With plans to camp at Imperial Sand Dunes canceled, we find ourselves, late in the afternoon, wondering where we will spend the night. Fortunately, the ranger at Imperial Sand Dunes has some advice: check out Tumco Ghost Town in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains.

Relaxing on our Avion truck camper and watching the sunset in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains
Watching the sunset

Settling in for the night, camping in our Avion truck camper in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains.
Settling in for the night

Tumco Ghost Town

The sun is low as we reach the abandoned town of Tumco. This is a region that has experienced the boom and bust of gold speculation for over 300 years. It is one of the first gold mining destinations in California, though few remember it. Gold was first discovered by Spanish colonists traveling northwards from Sonora, Mexico. In fact, the Cargo Muchacho Mountains are named after the two young muchachos cargados or “loaded boys” who returned to camp with gold ore.

Tumco gained its current name in 1910 from The United Mines Company (TUMCo) in one last attempt to reach the remaining gold ore. Yet, by 1911, miners were pulling up stakes to move back to Yuma as accessing the gold deposits proved too costly. Now, what remains are fallen walls, aged holding ponds, and sealed mine shafts. We wander along the dusty trail, winding past shards of glass from broken bottles and the rusted remains of tin cans.

Surveying the ruins of Tumco Ghost Town
Cowboy surveying the ruins of Tumco.

Wandering about the Tumco Ghost Town
Alone in a ghost town.

Camping in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains

There is no developed campground outside of Tumco Ghost Town. You won’t find any vaulted toilets, let alone running water. There is a large, flat, gravel lot for parking where three large RVs had already leveled out and set up for the night. Yet, along with the lot, there is a nearly indiscernible gravel road which two truck campers are also camping along.

We follow the lead of our fellow truck campers and drive down the bumpy gravel road closer to the foot of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. We settle into a relatively secluded nook, flanked by a sharp ridge. While I spot a crude fire circle near where we are parked, there is no wood for us to burn. So, we pull a couple cold ones out of the cooler and cook up a quick meal on the propane stove.

As dusk gives way to the deep dark of night, we climb into the camper and call it a day.

Sunset at our campsite in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains with our Avion Ultra truck camper.
Campsite at sunset

Ready to lite a fire in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains
Ah, if only we had wood for a fire.

Sunrise Over The Cargo Muchacho Mountains

Waking up before the sun has become a common ritual. I look out to see the lightening sky and crawl out of bed. I’ve already scoped out where I want to go. The steep, sharp ridge climbs steadily from the base of out camp into the mountains. I scrabble, crawl, and climb over loose gravel and rock formations. Yet, the view as the sun hits another distant mountain range makes the early hike worthwhile.

A view as I climbed a ridge along the Cargo Muchacho Mountains at sunrise.
Wandering at sunrise

Sunrise over the Cargo Muchacho Mountains
Sunrise over the Cargo Muchacho Mountains
Cowboy finally wakes up and joins me in the craggy peaks at the conclusion of sunrise. I guess it's time for breakfast!
Cowboy finally wakes up and joins me at the conclusion of sunrise. I guess it’s time for breakfast!

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.

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