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Ray Hovatter patented mining claims in the Little Horn Mountains around 1950. Ray and his workers built a coarse road connecting the Hovatter homestead to the Harquahala mining district. Ray, his wife Barbara, and three daughters lived at their remote homestead from 1951 to 1974, managing and working the mines that produced mostly manganese. Barbara kept a glass jar of captured scorpions on the kitchen table and planted extensive cactus gardens at the homestead. A propane tank explosion killed the eldest daughter in 1968. Ray died on the property in 1974. Both a buried on the ridge just south of the homestead. Barbara's ashes were scattered over the graves in the 1990s. The site was reclaimed by the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, and all the buildings were removed. The cactus gardens and a unique saguaro-lined driveway remain. Today the Hovatter road is a path to beauty. Rugged enough to keep the faint of heart at bay, a trip along the Hovatter rewards the intrepid with solitude and adventure. The trail begins as a smooth but very sandy road aimed southwest and straight at the prominent Coyote Peak. To the south, across a broad plain of saguaro cactus and creosote bush, the jagged multihued outline of the rugged Little Horn Mountain range hints at the adventure ahead. A slight left turn at Coyote Peak points you straight at the heart of the Little Horns, and soon the road obligingly begins a gentle climb. That gentleness is fully wrung out of the trail after you cross the first of the mountain passes. The Hovatter twist climbs, descends, and crosses rocky washes while providing geologic eye candy as it traverses the Little Horns. Keep an eye to the right for Conflagration Arch, a twisted testament to the powerful forces that raised these mineral-rich mountains. Massive saguaros find precarious perches on the edges of steep cliffs. A keen eye may spot desert bighorn sheep clattering up steep grades. The remnants of old mines dot the wild landscape. A small kiosk and old signage signal you are leaving BLM land and entering the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, set aside by Presidential decree in 1939 and expanded over the years with the mission of providing habitat for those bighorn sheep you may or may not have seen. From the kiosk, it is just a short way to the Hovatter homestead and its saguaro-lined driveway. The homesite is a fantastic place to camp. If you do, walk up the hill and pay your respects to Ray and the family. Then kick back and imagine living out here in this remote, rugged, and beautiful part of Arizona.
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