Sunday, January 26, 2014

Childs Mountain

Odometer 37747
Trip meter 0

Saturday January 25th 2014

Wow!, I can't believe it's the end of January already.  Joan and I are really enjoying our extended summer here in Ajo, AZ.  We have to be careful when talking to our friends up north, that we don't sound too enthusiastic, lest they hang up on us.

A couple weeks ago we signed up at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge headquarters to take a tour to the top of Childs Mountain seen in the picture below.  The road used to serve an active US Air Force installation and is still off limits by car outside of this tour.

I really wanted this picture to show the great imposing height of the mountain that forms the western backdrop to our little town here in the desert- however I wasn't able to get the look I wanted- so you'll have to take my word for it.  The peak is 2846 feet high and is the tallest thing arounnd for many miles.
The "tour" is a procession of cars that follows a guide vehicle up the mountain and through a gate that is normally locked.  The road is- or was at one time paved, it's current condition is very pot-holed with some sections reduced to gravel.

Vehicles wait at the gate to Childs Mountain Air Force Station.  Ajo, AZ

The trip to the top takes about a half hour and the views on the way up are spectacular.
Once at the top, there is a road that runs along the ridge top, that is in places only wide enough to support the road.

We stopped in a wide area at the top, and walked to an overlook area where our guide gave us a  short history of the installation.
Visitors overlook at Childs Mountain.

The Air Station was built here starting in 1956 and finishing in 1958 as part the North American early warning defense system, designed to detect Soviet long range bombers.  The Ajo Station became obsolete soon after it was built and by 1971 all operations here had ceased.  In 1972 all the buildings were removed and the antennas that were left were fully automated.

A solitary radar dome is all that is left of the Childs Mountain Air Force Station

The town of Ajo looks tiny in the distance as seen from the top of the mountain

The timing of the tour was deliberate- they started us off at the gate at 4 PM and suggested that we stay through sunset.  With the sun still bright when we arrived at the top, we all headed in different directions, snapping photos of the desert plants, the high rocky precipices, and the valley below

A grouping of radio and cell towers anchor the oposite end of the high ridge from the radome.

Opposite the overlook was a second obervation area that had a display that explains the markings on the desert floor below.  The Barry Goldwater Gunnery Range (BMGR) is a military reserve used to train F-16 and A-10 pilots.  The range below us had earth berms in the design shown in the display board above.   The pilots hits and misses are scored by personnel in range towers at opposite sides of the diamond design.  At times the skies above Ajo shudder with the roar of F-16s or A-10s dogfighting and practicing strafing and bombing runs.

Mark Lankford and Joan take in the sunset at the overlook

The sun descended in a beautiful sunset over the Growler mountain range, throwing the valley below into shadow.

Joan and Barb Cowger take in he last glow of the setting sun.  As the skies darkened, the tour guide gathered us all up for the return trip to the valley floor. The perfect end to a fun trip.

Your Traveling Friends

Joan and Jeff

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