In mid-October, Maricopa360.com Editor Sam McCallie rode along on a Saturday morning adventure with the newly formed Maricopa Off-Road Club:
Maricopa Off-Road is an informal club made up of local people who get together for periodic day trips to remote and scenic locations around Arizona.
The club’s first trip was to the Vekol Valley and Table Top Mountain trailhead. I was fortunate enough to be riding along with the trip’s trailmaster, Steve.
Vekol Valley is located southwest of Maricopa, and southeaset of Gila Bend, south of Interstate 8. Table Top is the prominent flat-topped mountain seen (on a clear day) to the direct south of Maricopa.
(Click to enlarge photos)
The Good Times Cafe (formerly The Burnt Bun), down on Highway 84, was the designated meeting spot for today’s trip.
The Vekol Valley and Table Top Wilderness lie within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Monument was created in January of 2001, by President Bill Clinton, and contains over 487,000 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape.
Just a friendly warning of what those who venture this way are getting themselves into.
Part of the land within the Monument is leased to the Vekol Ranch. The Vekol Ranch was established some time around the beginning of the 20th Century, and is still active today.
The first stop on our tour is an old corral area first used by the Vekol Ranch sometime around the 1920′s or 30′s. This was a shower used by the cowboys after a hard day’s work.
The remains of the old bunkhouse which lies behind the shower and well.
Members of our group explore the interior of the old bunkhouse.
This livestock watering pond lies next to the bunkhouse/corral compound, and appears to have been fed by the site’s well. The pump motor has recently been removed leading to speculation that this pond may eventually dry up.
The vehicles wait for us to continue on.
The group checks out the corral area behind the bunkhouse.
Club member Jason Youngdale checks out the well site next to the shower.
Before heading back to the road, the group takes a short walk to check out an old slaughterhouse site adjacent to the corral and bunkhouse.
The old slaughterhouse was constructed by the Vekol Ranch in the early 1970′s, but for some reason was never completed.
The walls and roof of three out of the four wings were never completed.
The group explores the interior of the slaughterhouse’s main room. Despite the presence of fluorescent light fixtures on the celing, there are no utility lines anywhere in the Vekol Valley. Electricity was supplied by portable diesel generators as needed.
The group spent about half an hour exploring the old structure.
Evidence was found to suggest that the slaughterhouse occasionally serves as a stopover point for illegal border-crossers.
If completed, the slaughterhouse would have been a massive facility.
Back on the road, heading toward our ultimate goal!
Our next stop was a trailhead just inside the Table Top Wilderness area.
Black Mountain lies just to the west of Table Top Mountain.
Visitors to the Table Top Wilderness may sign the guest registry.
The trail winds down through some pristine desert scenery.
There is plenty to catch the attention of the avid nature photographer.
One of the members of our group discovered the bones of some poor animal that had met its end in the desert some time before.
The trailhead offered a picture-perfect panoramic view of the valley below.
Finally we arrived at our destination, the Table Top Trailhead. Its namesake mountain looms in the background.
The Trailhead offers modern facilities including picnic tables, and a (surprisingly clean) rest room.
Our destination reached, the group prepares to eat lunch.
On the way out, we decided to stop and photograph this stately saguaro, estimated to be 200-300 years old.
Our trailmaster Steve mistook the cactus for one of the gods of the desert and began to pray. (Actually he was adjusting his camera to get some close-up shots.)
The group heads back to the vehicles to begin the trip home.
(All photos by Sam McCallie)
There are no dues or fees to join the Maricopa Off-Road Club, just the desire to explore nature and have fun.