Two Three Letter Towns

NYE  023NYE  028We stayed in the rural community of Why, Arizona, named for a Y intersection where State Roads 85 and 86 used to intersect.   Originally named Y, it was renamed Why due to an Arizona law that required town names to have a minimum of three letters.

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NYE  026Apparently, few can resist the temptation to play around with the name Why. And so the one general store in town, which sells everything from jewelry to food to Mexican insurance (for those driving across the border) is named Why Not.NYE  025NYE  031NYE  012

NYE  018NYE  019Our campground, Coyote Howls East used to be part of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and is currently owned by Why Utilities.   The campground offers a $40 weekly rate for dry camping that is a great value. Our original idea was to camp on BLM land. Which meant a $10 fee for dumping. So basically, for $30 we have access to showers, laundry and fresh water.

Coyote Howls East consists of over 200 acres with 600 randomly shaped campsites. Our campsite in the “weekly row” overlooked the desert, and across the dirt road behind us was one row for daily campers.NYE  013NYE  015

NYE  014Monthly/seasonal/annual campers get to choose their site from the rest. While we were there we were one of two rigs in the weekly row and there was no one in the daily row. It felt like boondocking. And it was a great place for Angel, lots of soft dirt and not many cacti.NYE  016NYE  017

NYE  030A quick note on Coyote Howls West, across the road but owned by the same group; it has full hookups but is small and packs RVs in pretty tight, and we would not choose to stay there. But both are frequented by coyotes.NYE  032

NYE  042The town of Ajo, ten miles away, is definitely worth a visit or two. The native Americans of the area, the Tohono O’Odham named this place o’oho – their word for paint, because they used red paint pigments from the area. When the Spanish arrived, they mistook the name for ajo – the Spanish word for garlic, apparently wild garlic grows there.   And the name remained. NYE  049

NYE  041Ajo is yet another town that came about because of mining, and there is an enormous open pit copper mine, the New Cornelia Mine, on the edge of town. The New Cornelia Mine began full operations in 1917, the first large open pit mine in Arizona, and closed in 1985.

NYE  034NYE  035NYE  037NYE  036The pit is the depth of the Empire State Building at its center and a mile and one half wide at its widest point.  A mine lookout was closed when we were there, but we still got a pretty good view of this giant hole in the ground.

A great place to learn more about Ajo is the Ajo Historical Museum, located in what used to be St. Catherine’s Indian Mission.

The museum is housed in a structure that used to be a church, currently under restoration, and its adjacent school. There are tons of artifacts depicting Ajo’s history, and, though there are few interpretive signs, Louie Walters, the curator, will fill in all of the blanks.

The curator was an ex-teacher of history who was a fountain of information about any and all of the artifacts. A cute thing that I’ve never seen before was a room filled with yearbooks from the local high school going back to the 1930’s. The earlier books were scrapbooks with little photos stuck onto them. It was fascinating to see the evolution of the young people in the photos over the years.

Other displays include lots of mine artifacts, rocks, dioramas, photos and maps. Another interesting display is a handmade map of what used to be Mexican town, no longer in existence. Both Mexicans and Indians lived in their own segregated sections of town. The person who donated the map used to live in Mexican town, and drew placeholders for each house with the name of the family who lived there. This apparently is the topic of some debate as other previous residents argue that some of those are incorrect.NYE  051

NYE  040NYE  045As the town of Ajo grew, there was much focus on building a proper school. As our museum host said “a school would help to keep the ladies in town, who would in turn make the town a more civilized place”. The school, a massive Moorish style building with a bell tower was built in 1917. More recently, the school was converted to artist and artisan residences and attracted some artists to the town but the building is now for sale.NYE  039

Forward of the school and towards the plaza are two Spanish Colonial churches, one Catholic, one Methodist, flanking each side of the school.NYE  047

The town plaza, across the way, was built around the same time as the school and for similar reasons. It has been restored and was festively decorated for Christmas, complete with cozy sitting area for Santa Claus – who wasn’t there when we visited.

NYE  046Ajo has definitely had tough times, and there are several abandoned buildings around the town. But its beautiful setting in the Sonoran Desert, beautiful architecture and rich history make it a standout.NYE  050NYE  038

NYE  053In fact, there is a 10.9-mile loop by Ajo, the Ajo Scenic Loop, over a gravel road. The drive is a great introduction to the area before driving down to the Organ Pipe National Monument, about 20 miles south of Why.  NYE  056

Many of the plants of the Sonoran Desert can be seen along the road: organ pipe cacti, saguaro, prickly pear, cholla, ocotillo, mesquite trees, palo verde trees and others. Not to mention the lovely mountain views.NYE  060NYE  054NYE  061

After a peaceful Christmas at our campground, putting away the compact Island Girl Christmas decorations was not too difficult.

NYE  001We’ve moved on to Yuma, Arizona and want to wish all of our readers and friends a Happy New Year. The journey wouldn’t be the same without you. And stay tuned for another post about the breathtaking Organ Pipe National Monument.

~ BrendaNYE  052

35 thoughts on “Two Three Letter Towns

  1. Best wishes to you both, three counting Angel, for the upcoming year. Enjoy the journey, be healthy, and keep adding memories to the memory bank!!! Also, my prayers to Angel in the coming year.
    Keep those blogs coming, fantastic photography and narratives, you make an excellent team.

    Happy New Year
    Bob

  2. That is a section of AZ we have yet to visit, thanks for showing us how beautiful it is!

    I love when a town plays around with their funny name…Weed, CA is another place that has fun with their name!

    Happy New Year!

    • I can only imagine how fun it is to play with Weed, CA. Check our next post, it’s a gorgeous place.
      Happy New Year to you and Hans,
      Brenda

  3. Thanks, Hector and Brenda, you change our plans when we leave Anza Borrego SP! We are now heading to Why!! I want to visit the Organ Pipe National Monument but I am not a fan of staying so close to the border in that area. I really like where you stayed in Why which will get me to the park, and Ajo looks interesting, especially that museum. We have had some good times in those small town museums with a former history teacher as a guide. So come Jan 22nd we will head that way!! We love having the ability to change routes whenever we want:)

    The photos are beautiful, all that brilliant blue sky against those white buildings.

    Happy New Year! Wishing the three of you all the best for a wonderful 2015!

    • It’s gorgeous there Pam and I think you’ll like the campground. We’ll have some more useful tips in the next post. We’re going to Anza Borrego on January 6th, when will you be there? Would love to meet. Happy New Year to you and John!
      Brenda

  4. Hector sure knows how to capture the most beautiful aspects of anyplace you go! I looked Ajo up on Google Maps and that mine looks so huge from the satellite view!

    • Thank you! The mine is incredible, it’s a shame that the mine overlook was closed, but we climbed up on some concrete blocks to see it. There are some cool photos of it in the Ajo Historical Museum.
      Brenda

  5. Hi, Not sure if you got my Happy New Years text, but wishing you both a wonderful 2015! Love the desert and the cactus pictures. Hope to make it there someday, Why Not? …Karen : )

  6. We are looking forward to more great photos in 2015 wherever you guys will take us. Happy New Year to you Brenda, Hector and miss Angel !
    These are the places we have never been in AZ, so now we know what to do when we get back there.

  7. Your posst are so descriptive, I love reading them and seeing the pictures is the icing on the cake. John and I will head out west in a couple weeks, at least that is the current plan as of today.

  8. Happy New Year to you both.
    You guys are really slowing down and seem to be in for the long haul. I KNOW you are enjoying it! The best to you and Angel in the New Year!

  9. We have put Why and Ajo on our travel plans for this year! Your pictures and descriptions of the area make it irresistible. I sure hope our paths cross this year. We would love to see you guys again. Happy New Year! -Linda, Mike and Lucy

    • We’ll have more details in our next post. We’d love to see you again also. Are you going to Quartzsite?
      Brenda

  10. I love that area of AZ! Have boondocked in Ajo before, but didn’t realize Why had the “boondocking” park in addition to the FHU place, so thanks for that tip! Terrific New Year’s photo of the 3 of you– Angel seems to have hats for every occasion!

    • In hindsight, I think boon docking would have worked better for us – we only used the showers once! But might go back to the park if a longer stay, it was beautiful. Angel also has a Halloween collar and a witch hat (used to have a flower “costume” but she hated that) a Christmas collar, and a New Years collar as well as a bandanna for her ocean visits. Just enough, but not too much 🙂
      Brenda

  11. Brenda, I love that you have taken me back to some areas that I haven’t visited in years. Hector’s photos are breathtaking. I have always loved the whitewashed churches set against those blue skies.

    We are planning to visit Pam and John when they are in Anza-Borrego. I am hoping that we will get to see you and Hector then as well.

    Happy New Year to you both!

    • Nice! We are definitely there until the 13th, and will probably hang out until the 15th to meet them, and we may be able to stay a couple of days longer. When are you planning to get to Anza Borrego? Are you going to Q – I think I’ve asked this before, but it I did, I forgot the answer.
      Brenda

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