top of page

The Deplorables Diary - Oatman

The Deplorables is a name chosen by one of the guys in our "crew" of motley campers and overlanders. We're basically old guys who like to explore and sometimes break gear and/or vehicles in the process. This trip we did explore and nothing broke, so it was a great trip!

Mike and I get together for what we call "garage beers" where we ponder our next trip and that afternoon was no different. I broke out my ancient Arizona Atlas which I've used for almost 15 years. Thumbing through the pages Mike suggested an area they had explored before but if you've done any overlanding, you can drive a LOT and still only cover a very small area. As we were looking at the map the words "Oatman Massacre" grabbed our attention. We had both heard of this incident in 1851 where a pioneering family was killed by local Indians. It's an incredible story and we wanted to experience it first hand so now, our trip was deemed the "Oatman" trip and the wheels were turning.

The call went out to The Deplorables, Jerome and Terry jumped at it, and the planning began. Mike and I headed out on a Thursday afternoon and camped near Royal Arch south of New Hope, AZ off of I-10. It was a quiet night with a gorgeous sunset, slightly cooler temps, and good IPA beer. Friday we detached the trailers and scoured the area. We got a close up view of Royal Arch which is one of four in the surrounding area.

After lunch we drove to HooDoo Cabin. Erected in the '40's it housed the wranglers as they checked the hundreds of miles of fencing for the ranches. To this day it's a first-come, first-served respite for travelling campers. Miscellaneous food items have been left, a notebook to sign in, etc. Our BLM managers have done a good job of keeping it intact. We were impressed that the cabin had not been vandalized, only visited. I guess it's too far for lazy vandals to get to.

Getting back about 4pm supper was started and Terry and Jerome arrived that night.

The following day was the big push south to see the Oatman Massacre site and the alleged burial site. We had shared the route via Gaia GPS and it was roughly 56 miles via dirt so we packed up and headed out. There was just enough technical to challenge the vehicles and trailers and after a few route changes and 6 hours of driving we made it around 3pm. It was everything we expected and read about. We were able to see where the wagon wheels had put slight ruts in the lava rocks as they ascended the trail from the river bottom to the mesa. These were incredibly rugged people. Rocks, ruts, boulders, weather, worn animals, lack of food, etc would have worn down the hardest of people. We were amazed at the route they had to take and realized our ancestors have an incredible story to tell us.

Our buddy Jerome is absolutely epic when it comes to using Gaia, Google Maps, and Google Earth. He scours all three platforms for routes and potential camping spots. The location for tonight was a short drive away near an abandoned adobe home overlooking the river bottom. After looking a bit we found it, circled the wagons, got a fire going, and Terry got supper started with another great night in store.

Sunday morning we packed up and tried the dirt to get east to Painted Rock but met the holy grail of money and power. It seems a large ranch in the area took it upon themselves to place a locked gate across Oatman Road, a public roadway. Turning around we backtracked to Sentinel, off of I-8 to jump on it and head east to Painted Rock exit. We made it to our intended exit to hit dirt but met another locked gate. This one by the Army Corps of Engineers. We were able to use Gaia and routed ourselves to another public roadway. After roughly 27 miles this route would eventually dump us out southwest of Buckeye, AZ for tomorrow's last day. It was a very long and challenging 20 miles to the campsite and we pulled our little campers places they probably shouldn't have gone. Needless to say we didn't see a soul out there and the camp area was flat and strewn with rock chips negating any mud. Again, the IPA was opened, a fire crackled to life, and supper started.

The final morning we awoke to drizzly rain. It was 6am and instead of the usual routine of coffee and breakfast we made a fast pack and headed out. It was a much easier drive out and at only 6-7 miles to hardball it was a great wrap up to the trip. Out of Buckeye it was interstate the rest of the way home. The good part with the rain is most of the mud washed off!

I've been camping since my early 20's and started with a Jeep in 2005 with more serious overland travel beginning in 2010. It's been a spectacular ride. Now, our trips are decided around a place, an event, history, nature or other factors. So far this direction has taken us to tucked away places only a desperate person would visit. Maybe I am desperate. Desperate to continue learning new things. Seeing new things. And experiencing new things. Whatever the motivation is, I'm glad it's there.

3 views0 comments