Kentucky Camp marks the remains of an old mining town situated between Tuscon, Arizona, and the Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest. While there is one standing cabin available for rent, most people who stay in this area are taking advantage of the extensive boondocking opportunities. Here, there are no picnic tables, pit toilets, or high walled fire rings. Instead, campers haul in and out all their necessities. But what is lacking in convenience is easily remedied in the breathtaking vistas and isolation found among these dispersed campsites.
Getting To Know The Locals
Kentucky Camp may be remote public land, but it has a regular host of visitors. These rolling grassy hills double as grazing land. On our way in and out, we had to be aware of the many cows that might wander across the dirt road. While the cows are not considered game, the region is also a popular camping area among hunters. Most any time we have driven down this road, we pass circled up RVs of hunting parties managing their gear.
There is one other notable hunter: Kentucky Camp is one of the known haunts of the United States’s only jaguar. “El Jefe” is not a cat with which you play around. He’s taken on bears. We know because bear hair has been found in his scat. And yet, behind that tough, sleek exterior, beats the heart of a romantic. Well, at least, he must be romantically frustrated. Thanks to border politics, “El Jefe” is fenced off from any other jaguars. All the ladies are on the Mexico Side. Without some clever border jumping, “El Jefe” will be the United States’ last wild Jaguar.
Our Time Visiting Kentucky Camp
All we wanted was a view. And a place to cook. We had intended to make it out to some hot springs in Truth or Consequences, but after wandering through the Biosphere 2 and shopping for supplies for the night, we looked at the sun and were determined not to have another night like the Great Kofa Compromise.
We were very close, however, to the Coronado National Forest and some research brought us to Kentucky Camp, a former gold mining town and now a camp area. The route wound along several miles of well-graded dirt road. We even saw a large RV pulled to the side in one of the primitive campsites. According to a bird watcher we spotted, the camp area is overwhelmed by four-wheeler groups on weekends. But this was a Tuesday. We drove past the more accessible, larger sites until we came to a ridge with a view and a sliver of cell reception. Another van already had claimed one spot along the ridge. The owner reclined in his camping chair and took a break from gazing at the distant mountains and golden rolling hills to wave. We waved back and continued until we found a pull out of our own.
We had a tough decision to make: which view should we face. We had mountains to the north and south of us. We kept turning around to take in the opposing view.
I couldn’t be too distracted, though. I had a fire ring to build, coals to heat, and dinner to cook. I haven’t been able to find my cast iron pan for a while. Perhaps it is hidden behind an abundance of other items in the under-bed storage area. Instead, I cooked the vegetables in my Dutch oven and used its lid as a skillet for cooking the steak.
Sitting on the tail gate of our truck, drinking wine, eating steak, and chatting: there really is nothing I would rather do.