Wild Burros of the Alamo HMA sometimes can be very elusive and make it a point to stay hidden where they can spy on you other times they appear right in front of you, as if to say “where have you been all my life?” Well, this little tale has a bit of both.
The winter of 2019 was a great time to explore Alamo HMA. The Alamo HMA can be found in the west-central Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Three rivers run through the land: The Big Sandy, The Bill Williams, and The Santa Maria. Lake Alamo also fits nicely into the HMA as well. This is where our adventure begins.
We set out in our canoe from the sandy southern shore and headed to the north side of Alamo Lake and started our hike into the Rawhide Mountains by picking up a fabulously clear and well-tread burro trail that ultimately began at the edge of the lake. We were quite prepared to forge our own path into this unknown wilderness but decided to make it easy and follow the burro trail!
Unfortunately for myself and my husband, this was the song that played on rotate in my head the WHOLE time “Follow the burro brick trail…burro, burro, burro….” I’ll stop right there!
The trail led us up into a broad dry wash with high craggy cliffs in some areas and rough mountains with ironwood trees and creosote bushes covering the land. Wild poppies would nod their heads in the breeze, lush grasses thrived in the areas where the canyons shaded the dry riverbed and once in a while a friendly Saguaro would appear around the corner like an old guide pointing you in the right direction. We had been hiking for about three miles and still no sign of wild burros apart from the trail that we were on and some random piles of “you know what”.
I could feel them watching me though. I was convinced of it! It was then we stumbled across a big hole in the dry river bed about three feet deep with water in the bottom. We had stumbled across a burro well. Not only are burros magnificent mountain climbers with their perfect little hooves; these hooves also double as a digging tool! These wells not only help the burros stay hydrated but other wildlife can get a nice cold one at this desert watering hole. We noticed other animal footprints surrounding the hole as well as burro prints. Let me just say wild burros are so smart and thoughtful!
Onward through the wash, we started to hear rustles and rock movement. Could it be we had happened upon some unsuspecting burro buddies? Yes!
They had heard us coming and they had maneuvered up the banks of the wash and had a commanding view of us. It was the classic stare down. Nobody move! One false move and they could do a perfect 180-degree turn and head off into the bushes and blend in never to be seen again. Luckily they stuck around and we got a few minutes of company, there was a lot of ear twitching, tail wagging and cute head tilts.
Alas, with no warning the pair of burros decided it was time to head up and over the mountain to join their burro band. Trotting off, they stopped and turned and gave us one last classic over the shoulder look, and then it was Bye, Bye Burros.
We headed back down the wash and across the lake and back to our camp for sunset, we were later joined by a couple of rowdy jacks who kept us up all night long with their burro shenanigans and their bountiful braying melodies which in turn came with back with many vivacious responses from their many burro buds all over the valley, across the lake and up into the mountains.
It was the perfect day.
Whether I get to encounter one or a dozen burros, to get the chance to spend time these intelligent, highly animated, self-sufficient stealthy big eared beauties, they will most likely see you first. If you get to spend some QT with them one way you know that they like you is when they do a series of unsuspecting, insanely loud almost startlingly scary braying bellows. You are now bonded for life and will become an instant burro believer. That’s my experience anyway and I’m sticking to it! Welcome to the wonderful world of wild burros.