Monday, January 16, 2017

Charlie Bell Pass Trail

Monday, January 16, 2017

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Woke up this morning to a beautiful sunshiny day and warm temperatures.  It felt great after the blah day we had yesterday.

After our walk this morning, I sat at the table drinking coffee and reading blogs till Yuma couldn’t stand it anymore.  He kept looking around and wanting to go someplace outside.

So, I ate some cereal real quick and we jumped in the Jeep and headed for the Charlie Bell Pass Trail.  It is one of the trails advertised in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge brochures.  What a beautiful morning for a drive.


Reading the brochure, the trail left Ajo and quickly turned into a Jeep road. 


This horrible road went on for over 17 miles.  It was the absolute worst road I have driven in my four years of traveling the Southwest.  The last two miles was like driving in a creek bed full of stones.  I could go no more than three miles an hour.

We left at 11:30 this morning and didn’t get back to camp till 6:00, just in time to take a shot of the setting sun.  I was afraid I was going to get caught driving this horrible road after dark.

At five miles, I reached the entrance to the Refuge and signed in at the kiosk.


Another warning sign to be aware of our surroundings.


In all fairness, the scenery was just gorgeous and it was a great day for a drive.

This looking back toward Ajo and the Ajo Mountains.


At eight miles in, I came upon the windmill at the Little Tule Well.


There were thousands of Saguaro Cactus as we dropped to the desert floor.


The pass through the Growler Mountains is over to the left.  That is where we are headed.


Looked for pronghorn sheep, but never saw any.  Like to see someone drive faster than 15.   Tear your vehicle apart.


The Growler Mountains.  You’ll notice there are fewer Saguaro Cactus on the desert floor.  They only grow at certain altitudes.


Some tight spots.





Going into the pass now.


We have reached the end of the line.  It’s walking from here.  Beautiful pass through the Growler Mountains.



Looking back on the 17.3 miles of desert floor and the Ajo Mountains that we just drove.  On the left is Tillotson Peak where we drove up in a caravan and took pictures Saturday evening.


They are kind enough to place a tower here with a phone to call for help.  Also, there are about six gallon jugs of water at the base if needed.


I thought there was going to be an old abandoned homestead at the end, but I found nothing.  When the road ended at a parking area, there was nothing to tell me where to go, so Yuma and I continued to walk the pass trail for about two miles.  Only Administrative vehicles are allowed.



After two miles of walking on an even worse road, Yuma and I came onto a pump with a water trough. Yuma wouldn’t drink from it. 

That was it.  No homestead!  No nothing! 



I am one tired puppy traipsing back up the mountain pass trying not break an ankle and die right here.  I never thought I would make it back up the mountain side to the Jeep.



Yuma, says “Hurry up Daddy!  We’re almost to the top.”


The worst thing is, after getting back to the Jeep, dead tired, I knew I had to drive that 17.3 miles of horrible road again, starting with this two miles of river rock road.



I guess I either missed the exciting stuff of there was no exciting stuff.  Before anyone takes this trail, be sure to learn more about what is out here and where it is, because I sure never found it.

Back at camp just in time for the sunset.  What a day! 


Hope you enjoyed reading of my adventure.  I know it is a little long with lots of photos, but I wanted you to feel my agony too.

See you later.


  1. Oh, my...I feel your pain! Just looking at that rocky road, caused my neck to ache. Even your shadow looked tired. I hope your next adventure has a more rewarding end.

    1. Thanks Dolly. I feel better this morning, but still sore.

  2. It's a bummer you went all that way for nothing! At least the senery was beautiful!

  3. Yes I remember that road as being terrible as well but I don't think we went as far or for as long as you did. Supposed to be petroglyphs out there but we never found them. We turned around when we saw some suspicious activity ahead. Your day will be one that will stand out in your memory over the years and when you think about it's difficulties it may even bring a little smile to you. There is always a sense of accomplishment in those kinds of rough and tumble days.

    1. You're right, Al. The last time I drove out that way, I turned back at the Refuge sign-in. This time, with a pass, I was determined to go the distance.
      And I did.

      Now if I can get rid of this neck pain from all the juggling I did in the Jeep.

  4. Your vehicle probably also has some desert pinstriping too, courtesy of all that close-in brush and tree stuff.

    1. Thanks, Emjay. May have to repaint the Jeep, if I keep getting into these tight places.

  5. Meh, that road doesn't look that bad. First off, Jeeps are not smooth riders thanks to solid axles front and rear. Rugged and capable, yes, but not smooth. A vehicle with an independent front suspension, a moderate lift and good springs might be able to go much faster. I've got both a Jeep Rubicon ( 3" lift, Fox remote shocks ) and a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 ( stock ) and the ZR2 is by far a much better ride over bumps.
    Second, air down your tires to about 15-20 PSI. This will take the edge off the rocks while providing some limited protection for your tires from damage from sharp rocks or roots. With less air in them, they'll tend to flex around potential sharp objects rather than puncturing. Think half inflated balloon vs. a fully inflated one.
    We carry an Viair 12v compressor to re-inflate at the end of a trail ride.

    I'm looking forward to driving this!