I popped in for a quick look-around. On that day there was a rig parked not far over the cattle guard and to the right. Also on that day, there was a sign-in sheet on the sign board. In April, there was no camp host and no sign-in sheet. There were, however, signs saying there is a 14 day limit on camping in the area.

IMG_5662While Gunsite Wash is by no means an ugly area, I don’t think it is a pretty as the BLM free camping areas adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop. (That my be why one place has “scenic” in its name and the other doesn’t.) While Gunsite Wash does include a few saguaros (some very large, which means very old), I saw no organ pipe cacti or any type of cholla out there. Gunsite Wash has a lot of creosote bushes and even some trees, which is nice in the desert. If one went far back and to the right on the main road (which is actually little more than a wide dirt trail), one would find a large tree offering some shade. I think it would be nice to camp with the tree.

IMG_5706Throughout the day I spent in the area, I saw critters moving. There were so many quail, I felt as if I were at a Partridge Family reunion. Sometimes little rodents dashed out into the open as they moved from one hole in the ground to another.

The most exciting animal I saw all day was a coyote. I must have noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, I saw a full-grown coyote standing next to a bush. I looked at it and it looked at me, then it moved on.

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The cow in the trees.

When I read the information at the sign board, I noticed a note written by the camp host. It said campers should be nice to the cows in the campground because they are “paying customers.” Apparently one or more ranchers lease the land for grazing. I definitely saw fresh signs of bovine presence. While taking an early evening walk, something up ahead moved in the trees. I thought maybe it was another coyote, but it was a cow (or maybe a steer).

I only saw one other rig (a big 5th wheel) parked in the area. After dark, I could hear the generator humming over there, but I was far enough away that it was a quiet hum. I could hear vehicles passing on Highway 85, but the road wasn’t very busy, and I wasn’t disturbed. I think by camping farther back, one could eliminate some of the noise I encountered.

I think this is a fine camping spot. However, since I don’t need to be close to the National Monument and my vehicle has decently high clearance, if I were in this area, I would probably choose to camp on the BLM land right outside of Ajo.

A note on spelling: I orginally used the word “Gunsight.” Then I saw on it spelled “Gunsite” on the Free Campsites website, so I changed my spelling. Then I searched on Google and saw it spelled both ways. I didn’t want to go through and change my spelling again, so I’m leaving it as “Gunsite.” I don’t know what’s correct in this situation.

I took all of the photos in this post.