The Dragoon Mountains

Nov 30, Thursday (continued)

From Benson, AZ I turn south down 80, which for a while follows a wash and is surprisingly green. Just before Tombstone, I veer east onto N Middlemarch Road.

I’m headed for a well-known boondocking area, and all the reviews boil down to the same thing: Beautiful spot, rough road in.

They aren’t kidding. N Middlemarch is a wide two-lane with shoulders, there are houses down it and even signs for school-bus stops. There are no ruts, no wash outs, no big rocks, no tight curves, no sharp dips or bumps, it all looks good at first. The problem is it’s very washboard-y. And when I say very washboard-y, I mean I drive the ten miles in at 10 mph, it’s that bad (with just the truck I can do most of it at 20-25 mph).

So going ten miles at 10 mph, it takes me an hour to get down Middlemarch road, it’s now about 3:45 pm. Finally I get to forest road 687, where Coronado National Forest (and the boondocking) start.

The photogenic mountains to the northeast are the Dragoon Mountains, something I learn after the fact as the range is not labeled on my GPS. 687 follows along the front of the mountains, it’s a 1.5 lane road and not as washboard, but it’s less level with more dips and bumps. As always when faced with a new boondocking location, I park Bertha and Cas near the head and walk down the road a ways to assess.

Sites are not exactly plentiful, and many of them are occupied by deer hunters – it’s that time of year. A little over two miles of 687 is passable by most rigs, ending in a loop that looks more like a triangle. Vans and the like can potentially make it a bit farther beyond the loop where there are a couple more spots.

The tall grass is pretty, the plentiful trees are also a nice touch, but they will make getting solar more challenging. I choose a large site closer to the start of 687, as it’s available and close and I’m not feeling like messing around.

Some RVers can pull into a boondock, park, and be done with it. Not me. I’m like a picky cat that has to try every remotely flat surface in the house before choosing the best spot for that nap. By the time I’ve finally decided where and how to park the Casita, the sun is down and it’s getting dark out. Phew! I’m pooped. But I am happy with this spot!

Dec 1 & 2

The next two days at Dragoon Mountains are also overcast, bummer for my battery. I take short walks along 687 both days, enjoying the silence at this site. There’s no road noise to speak of, probably because everyone driving on the closest road is having to do so at a crawl to avoid having their vehicle shook apart from the washboarding…

There is a little traffic on 687, mostly hunters. Especially on Saturday I see vehicles going to and fro, not once do I spy a deer in any of them. I do hear gunshots on a couple occasions.

I don’t own any florescent orange, but I do wear bright colors every time I go walking (the above pic in darker colors was staged right outside camp), and I resist the urge to strike off from the road to go investigate things. The view of the mountains doesn’t disappoint, despite the poor lighting.

Saturday is a hard day, sometimes I have those. Trying and failing to concentrate on work a couple times, I drive into Tombstone instead to make use of a better cell signal to upload several videos for YouTube. I’m not in the mood for sightseeing though, and don’t take any pictures. One of the streets in town is blocked off from vehicle traffic, and there’s people in old west costumes walking around. If you’re into touristy things, it’s probably worth a visit if you’re in the area.

December 3 & 4

The sun, the sun!

On Sunday and Monday the sun returns, and I can finally get some good pictures of camp.

Walks are also better with the sun out, and on Monday the hunters have all gone back to work and traffic on 687 is all but non-existent.

I’m pretty sure this area counts as a savannah – grassland with scattered trees. I’m at about 4,300 feet here if the listing on Campendium is correct, and the terrain is much more like a standard desert at lower elevations. Having grown up in a flatter part of the country, I’ve found it fascinating since hitting the road how much the vegetation can vary in an area based on elevation. I use to have to cross state lines back east to see this kind of variety. Here I only had to drive ten miles up towards the mountains.

Speaking of elevation, it may not seem like December the way most of the country experiences it, but camping up here at the foot of a mountain it’s definitely getting colder at night than down in the valley below. In fact the low on Thursday night is expected to be 23 degrees, and that’s colder than I want to subject my plumbing to. Time to be thinking about the next camp.

But for tonight, the sun turns the Dragoons pink at sunset, the wind is calm and all is well. As I sit in my chair a full moon slowly rises behind the mountains. A few insects that have survived the frosts so far chirp in the grass, offering one last serenade to the departing fall. It’s a beautiful night to be an RVer.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Becky on December 14, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  2. John Taylor on December 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    You may be in the same spot I was in 2 weeks ago. I stayed for 12 days. Absolutely beautiful, and so peaceful. Take the drive up Middlemarch over the mountain. You’ll get a view across the plain to Chiricahau. Also, drive further up FR687 and take East Stronghold Canyon Rd up into the mountain. I posted a lengthy review on campendium (Forest Road 687 page, user name John T). From the Dragoon Mtns, I went to Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, but stayed only 7 days because the forecast predicted freezing for the next few nights. I then dropped 3,000 ft to warmer nights at Gunsight (or Gunsite) Wash, just outside Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. That’s where I am now. When my tanks are full, I may move down to the campground at the visitor center for a few days, because it’s only $8 per night my my senior pass. Then probably on to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

  3. Syl Jones on December 12, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Loved all your pics but the last one is truly magnificent. Thank you so much for letting me travel too.

  4. Dawn on December 11, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    I love Dragoon area. I’ve spent some time dirt biking (motorcycle) in that area. There’s a cute campground-ish ranch place out there called Triangle T Historic Ranch. It has the original movie set of “3:10 to Yuma” ( ) out there + a saloon built around a giant tree. Nice folks and beautiful area! I can’t wait to get back to Dragoon Mountains.

  5. Becky on December 11, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Glad you all enjoyed this post and thanks for following along.

  6. Tina Nauman on December 11, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I enjoy following your blog and this is my first time posting. I’m also a full-time wanderer in my Casita…..with my cat. I’ve been full-time for 1 1/2 years and am currently mostly dry camping using solar. I’m a birder and nature photographer so tend to “follow the birds” and right now hope to participate in some of the annual Christmas Bird Counts in Arizona and California (Salton Sea area). But, I just left the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge area which is south of Blythe and north of Yuma. I don’t know if you have ever been there. There is good boon docking right across from the Refuge offices. The nights were in the low to mid-40s with one night as low as 38. Right now there are thousands of ducks, Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes along the auto tour (which is mostly devoid of visitors). It’s an oasis in the desert along the Colorado River. Beautiful! Once done with some bird counts I will be returning. There is dispersed camping elsewhere in the area, too.
    Tina Nauman recently posted..November ArizonaMy Profile

    • Becky on December 11, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Welcome to IO Tina! I went hiking at Cibola last winter with friends to a palm oasis, was a very cool area.

  7. MnDreamer on December 11, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Hi Becky- The photos of the Dragoons are beautiful! I love that you share your experiences boondocking in various locations. I’m taking careful notes! 🙂 Since you mention your solar here, I’m wondering if you would say something about how it’s working for you. (It’s a Renogy 100 w suitcase, right?). I know you are careful and conservative with energy usage. Do you connect it to the “regular” Casita battery and find that works out?
    Thanks again for sharing your life with your readers!

  8. Jodee Gravel on December 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    When I saw your location my first thought was “But it’s deer season!” Glad you were smart about venturing out. Lovely pics of the mountains. It’s such a beautiful area of Arizona, and the first place we every woke up to snow!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..The Days Before Hell Breaks LooseMy Profile

  9. Pamela Campbell on December 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, Becky – Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy hearing about your travels. Tomorrow I leave Houston and head to Lubbock TX for a couple of weeks visiting my daughter and her family. Then, on to Arizona. Happy Travels!

  10. RGupnorth on December 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Sounds like time to head a bit further south and lower altitude.

  11. Gerald Brady on December 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Ditto the comments of S Kaeseman.
    Also, when exploring this area in the past, I thoroughly enjoyed Chiricahua National Monument (scenic hiking) and Kartchner Caverns State Park (a cave environment painstakingly preserved as discovered).

  12. Rob on December 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I enjoyed Tombstone. Walked boot hill, I paid the money for the Birdcage theater museum & thought it worth every penny. I skipped the OK Corral shootout but I’ll spend the money the next time I’m there.

    The town was (to me) what an old west town was supposed to look like. The Birdcage theater was the “proper” size!

    I’d been disappointed with the size of Saloon #10 in Deadwood, SD (where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered). The saloon was the size it was it was, it just didn’t fit MY imagination!
    Probably too many westerns when I was a kid 🙂

    It snowed in Tombstone the first time I was there…

  13. Ron on December 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Elevation makes a lot of difference in the temperature. We spend our Winters at 30 feet above sea level. Be sure to check out Bisbee, some pretty country there. We used to go to Mexico at Douglas, not sure if it is still a safe town. Great photos and writing. Enjoy. Ron

  14. S. Kaeseman on December 10, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi, Beautiful place to boon-dock. one day we hope to do it ourselves. I Love to read all about your days, looking at your wonderful pictures of the places you are at. Your writing is very well done also. Not sure if I ever wrote it before, I admire your sense of adventure, lifestyle and zest for life in general. Your willingness to do whatever you want to do at your pace is also great. Please keep this up for as long as you are happy to do so.
    Please be safe and Thank You again for this wonderful adventure you are letting us all share in.

  15. Terry Brawley on December 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Beautil writing, and the countryside looks fantastic. 32 F here in N. FLA.

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