Our stay in “Canada's Southern Most City” wouldn’t be complete without hitting some of the tourist sights in the area. So much to see and do in a short time so buckle up, this ride makes frequent stops and detours.
As a trading and transit hub, the Yuma area is rich in history and diverse in culture. Any visit here can be quickly filled with the quirky, the oddball, the normal, and endless combinations of all three with little or no effort on the part of the visitor. So we’ve found out for ourselves this winter season along with the fact one visit is simply not enough if we wish to see it all.
What happens when you get a bunch of 'seniors' in one place with temperatures in the 80's? We've found the usual result is just about any excuse for a party. What has me puzzled is “Where did these people come from?” “How did they get here?” and what have they done with all the serious parents and grandparents we knew as we were growing up. Prime example: we are no where near New Orleans but someone in the park heard “Fat”, another heard “Tuesday”. They put the two together and a park-wide Mardi Gras was formed. Last week one of the residents mentioned how much he enjoyed corned beef and cabbage. You guessed it, St. Patty’s Day party followed shortly after.
In the “normal” category; a day trip the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Martinez and the Painted Desert Trail. Starting at the visitor center we met a fellow volunteer host who was trying out camping in the desert for the first time. A hard worker for sure, the center was clean and well kept with perhaps the exception of some pretty old and beaten up mounted animal displays. Outside, the rains of January and February had yielded an explosion of blossoms in plants, bushes, cactus and of course weeds.
A pleasant surprise was the desert tortoise habitats around the perimeter of the visitor center building. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a tortoise and turtle on the best of days but I can definitely tell the difference from a rounded boulder and something that isn’t a rounded boulder. Especially true when the not boulder blinks. I know it was a desert tortoise because there was a placard proclaiming that very fact.
A short distance down the road from the center is the Painted Desert Nature Trail, a 1.3 mile trail from gullies to ridgelines and back again, featuring the variegated colors and terrain of the seared land. After the hike in the overly warm temps I could swear there had been mistake in the length of the trail with someone reversing the numbers!
Similar to many towns of the west, this ghost town of silver mines showcases items not only of mining endeavors but the simple, everyday things used to make a living and life out in the desert. We all found it amazing people seemingly dropped everything and walked away when it no longer remained profitable.
For a touch of quirky blended with historical the Cloud Museum, just outside of Bard California, fills the bill. Covering over 2 acres the museum , as noted by the Model T Ford Club of America, “probably the largest collection of Model Ts in the world; each and every one lovingly returned to running condition by Johnny Cloud. No idle boast as Johnny will gladly start up any of the vehicles despite the dilapidated, rusty, exterior.
Though mostly known for the vehicles, there is also an eclectic collection of period tools ranging from industrial applications to those commonly found in the home in years gone by. Mr. Cloud is usually less than a shout away and seems to have a sixth sense if you have a question regarding any of the exhibits or artifacts.
For truly oddball we recalled information from our travels down here last year describing another mining town where the tools of the prospectors left to fend for themselves are now in charge. I speak of the donkeys of Oatman and while they are considered wild because no one owns them they are demonstrably quite civilized in their behavior. This calm demeanor could be their personality but I’m thinking a good portion of their considerable patience results from waiting for the next opportunity to part tourists from purchased carrots and feed pellets. The cost to the donkey? Enduring camera flashes and an occasional scratch behind an ear.
Located on old route 66 which is also the main street of Oatman, the donkeys can be found wandering outside and in some cases inside the shops filled with local artwork, curiosities and sundry trinkets in this quaint assortment of Americana.
Our own role as tourists has come to the end for we are now slowly wending our way back north. We are hoping to drag a bit of the summer with us as we come. We’ll have to see.