The free camping area along American Girl Mine Road in Winterhaven, CA (usually just called AGM by boondockers), doesn’t seem to have a lot going for it at first glance. It’s pretty far from the closest town (Yuma, just across the border in Arizona), it’s flat and has little vegetation… even for a desert, and it’s down a rather rough road that floods in heavy rains.
But it’s one of my favorite spots for winter camping. Those flat, wide open spaces means there’s plenty of room for everyone and crowding isn’t an issue. The extreme southern location means it’s one of the warmest boondocking spots in all the southwest, plus it’s easy to get to Mexico for medical tourism and good food. And it also has better than average Verizon and AT&T signal for working online. Finally, the mountains to the east catch the sunset spectacularly and the area is dotted with mines, canyons, and other mysteries to explore.
All in all, I’ve spent a lot of time at AGM over the years, and I camped here twice this winter, once early in November and again towards the end of December.
The more recent visit happened just before Christmas, when several Xscapers members decided to get together for an informal Christmas celebration.
On one brilliantly sunny day, there was a hike up the nearby mountain to the south. Hikes in the flats of AGM are characterized by gentle rolling mounds of sand and rock divided by shallow washes dotted with Palo Verde trees. Spiny Ocotillo plants are also common, as evidenced by the last photo.
Once you get to the mountains, the footing gets more treacherous as larger brown rocks dominate. But you’re rewarded with a long view of the camping area below, with the Imperial Sand Dunes visible on the horizon as a strip of brighter tan.
On Christmas Eve, a group of us head farther into the mountains for some offroading.
Bertha is 2WD and not capable of such feats, but there are several Xscapers members who own 4WD, high clearance vehicles and are happy to have passengers. We traversed canyons between the mountains…
…and ended up at a spot called Valley of the Names, where for years people have been using rocks to write their names in the desert.
I’m rather torn on the concept of rock art. It can be pretty when done well, but it also violates the spirit of “leave no trace” and detracts from the natural beauty of an area. I think of Valley of the Names however to be more like a historic site, where signs of human presence have been around so long that it stops being trash or graffiti and starts being something worth treasuring. It’s interesting to look at the dates on some of the rock art out here. Here’s the Xscpers art, as we arrived before the new year it was not time to add 2020 on yet.
And then came New Years Eve.
Like last year, New Years Eve was spent in Quartzsite at the organized NYE Convergence. A large group of us descended on Plomosa Road north of town for three days of socializing and live evening entertainment.
It was great catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, including one very special meeting with Chris and Cherie of Technomadia. Our paths hadn’t crossed since very first Xscapers Quartzsite convergence nearly four years ago. It was at that event that Cherie introduced me to poi dancing which I fell in love with and in the intervening years have gotten quite good at. On New Years Eve, Cherie and I performed with fire together, realizing a dream I’ve had for years.
Here’s to an amazing new year ahead!
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