I decided to rent a car this afternoon and go exploring. Enterprise Car Rental was supposed to pick me up at 1:00 but kept me waiting until 1:45 so I had them throw in a free GPS (which ended up not helping me one bit). I also got a double upgrade on the car, not sure why, and ended up with a Nissan Cube - a car I consistently deride for being drop dead ugly when I see one on my commute. But, hey; if I am inside it then I don't have to look at it.
I set off to get as close as I can to a set of mountain peaks I had noticed the other day when I was in the taxi on the way to Los Algodones. I commented on them to the driver but she didn't seem to know what they were, by the lack of any reply. So strange.
I didn't have a map but I'd checked online before I left and found a road, Ogilby, that looked like it might go out that way. It seemed there was a wide expanse of desert between me and the peaks, but I was up for it. I just hoped the car was.
I got onto the #8 Hwy headed west. On the way I passed a small church on a very squared-off, man-made hill and made a note to check that out when I came back; something about it struck me as very odd.
I no sooner got off of the highway and onto Ogilby Road than I saw a big white sign posted at the side of the road.
It was a long, flat, blacktop road stretching out ahead of me as far as I could see, it looked like a normal county road, and so I couldn't understand why I would need a permit. There was another two similair signs on either side of the road at dirt entrances to what looked like a two rut track across the desert sands, one going east and the other west. So to me, it looked like you couldn't go in any direction but back without a permit. Fabulous. I turned around and got back on the highway going east. As I did, I saw a mountain that I had seen from the plane flying in that had intrigued me. From the air it looked like there were giant steps carved out of the middle and I had wondered if it was natural or man made. It almost had the look of the start of an Mayan pyramid. Now I could see that it was definitely man made and was either from and old mine or graded to remove gravel or some such rock.
I got off at an exit marked 'Felicity' which is where the church on the hill was. I crossed over the highway on an overpass and onto the small road that ran beside the highway, passed a CHP's (California Highway Patrol) building - I was in California since passing over the river- and turned into a drive with the following sign:
I parked in the wide gravel lot, where there was only one other car, and looked around. Behind me, just beyond the parking lot, there were a set of stairs that wound their way up to nowhere. They were metal and pretty rusty looking.
There were two buildings at the front of the property, one a mirror image of the other. As I walked in front of them I saw a creepy sundial to my left and, between the two buildings down a path that separated them was a small pyramid. The place seemed totally deserted and it was giving me the creeps big time. Something about this place was seriously not okay.
Each of the two buildings had signs painted on the stucco fronts; one Museum and the other Post Office. Both had their main doors, which faced the pathway between them, wide open. I stepped inside the one marked Post Office.
Five feet inside the door, there was a small glass counter with some souvenirs for sale inside as well as a few guide books to the place. There was one of the guide books laying on top of the counter along with a steno pad with three names written down and a number beside each one. Not phone numbers, just a single number per name: 9, 12, 60. Behind the glass counter was another small counter with a cash register on it and then a huge empty room behind that full of empty metal shelves. I picked up the guide book and flipped through it, trying to figure out what this whole place was.
Instead of trying to explain it, you can read about it here. Turns out the stairs are part of the Eiffel Tower. Not sure how they landed here.
I lay the book back down and stepped outside into the blazing heat and walked over into the other building marked Museum. There was one small table with some framed certificates of some sort on it - one from the military. To the left was a small TV and a couple of folding chairs. To the right was a few more empty shelves and a poster on the wall that said something about an 'Invisible Dragon' - which there had been a book about in the glass case in the other building.
I walked out of there and over to the pyramid. Behind it was the rows of pink granite triangular walls with the important history of the world written on it and beyond that, the church on the hill.
Feeling completely creeped out, I got the heck out of there without ever seeing another single soul.
I drove east, back towards Yuma and then got off the highway on the north side and, for a couple of hours, tried to find a road that would take me to the rugged mountains that intrigued me so. But I was stymied at every turn. I thought I might finally have it when the road turned to sandy gravel, but there was a sign indicating that I was about to enter a land fill site so, reluctantly giving up, I turned back and headed to Yuma.
On my travels down many back roads, I came across a field of palm trees, all planted in neat rows. It looked so odd. As I got closer for a better look, there were a lot of rather nice vehicles parked among them and at first I thought it might be a camp site but it became clear that wasn't it. There were several lift-type vehicles that were fully extended into the tops of the trees. Maybe a coconut farm? A little farther on I came to another much bigger field of palm trees and then saw a rough sign indicating that there were dates for sale! Mystery solved!! They were all date palms. Although, the first set I came across, the ones with the lifts, were much taller trees, so maybe that one was a coconut farm.
I drove back into Yuma, rather disappointed that I never got close enough to those mountains to take a good picture. The sun is so bright here that most of my photos are washed out and ones of something far on the horizon, like the mountains or some sand dunes I tried to photograph, don't show the horizon detail at all. It's like there's nothing there.
I was wondering what I would do for the rest of the afternoon when I spied a Visitors Center so I pulled in and asked them about getting closer to the mountains. At first she wasn't sure what mountains and then I described them. "Ohhh, you must mean Picacho." and went on to tell me how to get there. At first I was totally confused but it started to come clear to me that what she was describing was exactly where I had gone and then turned back because I thought it was the entrance to the land fill. "Oh, no no," she said, "the land fill is farther down the road but if you stay on that road it will take you over the canal and then it's 18 miles to Picacho over a pretty rough dirt road."
I also told her about the road with the sign and how I had turned back because I didn't have a permit. She said I could definitely have continued on that road, the signs were for the land on either side. One needed a permit to off-road there. Sheesh. That is NOT how it appeared.
I decided to go back to the land fill road and try again. I wouldn't make it the whole 18 miles to Picacho, but maybe close enough to get a decent photo of it.
The road ended up not being too rough, but there were a lot of large sharp rocks on it and so I had to drive slow and dodge them so as not to blow out a tire. I eventually got close enough that there was nothing much between me and the mountain, and to get a decent photo. As I stepped out of the car to take the picture, a commercial jet flew overhead and as it disappeared, I realized that there was now no noise. Not a single human sound. The only thing I could hear was the wind whipping around my head. I stood there, transfixed, looking around me at the expanse of dry, rough, desert that ended at the foot of some amazing mountains, mesmerized by the sound of only the wind. I took my photos and then stood there some more, listening to the wind.
FINALLY, A Pic of the GORGEOUS Mountain.
I did not want to leave. I don't think I have experienced anything quite like it. I literally had to force myself back into the car. I also didn't want to turn it around and go back. There was something that kept drawing me just a few more yards down the road. But eventually, I turned the car around and drove back to my hotel.
I also saw one lizard and two road runners in my travels.
As I took the pics of the cactus tree, I looked down and saw...
...THIS!! With only flip flops on my feet, I was sincerely hoping they weren't Desert Tarantula homes
I'd love to go back with a motorhome one day and plant myself at the foot of those mountains for a few days where the only sounds I hear are the ones nature and I make.