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2021 - Trip Reports - Hamfest & Winter Camping in Quartzsite, Arizona

Hamfest & Winter Camping in Quartzsite, Arizona

from Bill and Julie Smith

Greetings Desert Explorers!

We have been attending a weeklong ham radio event held at the Roadrunner camping area on BLM land in Quartzsite, Arizona annually for four years now. It is held the third week of January and called Quartzfest. This year it was called Quartz-Pause in order to still have a get-together and keep it going somewhat through the pandemic; albeit ‘unofficial’. Most everyone kept to their own campsites – working amateur radios from their rigs/tents, folks visited within social 

distance, visited on the radio, worked radio traffic and contests, and they were able to test several individuals for amateur radio licenses. They had a small swap meet of equipment and other items, an Off-Road Trip one day up and over the local mountains to the Colorado River near Blythe, plenty of time to go into the town of Quartzsite to check out the ongoing flea markets, and many opportunities to explore the local area. We meet Desert Explorer Extraordinaire Bill Powell at this event every year and it was fun also meeting his wife and niece this time when they came down from Oregon. Our daughter and her husband also come down and stay with us a few days during this event. Usually there are around 1,000 in attendance at Quartzfest. This year there were under 200 Hams, but the spirit of the event prevailed and everyone had a great time! Kuddos to the dedicated organizers and attendees who kept the ‘Quartzfest wheels turning’ despite the challenges of 2020 & 2021! We are certain more folks will attend again in the coming years.

Quartzsite explodes with a Snowbird population every winter – this year not so much. Not as many folks made the usual ‘Winter Pilgrimage’ this year. Less people in general and with the Canadian Border closure, the absence of the usual multitides of Canadians was especially evident. There seemed to be enough campers to keep the town of Quartzsite limping along – but many businesses were closed or gone. We hope they continue to perservere – we think they will.

We ended up staying through February this year and enjoyed boondocking around Quartzsite. We started gold prospecting last year around the Prescott/Dewey areas of Arizona when we ‘hunkered down’ in Camp Verde, AZ during the quarantine period. Last spring we were able to work a claim in Dewey, AZ that is owned by the Gold Prospector’s Association of America since we are members of this organization. We are ‘No Threat’ to Ruth & Emmett Harder for sure and are enjoying learning-as-we-go searching hills and washes to dig, dry sluice, and pan. Our daughter and son-in-law started prospecting also a few years ago. They share part of a claim at a small mining operation in Quartzsite and we help them on that claim sometimes. This January we joined the local Quartzsite Metal Detecting Club which is associated with the Miner’s Depot shop in town and are able to dig on their claims nearby. Great scenery, super weather, plenty of exercise digging, and finding a little bit of gold here and there keep things interesting. We are enjoying prospecting immensely ! Our daughter and her husband haul water to their claim area and do wet sluicing for gold. We go out in the desert hills and washes and dig, ‘vacuum’, classify, put the material through our dry sluice, and pan the material later at our campsite. After a few weeks in So. Cal to visit family in March, we will be back in Quartzsite chasing nuggets until April. We look forward to Desert Explorers Trips as they begin to happen this year!

 Bill & Julie Smith

‘On The Road To Somewhere’


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