"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sanhill Cranes and Ghost Towns

McNeal, AZ
Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area
We were excited to do some boondocking here after reading a couple of other bloggers visits.  The Sandhill Cranes, among other birds, migrate here from mid October to mid March.  We were there at the end of March and unfortunately the last couple weeks of above average heat prompted the last of them to migrate further north.  So instead of 20,000 Sandhill Cranes we saw only a handful. 

There is space for about 5 rigs for overnight camping.  This is a free area with a bathroom and garbage facilities.  Not much privacy, but you're here for the waterfowl.

The sunsets were incredible!

Since the weather was in the 90s and there are no hookups to run the A/C, we took off for some road trips during the days we were there.  Mostly we wanted to check out some of the local ghost towns.  Or what's left of them.  Most only had a couple of buildings.  We first stopped in at Gleeson to see the restored jail.  All of these towns are on dirt roads and wind through the desert.

We were lucky to arrive at the old Gleeson Jail just as a jeep with a guide drove up.  Usually the jail is locked, but the guide unlocked it and gave us a nice tour.


An interesting story the guide told us was that before the jail was built they would tie up the perpetrators to a cable around a nearby oak tree that was in a wash and leave them there.  He said eventually the heavy rains would drown them.  He told us where the oak tree was and that the old cable can still be seen. 

The cable is still there and now the tree has grown around the cable.

It is amazing how many people live way out here in what seems like the middle of no where.

This used to be a school in Gleeson.

More old jails and buildings in the ghost towns of Cortland and Pearce. Below shows a sidewalk of what is the only thing left of a town that had a few businesses at one time.

We also did some geocaching in the area.  We took a drive that took us out of the dry desert and into a small, lush area near a river.  We were on the hunt for Jonny Ringo's grave.  It was on private property, but the owner does let you through a gated area to be able to see the grave.  It's on a very nice spot right next to the river.
Ringo was connected with or had dealings with Jesse James, the Younger Brothers, Doc Holiday and the Earps.  He supposedly killed himself in the crook of the tree you see fallen in the picture below.

We also found another cache along a road with an interesting marker.  While it was an easy hide, it took a bit to find as it was camouflaged quite well.



 Back at the refuge, we were able to get a picture of the great horned owls that were nesting nearby. 


One last sunset before we leave.  You can see some Sandhill Cranes if closely.


  1. Love AZ sunsets. There is just nothing like them. You really lucked out at the jail to have someone show up to show you the inside. How fun.

    1. Yes, that guide gave us quite a bit of history of the area as well as some neat things to see.

  2. Interesting how that Class B is hauling their kayaks, Debbie!

    1. Yes, we considered carrying ours that way. Even bought the special carrier, but it was too tall!

  3. Such a pretty place and so full of history. The oak tree makes the jail look like a luxury! Interesting that an historic marker could be on private property, their family must have owned the piece for a long time. Too bad you missed most of the cranes, but the owls are beautiful. Great sunset!!

  4. How cool to see Johnny Ringo's grave! The only thing I know about him is what I was in the movie Tombstone. Did he kill himself in the crook of the tree or did he just die there?

    I cannot believe it has been that warm there, how did Harley hold up? I am assuming you took him with you on your road trips. We had snow and cold here in Utah last week, this week it in the 60's and 70's. Not looking forward to the warmer weather!

    1. The story says he killed himself in the crook in the tree. But like everything else, there is a theory that he was killed by someone else and it was staged. Hurley comes everywhere, he insists! He doesn't do as well on the hikes in the heat though. We're on our way to do a long weekend with friends to a wolf sanctuary in NM and then some kayak fishing in the White mountains of AZ but the weather says rain, wind and snow. We'll see!


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