El Camino del Diablo: Pictures and Info

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by neiltkool, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first attempt at posting a Ride Report with pictures, so please forgive me if I make any mistakes. After having to sell my much-loved XR650R last month (hope you're enjoying the bike Luca!) I'm in a bit of a depressed mood and thought I'd share some pictures of one of the best rides and dual-sport adventures that I ever took with that bike.

    Last year my wife and I decided to drive down from our home in Beaverton, Oregon to visit her family for Christmas in Yuma, Arizona. Sensing an opportunity to take some time for myself and play in the desert, I made the necessary arrangments to trailer my bike down and go riding on the day after Christmas (2005). After doing a little research online, I came upon what I thought would be the perfect one-day, solo adventure: El Camino del Diablo or The Road of the Devil. It's basically the remnants of an old native american and indian trail that has been used by many different people for hundreds and hundreds of years. Today it's a rough, dirt, rock and sandy "point to point" 4WD road that extends from Yuma to Ajo, Arizona. Here are some of my favorite pictures from my ride that day.
    #1
  2. scottr

    scottr Banned

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    :lurk

    Risky beginning though. Starting ride reports with no pics can bite ya. :ddog
    #2
  3. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    Here's what the road looks like near it's west end (riding towards the east). After leaving the Fairfield Inn in Yuma and stopping for one last splash of gas on Foothills Boulevard, I was on my way.

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Looks good!! Keep it comin' :lurk
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  5. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    Sorry, I hit the wrong button and inadvetantly posted that first message before attaching a picture. I think I've got it figured out now though.

    This is the view after just crossing over the Tinajas Altas Mountain Range. As you can see, the road at this point was in excellent shape and the scenery was just incredible.

    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    Sorry, I'm still having a hard time trying to post more than one picture at a time. Hopefully I've got it figured out now.

    I like this next picture alot because I think it really conveys the isolation and remoteness of this area. Look closely and you should be able to see the road strechting way off into the distance towards the next mountain range.

    [​IMG]

    One thing great about El Camino del Diablo is that it's contantly changing. The scenery, the vegetation, and even the road surface was constantly different. I was surprised at just how diverse the desert landscape really was.

    [​IMG]

    This is an old house located at Tule well. I'm sure it's seen better days, but I still thought it was in remarkable condition given it's apparent age. It must be that dry, desert enviornment.

    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    At one point in the ride, there seemed like there was just an endless number of these soft, sandy two-track berms. I quickly learned to cross back and forth over the center and rail the outside line, as getting too close to the inside of any corner might result in a painful scratch. It seemed like every bush and schrub in the desert was armed with some sort of thorns or spikes.
    [​IMG]

    This was my first experience with a dry silt bed. This stuff was incredible; it was powdery dry, yet deep enough to bog down the engine. When I stopped to take this picture I swear I was in it more than half way up to my axles, and to get going again I had to fan the clutch and paddle with my feet, just like if were stuck in a deep mud hole back home. Weird.

    [​IMG]

    A good reminder to always keep it safe when riding alone.

    [​IMG]

    This is kind of a funny story. At this point in the ride I'd already been stopped by one Border Patrol agent earlier in the morning. He was extremely nice and polite and after checking me out, warned me that there had been a drug smuggler/illegal border crosser also seen on a motorcycle in the area earlier that day and that I would probably be stopped again during the course of my ride. Anyway, while I was riding along at a pretty good clip I passed the above grave marker just as I was cresting a rise. I'm sure I kicked up a fair amount of dust as I turned around to double back and check out the grave, when just then I spotted this Border Patrol agent up ahead and coming towards me, but still a ways off in the distance. I knew I'd have some explaining to do if I continued to turn around and ride away from the agent, but I really wanted to check out that grave marker so I did it anyway. Wow, all I can say is that those Humvees can really move across the desert when they need to.:D In the end, everything turned all right. After a few terse moments while questioning me and checking out my paperwork, the agent turned out to be really cool. In fact, I think he even radioed ahead for me as even though I saw another two Border Patrol agents later that day, neither one of them asked me to stop and just waved me by. Cool.

    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. RGuerra

    RGuerra Adventurer

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    :lurk


    - - - -
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  9. scottr

    scottr Banned

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    Cool. Good report so far. :clap

    Nice to know the BP are out there doing their job. :thumb

    :lurk
    #9
  10. Renegade6

    Renegade6 Been here awhile

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    AKA moon dust. That stuff sucks!
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  11. neiltkool

    neiltkool Adventure Rider Lite

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    At one point for what seemed like several miles, there were these weird iron two-tracks set up in the middle of nowhere. I'm not exactly sure what they were for, but my guess is that they allow heavy trucks and non-4WD vehicles to cross the soft sand. I couldn't decide if it was better to ride up on top of the steel or off to the sides along side of it. I ended up sliding around and doing a little of both.

    [​IMG]

    One of my favorite pictures from that day.

    [​IMG]

    That's me. (I carry a little plastic tripod that I can strap around sign posts and tree branches, etc.)

    [​IMG]

    Well, that was it. The section of the El Camino del Diablo that I rode turned out to be 125 miles, point to point, all off-pavement. In the entire distance, I only saw four other vehicles that day and they were all U.S. Border Patrol agents. The distance between fuel stations was approximately 135 miles and as I'm sure you could tell, there was pretty much nothing in between. To ride this section of the El Camino you'll need to get a couple of permits. One to enter the Barry Goldwater Military Reserve and the other for the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. I'd read reports that it was difficult, if not impossible, for motocycle riders to get permission to ride in this area, yet I had no problems dealing with either the Marine Air Base folks in Yuma or the National Wildlife people. Maybe I just got lucky, who knows. I know one thing that may have helped out though is that I took care of all of my paperwork and permits a month before leaving for my trip. Maybe being from out of state helped a little to. Knowing that I was going to be riding through the area just the one time, and not every weekend, may have helped me get permission to, I don't know.

    As I said in the beginning of this report, I rode my trusted XR650R on this ride and would highly recommend other such dirt orientated dual-sport machines for anyone attempting this route. The terrain and road surface isn't too terribly challenging, but due to the many sections of soft sand I'm quite certain that that I couldn't have made it on my DL650 V-Strom. Not in one day at least. I'm pretty familiar with the KTM950 and think that with the right tires, that would be about the largest and heaviest bike that I would feel comfortable taking on this route.

    I'm a pretty fair, although now old and out of shape, off-road rider and even riding along at a pretty good clip it still took me me just over five and a half hours of "moving time" to make it from Yuma to Ajo. Add in time to stop and take pictures and the requisite Border Patrol encounters and you could easily end up taking seven total hours just for the dirt section of this ride alone.

    After I made it to Ajo, where I ate lunch and fueled up, I rode back to Yuma on Highway 85 and Interstate 8. It was kind of a long and crappy way to end the day, but I had no choice as I had to make it back that night. The entire day's ride turned out to be just over 300 miles and even though I left right at dawn, I still had to ride the last half an hour in the dark becuase of the short winter days. If I were to do it again I'd try to stay overnight in either Yuma or Ajo, and then ride the dirt section back the next day in the opposite direction. Anything really to avoid that long and boring pavement stetch again.

    I can't really think of any other tips or information that I can share at this time. All I can say is that the El Camino represents a fantastic, remote, desert southwest, long distance dual-sport adventure for anyone who's in to that type of thing. If anyone has any questions or would like a copy of my GPS tracklog, please feel free to ask.

    I hope you enjoyed the pictures, -Neil

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. Hltoppr

    Hltoppr GS Adventurer

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    Those steel planks are PSP, or Perforated steel planking, which were originally used for setting up airstrips in remote locations. Sometimes they're now used for sand ladders to keep 4wds from sinking or getting unstuck....

    That's too many to be left by someone in a 4wd...my guess is that someone wanted to land a small ultralight or other aircraft on that road....

    Great views!

    -H-
    #12
  13. katbeanz

    katbeanz earthbound misfit, I

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    #13
  14. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Excellent!! Great looking pics too! :thumb
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  15. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    I somehow stumbled across this thread and just about fell out of my computer chair. I have studied, plotted, canived, lied, routed, GPS'd, tried to get a permit and read everything about riding a motorcycle across the El Camino El Diablo trail for years.

    Everything I read said they only allowed 4-wheel drive vehicles------that's it.

    I was aware of the permits and made several calls to get one. One time a guy told me that it was fine to ride a bike out there and I burned his ear for about 20 minutes asking him questions about it----I was all set to go. Then his boss came in (a woman) and he wanted to verify this with her-------she said "Oh no--motorcycles are not allowed out there" .

    Crap-----------foiled again. So I gave up---and now see the pictures and story of you riding across the trail.

    You may be the only motorcyclist to ever do this---you lucky dog !!!

    I bet you got your permit from the guy that told me it was OK----and now he's probably fired from his boss :huh

    Anyway glad to read about it---maybe I'll try again someday---as I have ridden a jillion sections of trail in Arizona-------you can read that tale here
    http://bigdogadventures.com/Arizona1.htm


    Thanks for the story and pics !!!!
    #15
  16. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Been here awhile

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    My friend just returned from the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station and he picked up his permit to enter the area. He gave me an extra map of the area. On the back of the map: "All ATV's, dirt bikes, sand rails, vehicles and operators are required to licensed for highway driving under Arizona laws." This is for the Barry M. Goldwater Range West area. I drove there today on my bike, but was turned away at the gate. I needed to be wearing a helmut, long legged pants and shirt to enter the base. I'll try again on Monday. I'm thinking that there may be another permit involved to gain access to the East area.

    I hope to do this trip in a few weeks, after I get back from my Baja trip with 4 friends (leaving Jan 29, returning about Feb 15th or so). I'll post if I do the trip.

    If anyone wants more info, here's their ph number:
    Range Management Department MCAS Yuma.. <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = SKYPE /><SKYPE:SPAN onmouseup="javascript:skype_tb_imgOnOff(this,1,'0',true,16,'');return skype_tb_stopEvents();" class=skype_tb_injection oncontextmenu="javascript:skype_tb_SwitchDrop(this,'0','sms=0');return skype_tb_stopEvents();" onmousedown="javascript:skype_tb_imgOnOff(this,2,'0',true,16,'');return skype_tb_stopEvents();" id=softomate_highlight_0 onmouseover="javascript:skype_tb_imgOnOff(this,1,'0',true,16,'');" title="Call this phone number in United States of America with Skype: +19282697150" onclick="javascript:doRunCMD('call','0',null,0);return skype_tb_stopEvents();" onmouseout="javascript:skype_tb_imgOnOff(this,0,'0',true,16,'');" durex="509" context="928-269-7150"><SKYPE:SPAN onmouseup="javascript:doSkypeFlag(this,'0',1,1,16);return skype_tb_stopEvents();" class=skype_tb_imgA onmousedown="javascript:doSkypeFlag(this,'0',2,1,16);return skype_tb_stopEvents();" id=skype_tb_droppart_0 onmouseover="javascript:doSkypeFlag(this,'0',1,1,16);" title="Change country code ..." style="BACKGROUND-IMAGE: url(C:\DOCUME~1\default\LOCALS~1\Temp\__SkypeIEToolbar_Cache\e70d95847a8f5723cfca6b3fd9946506\static\inactive_a.compat.flex.w16.gif)" onclick="javascript:doHandleChdial(this,1,'0',1);return skype_tb_stopEvents();" onmouseout="javascript:doSkypeFlag(this,'0',0,1,16);"><SKYPE:SPAN class=skype_tb_imgFlag id=skype_tb_img_f0 style="BACKGROUND-IMAGE: url(C:\DOCUME~1\default\LOCALS~1\Temp\__SkypeIEToolbar_Cache\e70d95847a8f5723cfca6b3fd9946506\static\famfamfam/US.gif)"></SKYPE:SPAN></SKYPE:SPAN><SKYPE:SPAN class=skype_tb_imgS id=skype_tb_img_s0></SKYPE:SPAN><SKYPE:SPAN class=skype_tb_injectionIn id=skype_tb_text0><SKYPE:SPAN class=skype_tb_innerText id=skype_tb_innerText0>928-269-7150</SKYPE:SPAN></SKYPE:SPAN><SKYPE:SPAN class=skype_tb_imgR id=skype_tb_img_r0></SKYPE:SPAN></SKYPE:SPAN>
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  17. Hill Climber

    Hill Climber Been here awhile

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    Hi. A friend and I just did this trip a couple of days ago and had a great time! I found out that the permit needed for this trip is the one that covers the West Range, not the East Range. The video that you have to watch is only if you want to enter the East Range. (Not available at the Yuma Air Base.) For more information on the East Range, call 623-856-8516. You can get you permit for the West Range at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. Go to the main gate and ask for directions. Fill out an application form, hand it in and you get a permit in return. So simple.

    There is a road closure from April 15 to July 15 in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge due to the Pronghorn Deer fawning season. This effectively makes it impossible to travel the entire road. (The map you get with your permit indicates that it is closed on March 15 but several signs on the trail indicate April 15-July 15)

    Before embarking on this trip, you have to call the number on the back of your permit and tell them your permit number, license plate number/state or province and trail destination. (sometimes they close the area down for a day or two due to expected drug running interception or who knows what)

    Bikes we rode were a 530 KTM and a 650 KLR!! Yeah, my friend has the KLR and wanted to give it a go, so give it a go he did! I discovered that he is an excellent rider, and he did the trip with little difficulty. Albeit a bit slower than the KTM, but nevertheless, made it through. I'd say that about half of the trip was sand, and the other half was good solid gravel road. Oh yeah, a bit of moon dust too. Gotta say though, a couple of beers went down really well in Ajo!
    :beer


    Chuck
    #17
  18. TucosGold

    TucosGold n00b

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    Wow, good job jumping thru the hoops, Hill Climber.........I ran around out there in the '90s and it was always weird with the AF and all the other land agencies.....Half the time we never had permits, so we'd just say 'We're lost' and it always worked.....Just too scared of all the 'runners' from across the border in that area now.......Still, it's fabulous country............TG
    #18
  19. Geoffster

    Geoffster Fool - Born This Way

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    [​IMG]

    Because I didn't have knobbies or a permit, this is all the further I rode yesterday. But next time ...

    (However, I was given a 30 second private air show, complete with a hot turn ~500' directly overhead, courtesy of a Marine F/A-18 jock. Very cool.)
    #19
  20. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

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    Cool pictures:clap
    #20