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Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 9: Quartzsite to Kofa

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 9: Quartzsite to Kofa

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Cowboy camping in a small cave at the edge of the cliffs along the Kofa Mountains ridgeline

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 9 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 9

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 9 – Quartzsite to kofa, 40 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 9 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 9 Journal

Day 40 – December 12th

Miles: 10.9 (half day)
Animals Seen: 4 bighorn sheep

I had a ride scheduled back out to the highway where I left off for 8:30 this morning. I packed up my stuff, stuffed my face with as much food as I could, and hydrated with two liters of water. Got down to the hotel lobby and my ride didn’t show up until 10:30, so that’s a good chunk of time missing from my day. Still, I figured this is better than hitching since I would have to get a ride down the interstate which is very hard.

The shuttle driver dropped me off along the off-ramp exit from Interstate 10 to highway 60. It’s nothing but desert along the road here. “Right here will do”, I said.
Of course, this is very strange to most people, and I love the reactions I get. I got out and started walking south into the desert. My pack was heavy, with 6L of water and 7 days of food. Probably more than seven days of food actually, I went a little overboard on this one.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa new water mountains arizona desert

I’m heading for that mesa, called Black Mesa

My original plan was to follow the highway West a bit and then cut south along a dirt road on the map. However, that would easily add two or three miles to the hike. It’s hard to know ahead of time what things will look like and what the terrain will be, but once I was here and got my eyes on it, I decided a cross country Trek directly towards my destination would do just fine. So that’s just what I did; set a course for Black Mesa and go.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

It was cross-country hiking at first, until I met up with a wash. There were tire tracks here, and leading the direction I want to go, so I followed. A few miles up, I saw a sign marking the 4×4 roads. Interesting, because these roads were not on my map. And really, one shouldn’t use the word “road”. It’s just a wash with lots of gravel. It’s pretty open and clear, but sometimes the loose gravel is tougher to walk then it would be to not walk on the “road”.

My original plan was to follow the highway West a bit and then cut south along a dirt road on the map. However, that would easily add two or three miles to the hike. It's hard to know ahead of time what things will look like and what the terrain will be, but once I was here and got my eyes on it, I decided a cross country Trek directly towards my destination would do just fine. So that's just what I did; set a course for black mesa and go.

Black Mesa

My original plan was to follow the highway West a bit and then cut south along a dirt road on the map. However, that would easily add two or three miles to the hike. It's hard to know ahead of time what things will look like and what the terrain will be, but once I was here and got my eyes on it, I decided a cross country Trek directly towards my destination would do just fine. So that's just what I did; set a course for black mesa and go.

A nice wash to walk

My original plan was to follow the highway West a bit and then cut south along a dirt road on the map. However, that would easily add two or three miles to the hike. It's hard to know ahead of time what things will look like and what the terrain will be, but once I was here and got my eyes on it, I decided a cross country Trek directly towards my destination would do just fine. So that's just what I did; set a course for black mesa and go.

Climbing obstacles in the wash

The scenery was pretty nice leading up to Black Mesa. Despite the loose gravel, it was pretty easy walking and I couldn’t complain. The wash eventually narrowed, became thicker with vegetation, and presented a few pour offs to climb. Easy though, no biggie.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

The canyon I came up

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Rocks. Lots of them.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

The route up Black Mesa

I reached a point where it was no longer worth staying low in the wash, it was too difficult. I climbed up to the Ridge above and continued to make progress that way. Out of the wash and on top of the ridge now, I followed it uphill some more before I had to drop down into another wash on the other side. Black mesa was getting closer, and the views were nice. There were lots of basketball sized rocks to step over with tons of cactus in between. An obstacle course.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

As I entered the new water mountains wilderness, I joined an old dirt road leading up to black masa mine. My notes list a bunch of interesting minerals here, and it’s time for a lunch break. I brought way too much food for this section, including some leftover town food such as pizza and chicken strips. Great lunch, and I poked around through the tailings while I ate.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa Mine. Some cool minerals here

After lunch, I explored a couple of the mining tunnels into the mountain. There were several openings, and most of them link up underground. There were a couple of different tunnels to explore. I found one interesting specimen that I kept, hoping to identify it later. It featured metallic red and yellow colors that I have not seen before. Pretty cool.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

After leaving the mine behind, I continued uphill past the point where the road ends. This climb was easy in the sense that it wasn’t too steep, but tough because of the thick brush among large boulders, in addition to my heavy pack.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

On top of Black Mesa

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

View from the summit of Black Mesa

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa summit panorama

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

View east along the mesa

I reached the top of the Mesa, and the view was pretty much non-existent at first. A slight uphill grade hides the horizon, and the terrain is still choked with vegetation and boulders. I need to climb the high point to see what I’m working with here. Another 50 feet of elevation gain and I’m there. I was surprised to see a large rock cairn at the top, and there was even a summit register in a glass jar. There are almost no signs of use leading up here, no path or cairns along the way. The register had two entries from 2021, and nothing prior.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

I could see the Kofa Wilderness to the south, and the new water mountains to the northeast, where I’m headed next. But first, I head east across the Mesa towards its twin. It looks like part of the same Mesa from here, but a canyon separates the two.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa is actually two conjoined mesas separated by this canyon

I was hoping the Mesa would be more clear and open, easier to walk, but it really wasn’t what I’d hoped for. When I did reach the canyon, my first thought was how much deeper and steeper it looked then the map implies. I need to find a way down this thing.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Canyon between the Black Mesas

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

A treacherous hike down Black Mesa

I worked my way around the edge of the mesa until I found a weakness. I followed this down into a side canyon that I would take down to the main canyon separating the two mesas. However, it’s steep and the rock is loose. I fell a couple of times, despite moving slowly and being aware of the dangers.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

After a tedious and treacherous decent, I reached the bottom. My original plan was to go back up and walk the other Mesa as well. This too would involve some treacherous hiking to descend the other side, judging by the maps. With less than two hours of daylight left, I chose to skip the second Mesa. This too had its challenges. I briefly walked the canyon uphill, which forms a saddle at the top. Descending this also looks like quite a chore.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Coming down this steep slope of Black mesa

I started Contouring around the hillside more than simply descending. I fell again, this time I felt lucky to have not tumbled and hurt myself. Loose rock gave way and I Tumbled backwards, falling on my ass. My hand struck a cactus, but Thankfully not a cholla. Whew. Getting tired of these falls, though. There weren’t many other places along the route that compare.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Route down from Black Mesa

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Looking back at the route I came down

It was slow going on the descent here. Time is ticking away and I’m still quite far from the bottom. I found some interesting quartz veins on the way down as well which further distracted me. There were a couple of small crystals, well-formed and excellent clarity. Didn’t have time to find anything worth keeping though, at least not without any tools to utilize here. I saw another 3 big horn sheep as well.

Like most nights, I found a suitable camp with only a few minutes to spare before dusk. I was glad to be off the slopes of the mesa and ready to ditch my heavy pack for the night.

Day 41 – December 13th

Miles: 14.6
Animals Seen: Bighorn sheep

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ranegras Plain campsite below Black Mesa

The wind started picking up as the sun rose. This made packing up camp a bit of a chore. It also made it feel Cold, even though the coldest overnight lows are still to come in the next few days.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

This morning’s walk picked up where last night’s challenges left off. It’s off trail, the terrain is Rocky, and the vegetation is often thick. It’s a pain in the ass.

It wasn’t long before I reached a dirt road. What a relief. I could cover some ground now, and do so without tripping every other step, sliding on loose rocks, and dodging cacti. No matter how you slice it, the next several miles will be less interesting as I move between black mesa and the new water mountains, so I might as well do it efficiently.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ramsey mine

I reached the Ramsey mine, where the map marks a water tank. However, there was no water here. There was one spot it looked like it could have held water at one time, an Earthen berm with the remnants of some sort of black liner. This would have been many years ago though, nothing recent.

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ramsey mine

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa

The mine itself featured a couple of vertical shafts and a wooden structure. I poked around the tailings for a bit, but didn’t find anything that caught my eye.

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

Leaving the mine, I followed a road that heads towards the New Water Mountains. This was an open desert walk through the foothills of the Plamosa and New Water Mountains. Somewhere along this section is the transition between the two mountain ranges.

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

Twin Peaks

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

As I approached, mountains grew taller and their character began to show. Some impressive formations, both near and distant. Twin peaks is the closest, and it dominates the view here. My route wraps around Twin Peaks, and it’s a great view from every angle.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Guzzler near Twin Peaks

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

The permanent trough

Just below twin peaks, I encountered a guzzler. This one was actually a combination of a permanent guzzler and a more temporary one. I’m guessing that the permanent guzzler has been running dry, and so the second temporary guzzler was added to ensure the animals don’t go thirsty. Either way, there was good water in both drinkers (troughs). Better water in the permanent one, actually. Crystal clear, despite some green algae on the bottom.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

In addition to the permanent trough, there was also this portable guzzler. Dual drinkers, this one is filly-loaded

No less than 6 game cameras were set up here at the guzzler. Surely one was left by the BLM or whoever administers this land and looks after the guzzlers, but the others can be attributed to unsportsmanlike Hunters. Might as well just go “hunt” at the zoo. Anyhow, they got me on camera filling my water. I chugged a litter, and filtered 4. This gives me 6L for the rest of today and tomorrow. There’s a chance I might get water tomorrow evening, but it doesn’t look very promising. So it’ll probably be two full days before next water. In retrospect, I probably should have taken 8L, but I’ve done this several times on this route now and I know I’ll be just fine.

 

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

A nice walk down this canyon

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Entering the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Uh-oh. These clouds (altocumulus, I believe) are a sign of bad weather coming… perhaps a day off…

Leaving the guzzler, I found the canyons I hiked through to be very pleasant. I followed the dirt road four ways until it led me to the boundary for the new water mountains wilderness.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Hiking the New Water Mountains Wilderness now

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Now I walked a wash through an increasingly narrow canyon. I reached a side Canyon that looked choked with vegetation… Yep, that’s the one I’m looking for. This one will take me to my next destination, a summit called “the eagles eye”.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

A game camera was set up here, with a label stating it’s for monitoring mountain lion activity

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Water in this hidden slot canyon

The walking from here on out was pretty slow. The canyons were often narrow, there were small pour offs to climb, more thick vegetation. It wasn’t long before I reached a side canyon that caught my eye. It was very narrow, a slot. As I approached, I could see a game camera setup here. Entering the slot, there was water! I haven’t seen anything like this on my route yet. The water was a foot deep where I could see, maybe two feet deep farther back. There was plenty of water here and it looked to be fairly good quality. Very cool. As I exited small slot canyon, I had to look at one of the cameras set up here and one was marked as “mountain lion detection project”. This is big cat county, after all.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

After exiting the canyon that had water, I was still walking a narrow canyon seeing where that led me. The wash let me to a spot where I could climb up a little hill and enter a new Canyon.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

This area has a lot of dry potholes. In wetter times, water would be more abundant here.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Eagle’s Eye

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

As I worked my way up into the Basin below the eagle’s eye, I saw a few cairns. However, these would be the last I’d see. The route up was very cryptic. There are many small Canyons, ridges and washes to choose from, and so the route up was not obvious at all. A bit of trial and error mixed with instincts.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Approaching the crest of the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Just below Eagle’s Eye

The Eagles eye is a large arch along the crest of the mountains. The arch becomes visible as you work your way up into the basin below. I took a route that led me directly below the arch. There was a lot of loose rock here and a little bit of class 2/3 scrambling, but easy enough.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Going over the crest of the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

View southeast along the New Water Mountain crest

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

View north/west across Ranegras Plain to Plamosa Mountains

I reached the top of the ridge and walked over the crest of the New Water Mountains, now looking North to interstate 10. I startled a big horn sheep, which promptly ran away. I walked along a Rockwall that led me to the eagle’s eye, a hole in the Rockwall about 15′ in diameter. Eagle’s Eye was much Cooler than I thought it would be. Farther down the ridge line was a large volcanic plume, which served as a great background prop for the arch.

 

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Eagle’s Eye, New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

View east from the north side

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Check this place out!

Not surprisingly, there’s is a summit register here as well. This peak gets some traffic, also not surprising being that it’s a pretty unique one.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

Looking back at Eagle’s Eye

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

The route ahead

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking to eagles eye summit

I descended the summit and took a different route this time. Like the route up, the route down involved some trial and error as well. The descent went quicker though than the Ascent.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Once I had dropped back down to the main lower wash, it was time to go up and over a small pass that would take me to the next Canyon over to the north. This pass was pretty straightforward and Simple.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona campsite with tarptent notch li

Camp in the New Water Mountains Wilderness

I descended the pass and found myself in the wash below. The next segment of my route goes back up to the ridge line, but it’s after 4:30 now So I’ll have to find a spot to camp somewhere down here and tackle that in the morning. It took a bit of searching to find a place to set up my tent, but found a spot around 5pm. This is one of the earliest campsites this whole route. Seems like every night I’m pushing it right up to darkness.

Day 42 – December 14th

Miles: 10.4
Animals Seen: 1 bighorn sheep, 3 Jack rabbits

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

It was a very calm and still night. Since I got to camp a little early last evening, I was able to finish my evening routine earlier, and went to sleep earlier. 12 full hours of sleep was enough. Only one week now to the winter solstice, shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Today began with the climb uphill. It wasn’t bad though, not overly steep or loose, and quite scenic the whole way. The sky was mostly clear when I woke up, with the exception of clouds building over the Kofa Ridgeline. The clouds continued to build as I Climbed, but this only enhanced the views, adding some extra flair to the scene.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

The higher I Climbed, the better the views. I was really digging my surroundings this morning in the New Water Mountains. I was really looking forward to the view from the crest once again.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Outstanding desert landscapes of the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Just below the summit of Hidden Benchmark

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Crest of the New Water Mountains, view east

I’m climbing up to a peak called hidden benchmark. It’s aptly named, since the summit is hidden until the last moment. It took twice as long to climb up as it should, because I kept turning around to admire the landscape, take photos, and film from a slightly different angle, each better than the last. I dodged cholla the whole way up, which seems like second nature now.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Panorama view from Hidden Benchmark Summit, 2,806′, New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

The ridgeline to Eagle’s Eye. It MIGHT be possible to connect them…

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Kofa Mountains to the south, where I’m headed nexthiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

 

The summit of hidden benchmark was grand. Each direction had something to offer; the massive Renegras Plain to the north, the rugged Ridgeline of the New Water mountains to the west, Kofa Mountains and black mesa to the south, and the stunning peaks and ridges of the New Water Range to the east. I stopped here for a good while to soak it all in. There was a summit register here, placed all the way back in 1987! There were only seven or eight entries Since then. This benchmark truly is “hidden”.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

The summit of hidden benchmark was also choked with cholla. I tiptoed my way through a Minefield of these monsters as I descended the summit and made my way east along the ridge line. The north face of the ridge was a sheer drop-off, and despite the horrendous field of Cactus, was an enjoyable walk. I spooked a big horn sheep along the way. I’ve been seeing them lately, Although not in the same numbers as the Lake Mead area in the beginning of my hike.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

This view over the Ranegras Plain is just so massive. It’s hard not to stop here for a moment and just realize how small you are

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Looking back towards Hidden Benchmark

This was one moment where I really stopped to reflect on this hike as a whole. I’m just a few days from the end now. From here, looking north over the massive Ranegras Plain, I can see much of the route I traversed over the past couple hundred miles. There is now a story to accompany the view. The landscape has meaning to it now, stories attached to it, and a personal connection to it. What a journey it’s been it get here.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

The Crest of the New Water Range gets tougher as I hike east…

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

I followed the ridge around a couple of saddles, and continued on until it became more effort than it was worth. Then I dropped down from the ridge line and made my way into the Canyon below. The descent was easy, a nice change of pace. Soon I met up with the wash below.

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Prominent landmarks abound

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Walking the wash now, I was also surprised to find it so easy going. While stopped for lunch, I found a tick on my leg, crawling, not digging. Only the second of the trip, the first being in the Plamosa Mountains during the last section. Surprising to see any on this hike, considering it’s the desert, and the weather pattern has been so dry.

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

New Water Mountains

I was covering good ground now. I follow this out of the canyon and into the open desert. Here, I left the new water mountains wilderness and entered the Kofa national wildlife refuge. Managed by the fish and wildlife service, this 665,000 acre plot of land contains the Kofa Wilderness, which is 550,000 acres. That makes it the second largest and Arizona. It’s a massive landscape.

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

After a few miles in the wash, it was time to set a course cross county towards my next destination; a well, and a cabin. I picked a distant landmark, in this case a power line transmission tower, and headed for that. A 4×4 road parallels this as well.

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

See the windmill blades?

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

No wonder I didn’t see any water from satellite…

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

Yum!

I passed the power lines and the dirt road, and from there it was a short walk to the well that is marked on the map. When I got closer, I could see a windmill, it’s blades moving rapidly. Clearly this one is functional. As I approached, I could see the windmill working as it should, pumping water into a large tank. From there, and underground pipe Sends water over to a trough. The trough was covered with an awning, which is why I didn’t see any water here from satellite when I did my research. The trough was also full to the brim. The water looked pretty green, but upon dipping my bottle into it, It was a little bit more clear than I was expecting. Still, pretty green.

I had three liters of water on me at this point. I filled my two-liter platypus bag with water, but didn’t filter it now. The Kofa cabin is only a half mile away, So I took the dirty water with me and headed for that.

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

Kofa Cabin

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

As I approached the cabin, I could see it was a pretty solid structure. I had been told that it was, but I was expecting a wooden structure cobbled together with pieces of scrap metal, or something of the like. Instead, it was a stone structure. There was a plaque out front that said it had been built in the 30s by the CCC.

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

A wood burning stove!!

I opened the door and was surprised how nice it was inside. The floor and walls are all concrete, there are no holes in the walls or ceiling, and it looked solid all around. There were two wooden beds to set an air mattress and sleeping bag on, a wooden table with chair, a shelf full of random knickknacks and things left behind by previous visitors, and even a wood burning stove. Hell yeah, this will do!

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

This place is solid!

It was only 3pm now, but this evening it’s supposed to rain. Not only that, but the winds are forecasted to be 25 miles an hour, gusts 40+. This would not be a fun night to be in a tent out in the open desert. I can’t sleep at all when the tent is whipping in the Wind. Additionally, when dirt and dust is flying around in high winds, it wreaks havoc on my tent zippers. I would gladly forgo a few extra miles of progress today to avoid the hassle of spending the night out in this storm. For once, a nice solid cabin to spend the night in, when it’s truly convenient.

 

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Fully stocked with, uh, stuff

First things first, I made my bed and unpacked my bag. Then I made inventory of what was on the shelf. There was quite an array of items here. There were several beverages; 3 16.9 ounce flavored propel water bottles, one bottle of water, a Capri Sun, iced tea, two cans of beer and one spiked sparkling water. All of these were unopened, and were looking pretty good to me right about now. A couple of granola bars, some canned food, etc. Lamp oil, but no lamp. Some less than interesting rocks, some books and magazines, first aid kit, etc. There was a guest log as well, with several recent entries including three people who stayed here only the night before.
I think the weirdest thing here was two pool cues. The rest of this stuff at least made sense.

 

I ate lunch, and wandered around the property for a bit. It was nice to just hang out for a little while and not be pressured to cover miles. Then, I heard a vehicle approaching. From afar, It looked like a modern and high-tech version of the Ghostbusters vehicle. Instead, it was a tricked out Toyota 4Runner, built into a camper. “Sweet rig!” I said to the guy as he approached.

The occupants, Ben and Asuki (spelling?), were from Denver and on a road trip. This was their first time in the region, and they were doing some exploring. He was pretty excited about seeing saguaro cacti for the first time, as I was years ago on my first Arizona trip. We chatted for a good half hour before they moved on.

camping at kofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

camping at kofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Home for the evening

The rest of the evening was uneventful. I watched the sunset from my front porch while drinking an adult beverage. The winds really picked up as night fell, absolutely howling. I can only imagine how stressful tonight would have been in my tent. There was a small amount of wood next to the stove, So I threw that in and warmed up the place before going to bed. Man, what a luxury.

Day 43 – December 15th

Miles: 19.8
No Animals Seen

The wind was absolutely howling last night. I never heard it rain, but apparently it did. I was extremely thankful for this cabin; it was so nice waking up with a roof over my head.

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Today’s walk…

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

This skies were clear and the air was crisp, to say the least. I was bundled up as I began my walk this morning. The new water mountains generally run east and west, and to the south, there are two more east-west running ranges within the Kofa Wilderness. Each one of these ranges is separated by a valley of about 25 miles. Today, I will walk that first valley, between the new water mountains and the range at the heart of the Kofa Wilderness. In the valley are some low hills, mostly uninteresting. Therefore, I have chosen to stay on a dirt road most of the way.

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Small amount of water at Wilkinson Seep

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Wilkinson Seep

I passed Wilkinson seep, which was the next water source south of the well near Kofa cabin. There were a few liters of water here, and it looked like decent quality. With 2.5L of water on my back already, I skipped this one.

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

The hillsides became thicker with grasses, albeit dry grasses, as I walked south. This was a bit different landscape than I had seen along much of my route.

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Water at Mid Well

Today was remarkably uneventful. Practically nothing happened. I covered some good ground quickly, and made it to Mid Well shortly after 2pm. Here, a windmill pumps water into a tank, which is then piped into a trough. Just like the windmill near the Kofa cabin yesterday. The water here was even better. The trough was filled to the brim with clear water, despite a lot of algae growth and shine little swimmers. I filled up with 5.5L here.

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Wilkinson Cabin. This one is much rougher than Kofa Cabin

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

About a half mile away I encountered the Wilbanks Cabin. This one is a wooden structure, and I could immediately tell it was nowhere near as solid as last night’s cabin. The front door was wide open, and upon entering, I could see light shining through many of the boards in the walls. Some of the windows were missing glass, with only screen remaining. Some of the screen was pulled down, leaving large gaps for anything to enter. And worst of all, the place was absolutely littered with rodent feces.

There’s a windmill here on the property as well. The blades are turning and the mechanics seem to be functioning properly, but the tank next to it was empty and the nearby trough was bone dry.

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Camp for the night in Wilkinson Cabin

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

A sink full of mouse shit

Still, I debated whether or not to stay here. I’ve covered nearly 20 miles today and don’t really need to cover any more ground to stay on track. I have 2.5 more days of this hike, and the things I want to do and see are spaced out pretty good from here, roughly 12 miles per day. So I decided to stay in the cabin. There are two bed platforms to get me and my gear up off the ground away from the rodents that will surely be active after sunset. There’s a pretty solid breeze coming in through the windows, but I don’t think I would be that much warmer in my tent anyways. This is just a more convenient way to cowboy camp, I suppose.

Day 44 – December 16th

Miles: 12.4
Animals Seen: 3 bighorn sheep, 3 Jack rabbits

Last night was miserable. It was far colder than I expected it to be… 22 degrees this morning when I woke up! My quilt is only rated for 40 degrees, and to make matters worse, it has horizontal baffles, so all of the insulation slides from the top to the sides leaving many cold spots. I had on every piece of clothing available to me, in addition to using my trash compactor bag (backpack liner) around my feet and legs. Still, I was cold all night. The weather has been very mild this entire trip, and the clothing and gear I brought have been perfect until last night. I suppose I could have sent a warmer sleeping bag and a fleece or puffy jacket for this last section, but I was expecting overnight lows in the mid-30s, not low twenties! Additionally, all of the rodents living in and around the cabin were quite active, scurrying around pretty much all night. They mostly seemed to be in the ceiling and other parts of the cabin, not directly near me, thankfully.

I have been getting up around 7, but today I waited for the Sun to rise above the Horizon before I got out of my bag, closer to 8. It was just too cold. My feet were freezing l, and I was shivering until I could go outside and stand in the sunlight. Just a miserable start to the day. I was about an hour late to start walking today as a result, and not that motivated.

Part of my lack of motivation this morning was due to the fact that the scenery was just not that interesting. Yesterday’s road walk was quite Bland, and today picked up where yesterday left off. The exception was that I started today with a bushwhack instead of a road walk.

The route this morning was a bit difficult to follow. There were a lot of low Hills, no large landmarks to work with. This type of terrain always seems to make it difficult for me to see the path forward. I was just kind of stumbling around anyway, trying to warm up. It really didn’t take too long though oh, I had to stop and shed off my base layers. It was good to be warm again!

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Scenery is getting better now…

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

My cryptic route led me up to a small pass. Then I dropped down to the wash below. It was here where the scenery began to improve. As I looked back behind me, multiple craggy outcrops and Peaks meet up the ridge line that surrounded me. I followed this wash up to another pass.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Coming down the little pass to the wash

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Back to a little climbing obstacles along the way. Fun

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Awesome!

I dropped down into a very colorful wash with some cool jagged peaks sticking up all around me. Now this is what I’m talking about.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

After emerging from the wash, the views opened up. The colors were intense here, strong reds and oranges, which always make for a beautiful scene.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Mountains Panorama

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Wilderness

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The scenery now was stunning. Ultimately, I would drop down into a canyon on the other side of the pass, but this pass was also somewhat of a Ridgeline, and I made it a point to explore as much of it as I could. I headed up to a point along the ridge that looked like it would offer the best vantage point, even though it was out of my way. I’m here to see the sights, there is no point in walking by amazing things just because they are a little out of the way, as long as I have the time. And today, I do.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

I’ll be dropping down into that canyon next. Looks pretty awesome!

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Making my way to the high point

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Look at those colors!

I bagged a small Peak along the top, and ate lunch. Every direction now was stunning. Deep Canyons, Jagged Peaks, Red Rocks. Aesthetically pleasing and just what I needed after yesterday’s boring Road walk.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

I followed the Ridgeline to the point where I would drop down into my next Canyon, enjoying the excellent views along the way. At the top of the Canyon, the route ahead looked difficult.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Another majestic unnamed canyon

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The canyon was moderately difficult. There was a lot of vegetation and some loose Rock in the beginning. Eventually I reached the wash below, and the route became a little easier. This Canyon was beautiful as well, both the upper and the lower portions.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The lower part of the canyon widens out. I hadn’t see many (any?) wildflowers along the way, but there were some here in this canyon.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View out to King Valley

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Big Dick Canyon panorama

This Canyon dumps into King Valley, which separates the Kofa range from the castle Dome range to the South. But before reaching King Valley, I Veer off to the next Canyon to the West. It’s name? Big dick Canyon. Yep. Alright then.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Big Dick Canyon

Big dick Canyon was fairly easy to walk throughout the majority of it. It was fairly scenic, but I preferred the unnamed Canyon I walked prior to this one. It was beginning to get late in the day now, and my pace quickened.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The view back down Big Dick Canyon

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

I’m glad the majority of the lower canyon was an easy walk, because the final six or seven hundred feet were more difficult. It was moderately steep, and mostly they climb up large boulders spaced out in the wash. Basically, a big stair climb. Not too bad, except for all the occasional Thorn bushes mixed in. They drew blood a few times.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View from the top of the pass

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The route to the ridgeline

At the top of the pass, I was expecting the game Trail or something on the way down, but nothing. After descending 100 feet or so along loose Rock and thick vegetation, my route veers off into a side Canyon. This would take me up to the Ridgeline.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Mountains ridgeline

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View down the crest of the Kofa Moutnains

When I reached the Crest, roughly around 5 p.m., I was quite happy with what I saw. In fact, stunned would be a better word. I knew instantly this was going to be a great walk, and right at Sunset too. The Northside of the Ridgeline is Rolling Hills, basically all the stuff I was walking yesterday and this morning. Not all that interesting. But from the crest, looking South, it’s all Jagged Peaks, sheer Cliffs and downright incredible Mountain scenery. Wow!

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

I walked this Ridgeline with excitement, not caring so much about the fact that I need to find camp. Just enjoying the moment, fixated on the Setting Sun and the constantly changing Vantage points Along The Ridge that constantly commanded my full attention.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Arch in the distance

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Sunset behind an arch on the Kofa Mountains ridgeline

In the distance, I saw an arch along the Ridgeline. Soon enough, I was standing underneath it, trying to find the perfect angle for the right photo. I probably had a huge grin on my face the whole time.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The sun seems like it took forever to set. Sunsets like these are few and far between. To be able to walk such a beautiful place, at the perfect time of day, with the best lighting possible, it’s what every outdoor photographer dreams of.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Cowboy camping in a small cave at the edge of the cliffs along the Kofa Mountains ridgeline

The Ridgeline itself was pretty Rocky. There’s no soil here, nor is there if you drop down to the lower Ridgeline that run perpendicular to it. I began to think about the possibility of cowboy camping. I was hoping to set up my tent, for the extra warmth it will provide. But the opportunity to sleep up on this incredible Ridgeline is too good to pass up. I found an overhanging Rock, not quite a cave, but just a few feet from a huge cliff with an outstanding View. It’s not exactly flat, but one’s head and feet would be slightly elevated. This I think I can manage. Surely this would be one of the coolest campsites I’ve ever had!

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Full moon tonight

I watched the last remaining rays of sunlight fade just beyond the jagged Ridgeline to the South. The Moon is nearly full tonight, Nature’s night light. I sat on the edge of the cliff eating dinner, completely in awe of my surroundings. So special, so meaningful to have a campsite like this, on the second to the last night, on such an incredible journey. Indeed, moments like this are very sparse in life. Even for all the walking I’ve done, I recognize this tonight. I’ve had a lot of great campsites over the years, and a lot of great campsites on this hike. But seldom do they invoke such profound feelings.

Day 45 – December 17th

Miles: 14.7
Animals Seen: 1 bighorn sheep

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Morning view on my last full day of hiking

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The first half of last night was awesome. I was warm, there was no wind, and it was comfortable. The second half of the night, not so much. The wind started picking up and by 7am, it was freezing cold. I waited until 8am, when the sun hit me, to pack up. Still, an amazing place to wake up to, and totally worth it!

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Crest of the Kofa Range

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Heading down off the ridge

I continued walking to Ridgeline this morning, but it was much less Pleasant than last evening. I couldn’t feel my hands, and my GoPro batteries were dying. Great views, but similar to the night before. Time to drop off the ridge.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The route to Squaw Tank

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Tank

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Water in Squaw Tank. This one is supposed to be pretty reliable

Next I hiked over a series washes and ridges to reach Squaw tank. There was plenty of water here, both in Natural Pools and man-made improvements. The water was good. Seems like a reliable source.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Then I followed hoodoo wash upstream to a saddle, over to another saddle, and through a series of washes that led me to an old (no longer in use) 4×4 road in Kofa Queen Canyon. The first half this walk was a pain in the ass. There were lots of thorn bushes and cacti to stab me. I took a cholla ball to the ankle, one of the few along this route that got me. On top of this, it was still cold. It wasn’t warming up much, like yesterday.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

I eventually hit a wash that was much easier to walk. I made good time through this section.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Next I reached an old dirt road running through Kofa Queen Canyon, and is closed as it’s inside the Kofa Wilderness. An easy walk though. The road eventually reaches a point where it crosses the Wilderness boundary and is open to vehicle traffic. It’s Wilderness on all sides of the road, but the road itself is technically not wilderness and open to vehicles.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Queen Canyon

I followed the road past Summit Canyon to Indian canyon. Here, I’ll begin the hike up to the summit of signal peak. One 4×4 passed me along the dirt road, and didn’t slow down at all. Typical. I always slow down for humans walking or riding bikes, especially on dirt roads. Maybe it’s just me.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Indian Canyon, the route to Signal Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

 

Lower Indian Canyon was stunning. This whole area is stunning! Looking back at my photos, they do nothing to convey how amazing this canyon is. Sometimes the camera just can’t match the eye. Super impressive rock walls and formations all around. I passed an older lady with her dog, the only hiker I’ve seen since day 2! Just up the trail, a family, flying a drone illegally. I could hear the buzzing overhead for a while.

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Hard mode.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

There was a variety of braided trails to choose from in the lower part the canyon. It wasn’t obvious at all which one is the main one I should be following. I chose poorly, and strayed off Trail. I took a pretty horrible path up, and it would be a long while before I regained the correct path again.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

The route up to Signal Peak

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

I Climbed boulders and fought thick vegetation, making life much harder than it needed to be. I just didn’t know where the trail was, and went by the route I had mapped out at home as a back up. This peak is the high point of the Kofa range, and this canyon gets a decent amount of traffic. I do know there is a social trail here, with the occasional cairn. It’s somewhere.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Indian Canyon

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

The route up

I found small game trails and an occasional cairn, but they were not the main path. Bummer, because I fought my way up the steepest part of the climb, basically off trail. It was steep, loose and thorny. I dreaded coming back down. The views remained excellent, though!

 

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

The route continues up…

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

I made it up to the top of the steepest section, but since I missed the main trail, I was not where I should have been. I had to drop down into the canyon below in order to progress forward. This is where I intersected the main trail, finally.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Most of the rest of the way up was easier to walk, despite losing the main trail a couple more times. It was less steep now, and much less vegetation, so this made life easier all around.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

 

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

La Posa Plain

I climbed out of the canyon and gained the ridge. The summit of Signal Peak was just a short ways away now. The views really began to wow me, opening up to massive Vistas of the Kofa range, King Valley, and pretty much everything in every direction.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Signal Peak summit view panorama

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Signal Peak summit view west over Kofa Wilderness

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

King Valley, Castle Dome Range, Kofa Wildenress

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Signal Peak summit view panorama

When I reached the summit, the winds were very strong. I was freezing cold, could barely feel my hands. I wanted nothing more than to sit on this Summit and soak it in, being the last high point along my route, but today was not the day for that. I snapped a few pictures, signed the summit register, and drop down off the summit as quickly as I could. I was really bummed about this, putting in so much effort to get up here and not being able to enjoy it properly. But sometimes that’s the way it goes, especially when climbing mountains.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Ridgeline below Signal Peak

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

I ate a quick snack below the summit, with a small Windbreak. It was 3:30 now, and it has taken me about an hour and 45 minutes to get up here. I should probably hurry down now.

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Descending Signal Peak

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

hiking to the summit of signal peak, high point of the kofa mountains arizona

Entering Indian Canyon

Fortunately, I found the route down to be much more straightforward. I never lost the main route once, and made hit town in 1 hour. I was really happy about this, especially through the steepest section where I had basically bushwhacked my way up.

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Hiking Kofa Queen Canyon. A pretty damn nice road walk

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Skull Rock Campsite

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

The famous Skull Rock

Next it was a half mile walk down the dirt road to Skull Rock. I was really looking forward to Camping here, but I was disappointed to see 4 vehicles here. It’s Friday night, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, this entire Kofa Queen Canyon is pretty stunning. I walked a quarter mile away and hiked up hill short ways to an outcrop of rocks. I found a few places suitable to camp, under small overhangs, like the one from last night. I chose a lower one, hoping it would be more out of the Wind. If it was this cold today, tonight will be freezing. Hopefully the wind dies down, but I will do everything I can to get out of the wind at this point.

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon campsite

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

View from camp in Kofa Queen Canyon

The view from tonight’s camp was spectacular. Probably even better than from Skull Rock, but I won’t be able to say that I camped inside a skull shaped Rock. Oh well. I’ll be shivering tonight and tomorrow morning no matter where I camp, just gotta make out through one more long ass night. Longest day of the year is only 4 days away now.

Day 46 – December 18th

Miles: 12.4 (half day)
No Animals Seen

 

Last night was pretty tolerable compared to th

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Morning, day 46

e previous nights, in terms of the cold temps. Low 40s, with only an occasional mild gust of winds. It was a nice campsite, and I’m really starting to dig these kind of caves/overhangs for cowboy camping. But today is my last day of hiking, and that’s what’s on my mind now. I know this when I wake, but later, it will set in even more.

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The route up to the pass

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Route up

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

I start the day with an off-trail climb of about 400′. It’s easy going at first, a grassy hillside with excellent views of lower Kofa Queen Canyon. It becomes steeper at the top, and brushier. Pretty manageable though. And, great views! Impressive unnamed peaks and rock formations make up the nearby ridges and please the eyes.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The pass between Kofa Queen Canyon and Four Palsm Canyon

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Looking down on Four Palms Canyon

 

I reached the saddle and took in the view from the top. I could now see down into upper Four Palms Canyon, and I could tell it was going to be an awesome place.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The views were great from the top, but they really seemed to improve as I dropped lower. There wasn’t much of a game trail or anything to follow, so I made my way down as I saw fit. The upper reaches were slow, but manageable.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The saddle

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Four Palms Canyon

After dropping down over 300′, it was time to go up and over a small saddle, instead of a really steep side canyon that lies below. As I dropped down from the saddle, I would take the main body of Four Palms Canyon downhill.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Saguaro on guard

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The north face of Signal Peak, which I atop yesterday afternoon, makes up the south side of Four Palms Canyon, and it’s incredibly scenic. The steep, jagged crags give the rock walls some depth, and the orangey-red rocks mixed with green vegetation give this canyon some great color. A truly majestic place. I was quite happy to have this be my last canyon of my Mojave-Sonoran Trail thru hike.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Lower Four Palms Canyon

The lower reaches of Four Palms Canyon flatten out, and become a network of braided washes. I kept looking back over my shoulder, at the beauty of this canyon, but also symbolically, not ready to end my hike. Not while walking this kind of canyon.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Pillars guarding the entrance to Four Palms Canyon

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Sunlight creeping over the pillars

Large outcrops of pillars and lone rock formations guard the entrance of Four Palms Canyon. Once past these, I would be in the open desert. Passing these pillars was the moment it hit me. These pillars represented the symbolic end of my route, despite a 2+ hour road walk that separates me from Hwy 95, the physical end point. I paused here to appreciate the profoundness of the moment, and all it meant to me.

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Passing the pillars, emerging into the final stretch of open desert

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

I’ll walk the base of these mountains to Palm Canyon

 

After passing the pillars, I emerged from the shadows of the canyon and into the sunlight of the desert flats. Surprisingly, there was a decent trail connecting Four Palms Canyon with Palm Canyon, to the south. I hiked this trail to get to Palm Canyon Rd. This is what I’ll be walking to my end point now.

hiking palm canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Palm Canyon

There were car and RV campers along much of Palm Canyon Rd. It’s the most popular spot in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, so this is no surprise.

panorama view of kofa mountains and palm canyon arizona

Kofa Mountains and Palm Canyon

Now that the off-trail hiking is done for the day, and for the entire route, I begin to reflect on the journey. It’s difficult to find the words to describe the feeling, and my mind struggles to comprehend the moment. When reaching the end of a thru hike, I think we expect there to be some eureka moment all of the sudden, some intensely profound lesson to be learned. But for me, it doesn’t happen like that. Nothing happens all of the sudden. The lessons learned aren’t learned at the end, they are learned in the moment.

So what did I learn from hiking this route, the Mojave-Sonoran Trail? For me, hiking is about progression. I’ve expanded my desert and canyon skillsets, along with my confidence to find water and to cover ground without it. I’ve grown more confident in my mapping abilities, choosing scenic routes and routes that offer safe (but challenging) passage. At the same time, I’ve learned to embrace flexibility, having the confidence to “hike anywhere” and not simply along a route that’s been planned ahead of time. I’ve learned that I feel more comfortable in the desert than almost anywhere else.

As the final miles tick away, I’m ready to close the chapter on this journey. I’m ending the hike at Hwy 95 in the middle of nowhere, seemingly a illogical end point. But since the Yuma Proving Grounds military base basically surrounds the Kofa NWR, sitting in a big “U” shape, the route has no logistical way to proceed south unless it’s a long road walk. And even then, there isn’t much farther to the south worth seeing, unless one was set on ending at the border of Mexico. No, the Kofa Wilderness is a fine place to end this hike. Palm Canyon Rd and Hwy 95 will be my southern terminus. Here, I have a close friend in Phoenix (2.5 hour drive each way) who will pick me up. There is also an option for a shuttle service to Yuma or Quartzsite for end point travel logistics.

celebrating at the end of a thru hike on the mojave sonoran trail

Huge thanks to my buddy for coming all the way out from Phoenix to pick me up at the finish line!

When I reached hwy 95, my friend was just pulling in. His wife was using the Jeep today, so he was driving his C6 Corvette. I get to ride in style back to Phoenix, and stink up his vette with my dirty hiker trash aroma. He was kind enough to bring me some McDonald’s cheeseburgers and a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Having a good friend here at the end with me, even if he wasn’t there with me along the hike, was an awesome moment. Something I didn’t have on the Basin and Range Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail. It really meant a lot to me to have him there with me.

thru hiker eating a cheeseburger and drinking champagne at the end of the mojave sonoran trail

A McDonald’s cheeseburger paired with champagne. A true hiker trash celebration

I shook up the champagne and tried to blow the cork, but this wasn’t the kind that does that, apparently. I got a minor eruption of champagne, which I tried to drink as it fizzed out of the bottle. Good enough. Now, time to pair it with a cheeseburger. If you hike long enough, there really are cheeseburgers at the end of the rainbow!

That’s the end of my journey. I have no idea what’s next. Life has evolved into an extremely impulsive array of decisions that I call adventures. My past experiences have given me the confidence to set out on these journeys with less planning and less research, simply taking the experience as it comes. The good, and the bad. Indeed, I don’t know where life will take me next. But I move forward knowing I have the courage to take on whatever it is I dream up next. And above all, I know that I can’t face the future knowing my last adventure was my greatest. I fear that day, and that motivates me more than anything else.

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Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 8: Bouse to Quartzsite

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 8: Bouse to Quartzsite

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Plamosa Mountains

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 8 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 8

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 8 – Bouse to Quartzsite, 40 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 8 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 8 Journal

Day 36 – December 8th

Miles: 19.8
No Animals Seen

*Technically, I started section 8 last night, on Day 35. I walked out of Bouse at sunset and hiked about 2.5 miles out of town. It’s nice when the dates fit nicely into the sections of the route that I’m hiking, but in this case, one day spans two sections. I’ve just left all that as part of section 7 to make things easier.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Last night’s camp

A very brief moment of sprinkles last night, extremely light and barely worth mentioning. Still cloudy when I woke up this morning.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

 

I continued walking the dirt road into the mountains. This mountain range exists within BLM land, not wilderness as much of the previous route has. That means there are more 4×4 roads, rv campers and a lot of active mining claims. There will be little off trail hiking in this section, only to connect one 4×4 road to another on occasion.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

This section is not going to be one of the highlights. I figure about 45 miles, and much of it will be along a low route on 4×4 roads. There really isn’t much of a continuous ridge line to speak of, and therefore a higher route is not feasible. One could certainly bag the occasional peak or hill, but it hardly seems worth the effort unless one is feeling energetic.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Burro Barite Mine

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

I walked past a mine, a horizontal tunnel into the earth. I had camped by this mine in my camper van about two months ago while scouting this area. I found small samples of barite and fluorite here previously, but nothing too exciting. Across the road was perhaps the best marked mining claim I’ve ever seen. I happened to meet the claim owners when camping here in my camper van. Their claim encompassed most of a small mountain, and they were after gold. They had many large yellow metal signs up making it clear this was an active mining claim. Most of the other mining claims I see are simply marked with wooden posts. If they are newer, pretty obvious it’s active. However, many claim owners like to reuse very old wooden posts which doesn’t make it clear at all that it’s active. In fact, it does the opposite, one would assume it’s inactive due to the age of the posts and the lack of signage. I figured these folks aren’t very concerned with prospectors encroaching on their claim if they don’t take the effort to properly mark it.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

A small prospect

I left the road and followed a wash into the mountains. There were tons of interesting rocks here. Some I recognized, many I didn’t. Progress was slow, but as the rocks became less interesting, my pace increased.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

This off trail section lasted a few miles, and had me going up and over a few small passes and many washes/ridges. None of it was particularly interesting or scenic.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

I joined a 4×4 road and continued south. The route mostly stays on the east side of the Plamosa mountains Divide, and the town of Bouse is occasionally visible in the distance. I had 4g signal for the first few hours of today’s walk, but not after mid-morning. It must be blowing in from Parker, to the west.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Exploring an old mine tunnel

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

For much of the rest of the morning, I followed a network of dirt roads and past countless small mining prospects. There was one tunnel into the hillside that I entered. You could walk in about 30 feet, but At some point, The mine owner or the BLM had sealed off the rest of the mine with a stone /cement wall. However, previous visitors to the mine had broken down this wall to regain entry to the rest of the mine. Looking in through the hole, it slants downward and goes an unknown distance. I was going to put on my headlamp and explore further, but there were a ton of bats flying around inside, and the smell was kind of strong. I decided to skip this one.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Four Peak. There’s a guzzler here…

Next I followed some dirt roads towards a guzzler. I found this area to be a little more scenic than this morning. Some really nice red colored rock and soil, and the Four Peak area was kinda cool looking.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Guzzler at Four Peaks

I reached a guzzler early afternoon, the first water source along this section. A group of three off roaders were just leaving as I approached. The Guzzler looked like the last one I encountered, near the beginning of the aqueduct in the previous section. The water in the drinker (trough) was full, but pretty gross. It was a deep green color with a film on the top, and a bunch of feathers floating around in it. I had 3.5L, so I passed on this one. I’ve filtered water like this before, just need to back flush the Sawyer filter every other liter.

While I was taking down notes on this guzzler, another group of three off-roaders showed up. I talked to these guys for a while, and asked them if they had any extra water. I scored a half liter water bottle and a 12oz Gatorade. Thank you, fellas.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The peak above the guzzler was probably the most scenic one yet. It looked like an old volcano. After leaving this behind, I followed 4×4 roads for pretty much the rest of the day. There are many more roads in existence then the map indicates. When looking at the map, If you are trying to work around a landforms, there is probably a road there whether it’s on the map or not.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Haystack and Ibex peaks

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Haystack and Ibex peaks dominate the horizon now, and are growing closer. I’ll be hiking around these peaks tomorrow. For now, I follow dirt roads and washes towards these peaks while passing more prospects and old mines.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

Ibex Peak

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the Plamosa Mountains. I continued up a wash on the south side.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

I found my campsite about 20 minutes before dark, with a good view of Haystack and Ibex peaks. The southern part of the Plamosa Range is definitely more scenic than the north.

Day 37 – December 9th

Miles: 17.1
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit, mule deer

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Sunrise at camp in the Plamosa Mountains

I woke up to a nice view of haystack and Ibex peaks, with the sun creeping over the ridge line just as I broke camp. I continued walking dirt roads through fields of teddy bear Cholla, up and over a series of small washes. Today, I hope to reach the highway and make my way into Quartzsite to resupply. It’s day 7 since I’ve left Lake Havasu City now.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

It was late afternoon when I crossed the paved road (Plamosa Rd) that cuts across the mountains.

I walked dirt roads around the southern end of Ibex Peak, and followed a wash over the divide to the west side of the Plamosa Mountains for the first time.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

By late morning, the clouds started building. The wind picked up, and it was colder now. At the same time, I began to notice the impressiveness of this Canyon. Not on a spectacular level, but for this section at least, it was beginning to get interesting.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Near the guzzler

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The guzzler

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

This one has a float system operating the water level. But the water comes out brown…

I reached a guzzler, my second water source along this section. This one featured two troughs (drinkers), and both had water. As expected though, the water was pretty green and unappealing. One of the troughs was fed by a float system that dispensed water from a large tank, pretty similar to the design of the guzzler I visited just before reaching the Hayden Rhodes aqueduct on the last section. Good, I thought. However, once I push down in the float and began to dispense water into my platypus bag, I could see the water had a pretty brown and cloudy appearance. Would this water be filterable? Absolutely. But I have 2L of water and a 12 oz Gatorade on me, enough to reach the highway this afternoon. And so, I passed on another water source.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Headed up this canyon

The dirt road ends here at the guzzler, and now I begin hiking off Trail. The canyon ahead of me looked fairly thick with vegetation, along with some rugged-looking Terrain. However, as it made my way up the canyon, the route became less daunting and much more manageable.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Looking back down the canyon I’ve climbed up

I found some interesting rocks on the way up to the Ridgeline. A really nice piece of agate with some druzy quartz. It was about the size of my hand, but since I am getting into town today, I figured I’d carry this one with me. Totally ultralight, I know.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

View east from the saddle

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

View from the saddle up the next section of the route

The climb up to the Ridgeline could be broken down into two sections. The first was a fairly easy going Canyon up to a saddle. My map shows a guzzler just below the saddle on the other side. I didn’t see anything here oh, and even if I did, it would be pretty hard to down climb the steep Canyon to get to it. There was a pretty nice view here though, really the first elevated and somewhat sweeping view of the whole section.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The second segment of the climb up to the Ridgeline leaves the saddle and continues up a more challenging looking Canyon. Again, what looks daunting from below is typically more manageable than you think, if you just start walking up it. There were a couple of small pour offs to climb, and a few spots with thick brush as the canyon funnels you into the wash, but really, just par for the course.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Plamosa Mountains ridgeline. Ibex and Haystack peaks

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The vast Renagras Plain

I climbed the final Hillside, littered with volcanic rock and teddy bear Cholla, up to the crest the Ridgeline. Wow! My first distant view since The Mesa, overlooking the Bill Williams River Valley. And with the dark clouds that fill the skies, a completely different feel to this view than almost anything else along three route thus far. The views were quite massive; the desolate looking mountains in California to the West, large desert valleys on both sides of the Plamosa mountains, the Rugged Ridge line of the new water mountains to the South, and the alluring Kofa wilderness just beyond that.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

This was the slowest part of my day. Not only due to the terrain, but because of the scenic beauty. Renegras Plain lies to the south, the massive valley that I’m overlooking.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

From here, it’s less than 2 miles of walking along the crest of this Ridgeline before I drop down to the valley below. This is not an easy ridge to walk, though. Mostly, the best path forward is following game Trails just below the crest of the bridge on either side. The true crest is often a knife-edge or jagged rock formations. There’s some Cholla appear as well, just to add to the challenge.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

View east to Haystack Mountain

Walking South along the Ridgeline, some views improve of the mountains to the east, part of the haystack mountain formation. Maybe it was the lighting, but the views over the surrounding landscape look greener than much of what I’ve been walking through over the last few weeks. The hiking is slow up here, but easily the most scenic of the section. I’m glad I chose to walk this Ridgeline.

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Awesome views of the Plamosa Mountains

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The route down somewhere ahead, presumably

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

hiking the plamosa mountains quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The route down off the Plamosa Mountains ridgeline

The route down off of the Ridgeline is a little cryptic. There’s a series of different ridges leading down off the crest, and one needs to be careful, ensuring you’re on the right one before covering too much ground. Eventually I reached the valley floor, thankful to be on flat-ground now and no longer sliding down loose rock and scree. Here, I met a dirt road and began walking South towards the highway.

Shortly after descending the Ridgeline, I took a break at the Black Beauty mine and ate lunch. There were supposed to be some more rare and interesting minerals here, but my untrained eye doesn’t know what they look like and what to look for, and I kept nothing.

Leaving the mine now, I followed a series of dirt roads South. One guy on a 4×4 passed me, likely coming from a pop-up city of RV campers that are living out in the desert a few miles away. I could see this from the Ridgeline that I had walked earlier. At this time of the year, the Quartzsite and surrounding areas see a massive influx of people that flock to this area for the warm winter weather. Instead of spreading out, they Camp a few feet away from each other and form small cities and communities. I’ve heard the Quartzsite area draws a quarter of a million people each year. It’s an interesting culture, for sure. I’m new to the van life thing, but when I think of camping, I typically think of camping in places where I can’t see another person. The concept of being so close together is a bit foreign to me.

hiking the renegras plain quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

I left the dirt roads when they no longer took me in the direction I need to go. I chose a distant landmark and set out on a cross-country track crossed about 5 miles of open desert. I’m shooting for the junction of Highway 60 and Interstate 10. Obviously, I won’t be able to hitchhike on the interstate, so I’m shooting for Highway 60 right before it dumps into the Interstate.

hiking the renegras plain quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

The first half of this desert track was quite easy. Very open, very few obstacles. A decent amount of interesting rocks too… Mostly red jasper and agates, with some chalcedony sprinkled in.

hiking the renegras plain quartzsite bouse arizona backpacking trip

Renegras Plain

The second half of the walk, the final 2 miles or so before the highway, presented more obstacles. There were more washes to climb in and out of, it was thicker with brush, and towards the end it was littered with a sea of large black rocks to step over.

When I reached highway 60, I had a rickety looking barbed wire gate to open and close. Traffic buzzed by occasionally as I dropped my backpack. An RV was parked on the side of the road 100 ft away, surely looking on at the drifter who just emerged from the desert.

I put my thumb out to every passing vehicle, which worked out to be one every couple of minutes. I regret not bringing a piece of cardboard with me to write “Quartzsite” on, since anyone getting on the highway here might assume I’m looking for a longer ride than just 15 minutes down the road. It was 4 p.m. when I arrived, which gives me almost 2 hours to try and get a ride before Darkness. After that, I’d be stuck here, camping alongside the highway somewhere for the night. This is the worst feeling, being so close to town and having to spend another night out, and a crappy one with road noise at that.

After an hour, I was getting nervous. I had phone service, but there was no Uber service here as expected. I looked up taxi services in Quartzsite, but came up dry. While I was up on the Ridgeline earlier today and had good cell phone signal, I used Priceline to book my hotel for tonight in Quartzsite. If I don’t make it, it’s nonrefundable. As a last-ditch effort, I gave the hotel a call and asked if they knew anyone in town that gives rides for money. In a stroke of luck, the guy at the front desk immediately had a person that runs a shuttle service to recommend. He gave me a woman’s number, who was able to come pick me up in just 20 minutes. It’s amazing how the trail provides, even if it means being a little resourceful on your end.

The sprinkles started falling on the way into Quartzsite, so the timing worked out perfectly. The Super 8 Motel oh, the only motel in town, is on the far side of town away from pretty much everything a hiker wants. There’s also no pizza or food delivery in town. I didn’t have much Choice except to walk a mile in the dark, in the rain, up to Carl’s Jr. It’s a dangerous walk to, along roads that have no shoulder, thick bushes along the roadside that force you to walk on the blacktop, no street lights. I also had to walk over a highway overpass that had no sidewalk, no lights, and no guardrail. Stupid semi truck drivers barely acknowledge a human being waking here and don’t have the courtesy to move over, buzzing by without a care. A monster thickburger combo made things better though, as I stuffed myself full of fatty goodness. What a day.

Day 38 – December 10th

Zero day

Today was spent doing Town chores. I did some laundry last night, and the rest today. I walked up to the Carl’s Junior again for lunch, and utilized the community Transportation program for the rest of today’s errands across town. It’s called The Camel Express, and they operate as a curb-to-curb transportation service. It’s $2.50 one way to wherever you want to go in town. I had them pick me up at the Carl’s Junior and drop me off at the post office. Here, I mailed back nearly eight pounds of rocks from the last section!

After the post office, I walked a few blocks away to the Roadrunner Market, probably the biggest grocery store in town. This isn’t saying much though; the selection is pretty poor. Generally, enough for a full resupply, but they lack a lot of basic items. I stopped in the coyote Fresh Foods Market another two blocks away to check their selection, which was even more scarce.

Next I hit up the pizza place in town call Silly Al’s. I ordered two medium pizzas, these would last me for the next two days in the hotel so I don’t have to leave again just to get a meal.

I spent the rest of the day going through photos from the fast to sections and updating my journal. Typical zero day stuff.

Day 39 – December 11th

Zero day

Today was spent getting food together and making plans to wrap up this hike. I called my friend in Phoenix, who would be picking me up at the end of my hike along Highway 95 outside of the Kofa Wilderness. I can’t believe the end is so near now, but I’m looking forward to it.

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Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 7: Lake Havasu to Bouse

hiking whipple wash in the whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 7: Lake Havasu to Bouse

hiking whipple wash in the whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

Whipple Wash

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 7 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 7

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 7 – Lake Havasu to Bouse, 95 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 7 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 7 Journal

Day 31 – December 3rd

Miles: 14
No Animals Seen

lake havasu city london bridge and ferry ridge to havasu landing casino

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City

Spent the morning wrapping up town chores and Getting my things together for the next section. Didn’t leave the hotel until nearly 11 o’clock. I have three large packages to mail out, so instead of walking a mile to the post office, I used the transit service that partners with Uber to get a ride there for three bucks. The same service then drove me to the boat docks. There’s a casino on the California side of the Colorado River called Havasu Landing that operates a ferry service that runs every hour, shuttling passengers across the river for the low price of $2. This is how I will be getting across to California, where I will begin this section.

lake havasu city london bridge and ferry ridge to havasu landing casino

Near the boat docks is the London Bridge. It was originally built in the 1830s and formerly spanned the River Thames in London, England. Apparently, this bridge was going to be replaced, and Lake Havasu “bought it”. I know it sounds weird, but yes, they bought a used Bridge. They disassembled it piece-by-piece and shipped it here, and reassembled it. They’re quite proud of this here in Lake Havasu. The weirdest thing about this is thinking about how the buyer and seller came together. Typically, if you’re going to replace a bridge, one would assume that you just tear it down and that’s the end of it. What did they do, put an ad in the newspaper? “Used bridge for sale. best offer takes it. You must disassemble and move it yourself. No trades.”

lake havasu city london bridge and ferry ridge to havasu landing casino

Ferry ride across the Colorado River/Lake Mojave from Lake Havasu City, AZ to Havasu Landing at Havasu Lake, CA. All things Havasu…

Havasu Landing Casino. Thanks for the $2 ride across the river, but I will not be gambling today

The ferry ride was a cool way to get across the river. It added a fun and unique element to this hike. It’s about a fifteen-minute ride, and dropped you right off at the casino. Of course, I wasn’t there to gamble, so I just walked out of the casino parking lot and began my walk through town. Ironically, this town is called Havasu Lake, the opposite of Lake Havasu, on the Arizona side. Havasu Lake is located on the Chemehuevi Reservation as well. But it’s only a short walk about two miles to get out of town and enter BLM land.

After leaving the paved road, I was faced with a long dirt road walk to the base of the Whipple mountains. I don’t expect anything interesting out of this, simply the lead-up, the connector between town and the mountains. Since my next planned water source is 25 miles from the casino, I carried 6 L of water and one fresh Gatorade, since I seem to have misplaced my old gatorade bottle. 25 miles doesn’t sound like that much, but this will be spread out over a day and a half and will have a lot of off-Trail hiking in between.

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

The first few miles of the road had moderate construction traffic, with a few large trucks passing by. I have no idea what they were doing or where they were going. I left this road and began to walk a wash, that was off Trail on the map, but did have some 4×4 paths to follow. I saw 3 razors cruising around. One of them actually stopped and asked if I needed any water or anything, which is extremely rare from the 4×4 crowd. Remember my lasts section, where I ranted about the 4×4 guy purposely covering me in dirt? Well now the ratio is only 10 bad encounters per 1 good one. That’s the reality of it.

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

The Whipple Mountains are growing closer

Today’s walk alternated between good solid dirt roads and soft gravel washes. I could see the City of Lake Havasu across the river, and the Havasu Wilderness north of that that I walked on the previous section. None of the views were outstanding or anything, but I wasn’t expecting much out of today’s walk anyhow. I just put my head down and walked as fast as I could.

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

War Eagle Mine

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california at war eagle mine

My goal for today was the War Eagle mine. I reached this around 5pm, and spent a few minutes exploring. There was an old truck and car here, both of them flipped upside down on their roofs. There was a cement mixer and some other construction like debris, but not much in the way of interesting rocks. At least, not to my untrained eye.

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california

hiking the heart of the mojave blm land near whipple mountains california

I walked another 15 minutes from the mind, mostly looking for a place to camp at this point. I settled on a flat spot in a wash nearby. This’ll do for the night.

Day 32 – December 4th

Miles: 19.2
No Animals Seen

whipple mountains war eagle mine camping california mojave desert

Camp near War Eagle Mine

Last night was calm and quiet. Believe it or not, I don’t really sleep that well in town when I get a hotel. I barely get eight hours of sleep, compared to 10 or 11 out here. I was feeling tired and a little out of it yesterday, but after a solid night’s rest out here, I was feeling pretty good this morning. Ready for the Whipple Mountains!

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The canyon is narrowing, and the scenery improving

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

I followed the wash I camped in, jumping over to another parallel wash. I followed this for a while, and eventually reached a point where the Canyon walls narrowed in the terrain became steeper. Now the real work begins.

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

Following this wash uphill to the crest of the Whipple Mountains

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

This wash was pretty easy to walk overall, with only minor brush and all of the climbing obstacles were quite manageable. It was fairly scenic at times, but nothing spectacular. Still, a pretty enjoyable walk.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

A really cool wash to hike

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The route I had planned from home had me leaving this wash at some point and following the nose of a ridge line uphill. However, walking in the wash was fairly easy here and I decided to keep doing that. I took a different route up a wash that looked a bit narrow on the map, but this all worked out well in the end.

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The upper basin

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The route up to the crest of the Whipple Mountains

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The wash led me to large open basin, with the crest of the Whipple mountains just above me. From here I climbed up to a ridge and followed that up to the crest.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Crest of the Whipple Mountains

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Upon reaching the crest of the Whipples, my first impression was that the walking look like it was going to be very easy. Secondly, I had a sweeping view West into California now. It looked incredibly desolate, just open desert and barren Mountain ridges. I began walking the Crest Northeast over to the high point of the range. As expected, the walking was pretty easy.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Whipple Mountains high point summit view

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Highest point in the Whipple Mountains – Axtel Peak, 4,130′

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

View west along the Whipple Mountains ridgeline

The high point of the range is marked on the map as Axtel peak, but is generally referred to as the Whipple range high point. I reached the 4,130 foot summit around 11 am, and stopped to sign the summit register. The register only goes back to 2015, and it appears to get two or three visitors a year.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Mojave Desert, California

The view is good because you can see a long ways, but this mountain itself doesn’t have a whole lot of character. It’s simply the highest point on a rather dull ridge line. Still, I could see most of the rest of my route for the next 200 plus miles. I could see the Mesa, above Bill Williams River, the Gibraltar mountains wilderness, cactus plains. The air is thick with haze, and it’s difficult to make out anything beyond that with great detail. Still, I could see the outline of the Plamosa mountains, new water mountains, and the Kofa Wilderness, my end point.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Looking back at the high point

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

After leaving the high point, I continued along the ridge line for a little while. The first bit was easy.

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

Lake Havasu City in the distance

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california crest of the whipple mountains

I’ll drop down into Whipple Wash below and follow that

I reached a point where the crest of the range was no longer that easy to walk. I had planned to continue walking the ridge line for a while, but came up with an alternate plan. I was standing above the beginnings of Whipple Wash, where I will ultimately be heading. Instead, I chose to drop down from the ridge line here and follow Whipple wash all the way from its very beginning here on the ridge line.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Upper Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Getting interesting now

The upper part of Whipple Wash was not that interesting, and had more vegetation. There was some cholla here, but thankfully it disappeared as the canyon narrowed. I think this stuff prefers open fields with a lot of sunlight, it doesn’t seem to grow as much in places that get less light.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Alright, this is pretty awesome now

The scenery improved as I made my way down Whipple Wash. The canyon narrowed here and there, the bedrock tilted and slanted at times making for some cool landforms.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

One of the climbs

There was one spot on the map that looked like it adds the largest potential for a dry waterfall. When I reached this spot, the Canyon walls narrowed and the wash meandered in an S shape. A short but very cool little Canyon led to the biggest obstacle of the entire wash; a climb down dry waterfall. Fortunately this one wasn’t any more challenging than everything else I’ve already encountered. Whew. Wasn’t sure how tis one was going to work out.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

When the walking is easy

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Piles of boulders to climb

Below this, the Canyon opened up slightly and the walking became easier again for a little while. There was one more section of obstacles though. The grade became steeper, and rocks and boulders piled up here. There was one larger pour off, probably climbable but wouldn’t be my first choice. Instead, I looked for another route a little higher up and found a much easier path to down climb. This dropped me into a mess of boulders, but after a short descent, I was back down in the wash again on a relatively easy path.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Intersection with large canyon

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Tallest cholla I’ve ever seen!

Eventually the wash widened as another large canyon intersects the one I’m walking. This now is the main wash running through the Whipple Mountains, and I could tell it was going to be a nice walk. The towering Canyon walls in the distance give it away. Also, the next five miles or so are the best chance of finding water.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Wow! I was not expecting Whipple Wash to be this incredible

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Water in Whipple Wash. Tadpoles swimming in this puddle

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Typical view from Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

I passed the uppermost spot I had marked for water, but it was dry here. Below this was The beginning of some incredible Canyon Scenery. Perhaps some of the best along the entire route. Shortly after the walls narrowed, I came across one puddle of water tucked away under a rock wall. There was less than five gallons of water here. There were a few frogs swimming in it and a bunch of bugs. The water was clear enough though and I would have drank it, but the main spring in this canyon is only a few miles down Now and I figured I would just fill up there. So, I skipped this little puddle.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

The next few miles were incredible. The Canyon walls were towering above me. They were pointy, they were glowing red and orange in the setting sun, they had caves and arches. Along the bottom of the wash sat house sized boulders that made for the perfect foreground prop for the photogenic Canyon. You couldn’t look and any direction without being stunned by the majestic scenery.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

With less than an hour of daylight left now, I had to move quickly if I wanted to reach to spring tonight. This was a little disheartening since the scenery was so incredible. I hate to move so quickly through such a beautiful place, but, water. I want it. To further distract me, I found and outcrop of rocks that had a ton of malachite, indicating copper deposits. If I wasn’t already jogging through the canyon to beat the setting sun, I would have certainly stopped here to poke around.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Sunset in Whipple Wash

I reached the spring with 10 minutes of light left. However, I was disappointed to see it dry. Nothing I can do now except set up camp. I’m about five miles away from copper basin Reservoir, so I’ll get my water there tomorrow. I have about one liter of water left, so I will have to ration that to last throughout dinner, breakfast and the hike to the Reservoir. Not the end of the world, but I was really hoping to Chug some water tonight. There’s always tomorrow.

Day 33 – December 5th

Miles: 19.2
Animals Seen: 5 burros

tarptent nocth li campsite in whipple wash whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

Camp in Whipple Wash

tarptent nocth li campsite in whipple wash whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

Pretty calm night. However, I didn’t sleep very well. It was warm enough that I kept the tent vestibule open for a little airflow. I haven’t done this in a while. The impressive Canyon walls of Whipple wash were almost forgotten over a night sleep. When I open my tent this morning, bam! The reminder is instant.

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Leaving Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Water near in canyon intersecting Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

I began walking up the wash, climbing up a few small pour offs. I didn’t go far, just slightly further than I went last night to check for water, and I found a large pothole containing many gallons of water. It was probably one foot deep, and 8 ft by 8 ft in surface area. The water was green, but really not all that bad. However, I figured that I would be at Copper Basin Reservoir in 2 hours or so, and opted to skip this water source. Little did I know, this would be a big mistake. I started the morning with a little less than a liter of water, and now have about a quarter of a liter to my name. Thirsty, but manageable for the distance I have to what I think is a sure thing.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Past the crux of the canyon, it’s opening up now

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

The Crux of the canyon was just above this pothole. It was not a difficult climb though. After this, the canyon really opens up. More impressive Canyon walls towering above me. Overall, this Canyon was a nice walk. Boulders and vegetation created occasional obstacles.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

In the upper reaches of this Canyon, I saw my first burros of this section. I had been seeing some scat, but it’s drier here than other places I had seen burros along this route.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Copper Basin Reservoir

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Eventually I joined a dirt road. It took me up and over a small pass, and I got my first View of Copper Basin Reservoir. Water, and lots of it! Just a few miles away.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

This walk was one that I wanted to go by as quickly as possible. The scenery was nice though, with a cool group of mountains to the West. Part of the Ridgeline featured a couple of pinnacles that really stood out. In addition to being pretty thirsty, hunger was almost the stronger Drive now. I was just waiting to reach the shoreline for a break.

hiking copper basin reservoir whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Seriously?? That’s a dick move.

Only a few hundred yards away now from the shore, I reached a barbed wire fence littered with no trespassing signs. Are you serious? I couldn’t believe it. When I did my research for this route, I couldn’t find much info on the Copper Basin Reservoir, not even which entity or land Administration branch owned the land. Using caltopo, the public lands map layer indicated that it was “local”, which is not something I often deal with. There were dirt roads leading around the reservoir, one of them marked as Bandit pass. This is the one that I wanted to take through the mountains that flank the Reservoir. But now my plan is dead in the water. The water that I can’t reach. So close, so cruel.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

The route up, to the left of the high point

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Copper Basin Reservoir

I checked my maps and looked for a way around the reservoir. Fortunately, there was a break in the mountains that flank the reservoir, on the Wilderness side. It would require backtracking about a half a mile and climbing up about 600 feet. Fine, but I’m really thirsty now and at this point there is no other source of water available to me along my route.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

The climb up and over the mountains initially looks pretty daunting, mostly because the terrain from Below looks like a pile of Boulders with a ton of thick vegetation mixed in. However, as I began to climb, I found a path through it all. I was feeling really thirsty at this point though, moving slower and starting to feel less Sharp mentally. Behind me, was an excellent view of the reservoir. The water glimmered in the Sun, teasing me. Such a cruel, cruel sight.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

View east from the pass

I made it up to the top of the pass and had my first View to the east. It was actually quite scenic. I began The Descent down the other side, which had some steep moments but all in all was very manageable.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

During The Descent, I stumbled across an outcrop of rocks that were littered with malachite, indicating a copper deposit. In addition to The Tell-Tale green colors was veins of a sparkling silver colored mineral, most likely Galena. These were some of the largest, best looking veins of Galena I have ever come across in the field. Not that I am a master rockhound or anything, but impressive to me. I pocketed a few samples and marked the spot on my map for further research after the hike.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Farther downhill, I encountered countless mineral deposits of Interest, mostly the same copper/galena deposits. I marked these as well and became excited about the possibility of returning to this place someday to poke around a little bit further.

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

I followed a wash to a dirt road, which I followed briefly before it dumped me out into a paved Road. This road leads to Black Meadow Landing on the Colorado River, and gets occasional traffic. I’m quite thirsty now, and since I had to reroute around Copper Basin Reservoir, I now have something like 8 miles to cover on this road instead of 3 or so. So that sucks. Most of the land coming up is owned by the same entity that owns Copper Basin Reservoir, and therefore also displays no trespassing signs. This road leads me to Parker Dam, which doesn’t allow pedestrian traffic. Ultimately, I will need to Hitch a crossed the damn to make it back to the Arizona side.

After walking a couple hours along this road, I neared the Parker Dam and threw out my thumb to hitch. The first car that passed by stopped  and thankfully, they were able to drive me over the dam and drop me off on the other side. Almost immediately after crossing the dam, there is a small community with a gas station. I had them drop me off here, which works out because I was planning on stopping here anyway.

Inside the gas station, I immediately encountered the rather unfriendly owner. Intimidated by my backpack, probably sizing me up as bum or Criminal, insisted that I leave my pack with him behind the counter. I told him that I have a few thousand dollars’ worth of gear in this pack, and I don’t like separating from it. But if that’s your policy, fine, but please watch over it. Super annoying when stores do this though.

I bought two gallons of water and a Gatorade. I wanted to get lunch, but first, I needed to hydrate. I went outside the store and try to utilize what little shade there was 2 hang out and get some fluids in me. I took five and a half liters of water from the two one-gallon jugs, chugged about two liters of water and the Gatorade. Man that felt great. It was so cold though that it was almost hard to drink. I couldn’t help but think about all of those stores that claim to have the coldest beer in town. This guy must be a contender… Coldest water in town!

As I was hanging out in front of the store, a guy walked up and asked if I needed anything, food water whatever. Another person assuming I am homeless. My clothes are pretty tattered on this trip, The Thorn bushes have really done a number on my shirt and it does look pretty rough. I told him I was good, just hiking. And that spawned a lengthy conversation on what I was doing. This guy was a bit eccentric, asking me a million questions but so hyper that he couldn’t wait for the answer and just blurted out more questions. Still, it’s human interaction and I kind of enjoy humoring some of the more eccentric folks that I encounter along these trips. Characters like this is what I’ll remember when it’s all said and done.

My new friend John went into the store and came out with a liter of Smart water and a shooter of fireball to give me. And fireball for himself, of course. Ha, fireball… I’ve noticed that this is the most commonly discarded type of liquor bottle along the side of any road. Still, a very fine gesture. After more rapid fire conversing, he insisted that he would buy me lunch from inside the store. I took him up on the offer and let him buy me two hot pockets and a Monster energy drink. Now this really hit the spot!

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Entrance to Forbidden Canyon

I probably spent an hour at the store. It was a little after 3 p.m. now when I finally decided I needed to get back to walkin’. I walked a half mile down hwy 95 before reaching the spot I had planned to leave the road and enter a canyon that would lead me to the top of a Mesa, named “the mesa” on the map. There’s a No Trespassing sign here at the canyon entrance. The next couple of miles are on Arizona State Trust land, which requires a $15 annual permit to be legal. Since the canyon was unnamed, I called it Forbidden Canyon.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Looking up at The Mesa, Buckskin Mountains, from the wash below

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Lone saguaro

I found this Canyon to be incredibly enjoyable. There were Red Rocks, towering Cliff walls, and farther up, fun obstacles like small pour offs. I was in a great mood now, having been able to rehydrate, get a hot meal and just take an hour break talking to some random guy. Ha!

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

One little climb along the way

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

There was only one point where the canyon narrows to a pour off. It was a 20ft climb, and that was that. A beautiful spot.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

I’m making good progress up the canyon now. There have been occasional cairns along the way, but I wonder how much traffic this wash gets. Probably, not much.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

More boulders now

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Getting steeper now

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

The route up

I reached the point where the grade steepens, and there were more boulders to climb up and over now. Still, not all that difficult really. I moved relatively fast over these, noting that I have an hour and a half of daylight left.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

I need to climb that

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Looking down what I’ve climbed up

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

View back down the canyon I climbed up. Wow!

 

Eventually reached a point where the terrain became very steep, which was the Crux of the climb. There were two different paths I could take, and both of them involved a vertical climb of 40 or 50 ft. The path I chose was ledgy, but still precarious. There was one move where a cactus was sticking out right where I needed to place my knee. There was no way around it. I opted for a different path. Many of the Rocks were loose, and I was pulling my hand holds off the rock wall and throwing them down below me. Eventually, I made my way to the top, feeling a rush of adrenaline from this one. I couldn’t help but let out a howl at the top.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

I’m headed up that canyon

Now, I found myself in an open area, an upper basin. I still had another couple hundred feet to climb up to the top of the Mesa, but first I had to walk across this Basin. There was teddy bear Cholla and I almost fell victim to one of the loose balls on the ground. Fortunately, I picked it off my shoe before it could impale the back of my other leg.

Daylight was fading fast now, and my pace hastened. The route I was following led me to a canyon, which was pretty choked with vegetation at times. There was a tricky pour off to climb, only 15 or 20 feet or so, but overhanging. Also, the entire pour off was made of a sedimentary conglomerate… in other words, a bunch of loose Pebbles smashed together. Not the kind of thing you want to be climbing up. Nevertheless, it held, and I made it to the

Now I was really hoofing it. My route led me to a canyon that I couldn’t really see a way out of when I entered it. It looked like another vertical rock wall to climb. However, there’s no way to tell until you get right up to the base of it. It was getting dark now, but this was my last obstacle before reaching the top. Once I got close to the rock wall, I saw my route up. A bunch of loose Boulders were piled up along one side of the rock wall, allowing me to climb up these Boulders instead of the Rockwall itself. Then, it was a hand over hand scramble up to the top, dodging the lone cactus obstacle along the way. I was breathing heavily now, really pushing myself to move as fast as possible.

hiking the buckskin mountains arizona to the mesa and Gibraltar mountain wilderness

Blurry night time photo of the Colorado River, view north from The Mesa

It’s hard to describe the feeling of reaching the top on this one. The sun had gone down and the only light left was Twilight. In the distance, the Colorado River reflected the last bits of glimmering light amongst a backdrop of and otherwise black landscape. The last hues of orange red and purple in the sky were fading. I was worried I was going to be stuck in this Canyon, in a field of boulders, when’s sunset. But like many times, when things look bleak, they work out in the end, right at the very last moment. People don’t usually associate hiking with adrenaline, but when you put yourself in situations like these and really push yourself, you’d be surprised. And I was feeling it now.

On top of the Mesa, I found a 4×4 Road. I followed this and began looking for a spot to camp. Upon checking my map, I noticed that I was a little over a half mile from a spot that jetted out to a narrow point. Yeah, this is where I want to set up camp. I missed the opportunity to witness a sunset, but I won’t miss the sun rise tomorrow. And so, with nearly six liters of water on my back, I began jogging. The adrenaline still there, guiding me over the rocks that littered the road, I made it to my destination in what seems like no time at all.

There really wasn’t any obvious campsite here, but it was the end of the road. It was the clearest I had seen the ground, which was mostly poof dirt. This is that really loose fine stuff that everyone hates to walk through. And unfortunately, it’s a little windy right now. I don’t have a choice but to set by 10 up here, but I am a little annoyed by the proof dirt since I just spent a solid hour cleaning dirt and grime out of the zippers of my tent with a toothbrush while in Lake Havasu, and lubed them up with silicone spray. With every gust of wind, this fine poof dirt was blowing around and was certainly going to wreak havoc on my zipper’s again. I built a small rock wall to protect my tent as best I could. I really despise sleeping in high winds.

What a day. I’m looking forward to walking the rim of The Mesa tomorrow and enjoying the incredible view.

Day 34 – December 6th

Miles: 21.1
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Sunrise on The Mesa

The wind died down last night a few hours after night fall. Before that though, every gust of wind sent proof dirt flying around inside my tent. When I opened my tent this morning, I was greeted by an orange sky, with the sun still below the Horizon. But now, I had a better view of my surroundings then the night before. The sunrise was nice, and I was glad I made the effort to make it to this spot to catch it this morning.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River panorama from The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Sunrise over Bill Williams River from The Mesa

Once the sun had fully risen, I could see the valley below in which Bill Williams River flows through. However, It didn’t look quite like the photos I had seen. It was brown and barren looking, not green and lush. It looks like a forest fire had ravaged this area. Upstream and downstream from this spot, the scenery was much greener and more lively looking, supporting this theory. That’s too bad. I later found out, a fire did burn here; the Planet Ranch Fire, June 2021. It burned 1260 acres along the Bill Williams River.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Leaving camp, walking The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Overlooking Bill Williams River

I left camp and began walking the 4×4 roads that follow the closest to the edge of the Mesa. The road is generally not all that close to the edge, so to walk it, you’ll need to stray from the road for a view sometimes.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

You can see the damage from the Planet Ranch Fire along Bill Williams River below

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River

I followed one road out to another arm of the Mesa that jets out from the main body, providing a sweeping vantage point, like the one I camped on last night. Another fine view. There was a spot here that looked like one could potentially set up a tent, but nothing that great.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

I continue down and network of 4×4 roads to the next arm of the Mesa. I’m beginning to notice more Saguaro cacti now. Very cool. This next arm of the Mesa takes me quite a bit out of the way, probably a good mile and a half. A debated for a brief moment to cut it off, but ultimately decided to go for it. After all, that’s why I’m out here, to see this place.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River. Much nicer here

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Arizona desert views from The Mesa

At the end of this dirt road I reached my scenic Vista. The view is great, overlooking The River Valley, mountains and Mesa like landforms in the distance, and a large Canyon that sits in between this arm of the Mesa and the last one I walked. And yet, no campsites here. I thought the 4×4 crowd would have cleared something out, but no.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

I love these big canyon views

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Canyon view panorama

On the way back to the main body of The Mesa, I walked the edge of a deep canyon. I really enjoyed tis view.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Done with arms of the Mesa that take me out of the way, I followed a dirt road along the edge of the Mesa for a while. The views here where the best of any of roads I walked on top of the Mesa.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Leaving the top of The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

A faded old 4×4 road, with no tracks on it

Soon enough though, it was time to leave the edge and drop down off the Mesa towards the lowlands below. I almost missed the old dirt road that follows a ridge line downhill, it didn’t look like it gets much use. The walk down the Mesa was rather easy and offered mediocre views.

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Walking a wash to the guzzler

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

First antler shed along this hike. And, still haven’t seen a deer

I reached a wash at the bottom and left The road behind to make my own path through the desert now. The walking here was easy. It was a couple of miles to a guzzler on the map, where I’m hoping to refill my water.

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

There she is

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

The guzzler

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

Good water!

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

Collections area for the guzzler

When I reached the guzzler, I was happy to see water in the drinker (trough). This guzzler looks completely different than any other I’ve seen before, throughout Central and Southern Nevada. Many of the guzzlers I’ve seen on the satellite maps for Arizona though mimic this design, so this must be how Arizona does their guzzlers. The metal “roofing” area that collects water was much larger than I’ve seen before. This funnels water into a large round tank that has another series of metal roofing over it. A pipe leaving the tank is routed underground over to the drinker. The drinker is made of concrete, and has two sections to it. One is open for the animals to drink out of, the other has wood over it and protects a float system. You can push down on the float to dispense more water. I like this system much more than the guzzlers in Nevada. However, this guzzler was likely a one-off. The Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct runs directly underneath this guzzler, and the aqueduct emerges from the mountain about a mile from here. The aqueduct is likely feeding this guzzler, which may be why the water is so clear.

 

I chugged 1.5L of my existing water, and filtered two more. I will be following the Hayden Rhodes Aqueduct for the next 15 miles or so, then just 8 miles into Bouse. I was hoping there might be some way to access the water in the aqueduct along the way, and didn’t think to take any more than 3L with me.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

The Hayden Rhodes aqueduct

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

The aqueduct is fenced off. There is NO access to the water…

I followed a dirt road up over a small hill and got my first view of the aqueduct. There were power lines running through this area, the large metal tower kind. On the California side of the Colorado River, an aqueduct supplies water to Southern California, pumping it from the Colorado. Arizona does the same thing and has their own aqueduct running in the opposite direction, 336 miles towards Tucson. I will be following the aqueduct for the next day or so on my way into Bouse, my next resupply stop. Not very exciting, but there isn’t really a direct way to get into town from here. The only other option is a 20 mile cross country track across the cactus plain, which turns into sand dunes upon leaving the aqueduct. That doesn’t sound particularly enticing, So the aqueduct it is.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

It’s still a bit hilly here as high transition from mountains to low desert. The dirt road I’m following stays a bit further away from the aqueduct, which is fenced off. From my research, I remember the satellite maps showing a path that runs parallel to the aqueduct, only a few yards away from it, for its entire length. I’m not seeing that here, and this has me a little worried. Additionally, any plans of drawing water from the aqueduct itself have been squashed. As I get closer, I can see that not only the fence will keep me out but even if I could get close to the aqueduct, it wouldn’t be easy to draw water from it at all. There’s a swift current to it, and the angle of the ditch it runs through is such that you would not want to walk down it to the water’s edge. I’m now regretting only 3L from the guzzler, for what could be a day and a half’s walk.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

After walking two miles or so along the aqueduct but set back from it, There’s a road on the map that crosses over it. I’m hoping it’s not gated off, and upon my arrival, I was relieved to see it open for vehicles to drive over the bridge. Whew. You never really know when looking at this stuff from satellite maps.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Now I’m on the south side of the aqueduct, and I can see A pretty solid path that Hugs the fence line. It doesn’t look like a fun walk, but at least it’s something. Then, and pick up truck drove by and the driver asked if I needed anything. Why yes, extra water would be great. And the trail provides… 1 gallon of cold water was bestowed upon me, just like that. It’s amazing how these things work out sometimes. Of course the driver asked where I was going, and Bouse made sense since it was the closest town. But then he asked where I was coming from, and I said “Vegas”. That always gets a reaction.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

East Cactus Plain Wilderness

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Only 30 minutes earlier I was feeling pretty Unsure about my plan… the lack of water and the lack of a proper path to follow. And just like that, right on track again. Nothing to do now but put my head down and walk this fence line.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Right before dark I encountered a small but steep set of hills that butt up to the aqueduct. The path goes up and over, which provided the best view so far of the Aqueduct. Tomorrow is supposed to be cloudy, a rarity for this region, and The clouds have begun to move in this evening. This provided the necessary ingredients for and incredible sunset, and this was a great vantage point to witness it from. Truth is, I was hoping for it camp spot up on the top here, but there wasn’t anything close.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Tarptent Notch Li campsite in the East Cactus Plain Wilderness

I made my way down from the hills and found A decent spot to set up my tent for the night in the lowlands below. The sunset over the Cactus Plain wilderness study area was an intense red, the most vibrant I’ve seen along this route so far.

Day 35 – December 7th

Miles: 23
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

Woke up to a really nice Sunrise of vibrant Reds. It’s overcast today, as forecasted. Long day ahead with a lot of walking, tried to get going as fast as possible this morning.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Vertical shaft. I don’t mess with these.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Mine tunnel. Of course I went in

The area at Camp last night was just outside of a few prospects and Old Mines. I saw a couple of diggings, one horizontal tunnel about 60 ft in length, and a few vertical pits from 10 to 20 ft deep. There were tailings with malachite in them, so there was probably some copper here. My notes indicate one of the mines was named the new standard mine, with Bornite, Chalcopyrite, and Hematite listed as the main deposits.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Walkin’ fenceline

After leaving the prospects behind, the rest of the day was pretty dull. Back to following the fence line, mindlessly. A helicopter Flew Over the aqueduct at one point, it looked like some sort of routine monitoring procedure. The Chopper was only a few hundred feet above the water and followed the course of the aqueduct.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

East Cactus Plain Wilderness

I figured I had about 20 miles to cover before I reached the town of Bouse. If I get there before 2:30, I can eat a hot meal at the Coachman Cafe. Otherwise, there’s another place to eat called the somewhere bar, but that’s only open till 5:30 or 6pm. I also need to hit the post office before that closes. Fortunately, the path along the fence line is a fairly good one, and besides the occasional encroachment of sand dunes over the road, it’s pretty easy walking.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

The vast view across East Cactus Plain Wilderness. That’s a lot of sand.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

A look back west along the Aqueduct

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Road to Bouse. 8 miles…

It was around noon when I reached the old railroad grade, Where I Leave the aqueduct and follow a road into town. I figure it’s about eight miles from here, so I’m on track to make it to the cafe before it closes. I’m walking the fastest Pace that I can maintain.

Almost nothing notable happened along today’s walk. I made it into town at 1:45, plenty of time before the cafe closes. Everyone inside was staring at me when I walked in; my backpack, my tattered clothes, my GPS and camera gear. It wasn’t long before they asked the typical questions and a conversation ensued amongst the handful local patrons. I got a cheeseburger and fries, but of course, I asked them to make it a double, to make sure it was big enough to satisfy my hiker hunger.

After leaving the cafe, I went to the Bouse RV Park. I found the camp host and asked for a spot to rest my head tonight. Seeing that I walked in with a backpack, they asked what I was driving. I said I don’t have an RV, just a tent. They said they don’t accept tents. I replied, ” I understand you don’t have any tent sites, but I am more than willing to pay for an RV site worth electricity and just plop my tent down for the night”. They still said no, saying tents are against their policy. Really? I couldn’t understand this. The camp host got the owner on the phone for me and he made a bunch of lame excuses about tents not being allowed by their insurance policy, and something about having to provide public bathrooms and showers… which they already do! What a load of crap. The truth? It’s a closed-minded retirement community, and they aren’t going to share their space with some dirty drifter. I see what kind of place this is.

I went to the post office and mailed back the rocks I picked up from this section, while picking up the box of food I sent from Lake Havasu to general delivery. I went to another RV park down the road, but this one didn’t have showers or Wi-Fi, keypads on the bathroom and just didn’t seem like there would be anywhere to charge my electronics since there was no Clubhouse or laundry. Not really worth staying at without those amenities.

I left this RV park and went down to the laundromat next to the Roadrunner Market. The laundromat was under construction and so I had nowhere to sit in charge of my electronics. Frustrated with the town of Bouse now, I sat in front of the market and opened my food box. I distributed my food amongst my Opsaks, and started walking out of town. On my way out, there’s the Bouse Community Park, which has RV sites. I stopped in here to see what they had. 10 bucks for the night for tents, no shower. There’s a day use area, I stopped in the bathroom to see if they had any Outlets. Nope. They had a Pavilion which had electrical outlets, but they were all turned off. I gave up on the idea of staying here for the night, and just used the garden hose to fill up my water bottles. It was 4:45 now, so about an hour of daylight left. Even though I was in the day use area, the camp host made it a point to circle around me several times, stopping one time to say “you know this closes at sundown, right? You have to be gone by dark.” Yeah, I said, don’t worry I’ll be out of here. Seriously, this was the most unwelcoming town I’ve ever visited as a hiker. A bunch of cranky old people living in shitty trailers that are afraid of all outsiders. What a sad little town.

I hit the road again at 5pm, beginning Section 8 of the Mojave-Sonoran Trail. Since it’s only about 2 miles out of town, I’m just including this evening within the section 7 post. BLM land is literally right across the street from the community park, so that’s where I headed. I started up the dirt road towards the Plamosa mountains. Not only was it cloudy and overcast now, but it looked like rain approaching. I walked quickly down the dirt road, passing piles of garbage and glass, looking for a spot to set up my tent.

This area is mostly used by RVs to camp, so the small rocks on the ground are not cleared out to make any good tent sites. With raindrops falling, I picked a spot quickly and used my foot to clear out the rocks to place my tent. It was nothing more than sprinkles, only the second time on this entire route. And it’s been a solid month since the last time I’ve seen any amount of precipitation.

Like what you see?

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 6: Bullhead City to Lake Havasu

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 6: Bullhead City to Lake Havasu

panorama photo of lake havasu wilderness on the mojave sonoran trail

Havasu Wilderness

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 6 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 6

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 6 – Bullhead City to Lake Havasu, 91 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 6 of 9 on the MST. For a more detailed map and general route info, see the Mojave-Sonoran Trail Guide page.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 6 Journal

Day 23 – November 25th (Thanksgiving)

Miles: 18.4 (3/4 day)
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit, burro

Took an uber to McDonalds for breakfast. Chugged a bunch of water to camel up, assuming it will be as dry as the last section. A man came up to me and tried to hand me some money to buy coffee or whatever, assuming I was homeless. I told him no thank you, I’m just a hiker. Man, if he would have seen me the day I walked into town as opposed to the day I’m leaving, I would have really fit the part.

I took a second Uber back to the spot I left off at the Davis Dam. Ironically, the same Uber driver who pick me up from the dam was the one who took me back to it. She couldn’t quite grasp The concept of what I was doing. I told her my next stop was Lake Havasu, and she said you’re going the wrong way. I tried to explain to her that I’m not taking the most direct route, I’m taking the most scenic one. Still, there was a disconnect. Ah well, not everyone needs to understand.

Hiking east of Davis Dam

I walked a paved for a couple hundred feet before dipping down into a wash. To be quite honest, this wash sucked. It was two solid hours of deep gravel, pretty crappy to walk through. I also had six days of food and seven liters of water on my back, making it even worse. It was extremely windy yesterday, and the same today… 40 mph gusts. It felt cold, but Thankfully the highs would be in the seventies today.

hiking the black mountains east of bullhead city arizona

Break spot here as I enter the Black Mountains

I walked the wash to a dirt road, which I walked to a paved road… Hwy 68, a divided highway. Cross this and head to walk another crappy wash with deep gravel for a little ways. I went up over a hill and left the highway behind. A little quieter now, but Now it was the 4×4 crowd ripping around here. I believe this is the first 4×4 I’ve seen on my hike so far. The view is pretty awesome from the top of this little hill, So I stopped for lunch here. Last cell phone service here as well.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Entering the Black Mountains

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

So far, so colorful…

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Thumb Butte

I dropped down into another wash and started hiking towards thumb Butte. This was a pretty cool area, colorful and jagged rock formations. As I stopped to take off my wind jacket, a 4×4 zipped by. Pretty sure he sped up as he saw me, so I could eat his dust. What a dick. I hate to say it, but pretty typical of this crowd, not very kind to people on foot. They rarely slow down when passing me. And, they seem to leave a trail of garbage in their wake. I’m sorry if this offends any of the responsible 4×4 users out there, but there are just too many bad apples in that crowd for me to have a positive opinion of them as a whole. There, I said it.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Hiking around Thumb Butte

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

I took a route over a hill next to Thumb Butte to connect to another wash. I’m now entering the Black Mountains, for the second time. Remember the Black Mountains, north of Lake Med, in the Jimbilnan Wilderness? This is the same range, it extends all the way down here. The Black Range was pretty awesome up there, and so far, it’s looking pretty cool here, too.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Past Thumb Butte, there’s a pretty extensive network of dirt roads and 4×4 trails here, which make walking mostly pretty easy. However, in the off trail sections, it’s quite rugged.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Spring in the Black Mountains

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

I came across the spring early in the afternoon. I had this one marked on my map, but Since the last section was so dry, I didn’t have my hopes up. I was relieved to see several pools of water throughout this canyon. Now I could comfortably dip into my seven-liter reserve. I didn’t need any water here, but this gave me the confidence I needed to not ration my water supply as strictly as had planned on for this section.

Unfortunately, There was an immense amount of garbage in the area, thanks to the 4×4 folks. Lots of it was burned, used for target practice, and it looks like a lot of it was just plain left here. Needless to say, the wilderness boundary can’t come soon enough. Since I’ve been hiking mostly within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area up to this point, there has been little 4×4 use along the way.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead cityhiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

I walked a wash up to the top of a pass, which yielded excellent views along the way.

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

View from “Union Pass”

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

Looking back at Thumb Butte

hiking the black mountains arizona near bullhead city

View southeast to Mount Nutt Wilderness

Although this pass is not named on the map, I happen to know there’s an old mine/prospect here called Union Pass Mine. So perhaps this is Union Pass. Whatever it’s called, I like it.

ocotillo cactus in mount nutt wilderness arizona

First Ocotillo along my route

teddy bear cholla cactus in mount nutt wilderness arizona

Teddy Bear Cholla

I saw my first Ocotillo plant in this next valley, a sign of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. I don’t believe they typically grow in the Mojave. Of course, these deserts don’t end abruptly just because I crossed the Colorado River or state lines. The region I’m in now is essentially a transition zone between the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts, containing a mix of both environments. These type of things fascinate me, seeing one landscape or environment transition into another. This is one thing I really like about thru hiking, experiencing these transitions.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

I dropped down into another wash at the bottom of the valley and began walking back up into the mountains. I have no idea why they would be named the black mountains, because they are colorful as hell. This is where I really began to the impressed with this mountain range. Not only was there a wide array of colors to these mountains, but they were pointy, jagged, craggy. An excellent combination, perhaps one of the few universal formulas for natural beauty.

I drop down off the mistake of a hill I was on and watched the jagged peaks grow taller as I approached their base. Simultaneously, the sun was going down and the sky turning orange and red. I could have stopped here and camped, but of course, I kept going, through the notch/window I saw from above.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Mount Nutt Wilderness at sunset

I missed a turn that I had planned, and ended up walking a little out of the way, adding more climbing then was necessary. However, things have a way of working out sometimes. I thoroughly enjoyed the view from this vantage point, with the sun setting over sawtooth-like ridges. A deep and narrow canyon cut through the ridge line, forming a window. I was mesmerized by the view, and glad I had missed that turn.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness balck range arizona

A canyon that leads to Secret Pass Canyon. That’s where I’m headed

backpacking mount nutt wilderness balck range arizona

I drop down off the mistake of a hill I was on and watched the jagged peaks grow taller as I approached their base. Simultaneously, the sun was going down and the sky turning orange and red. I could have stopped here and camped, but of course, I kept going, through the notch/window I saw from above.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

An outstanding walk this evening as I enter this unnamed canyon

If I thought the views were good from above, they were nearly perfect here. As I entered the window and began to walk down the wash, tall and colorful rock formations surrounded me on all sides. Yup, I’m ready to camp here. But where? There was nothing flat nor clear.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View from camp

Camp view down the canyon

I walked up hill a ways, and found a spot that a burro had used to bed down for the night. I know it was a burro because of all the scat nearby, and moments later, he showed himself a few hundred feet away. Sorry bud, you’re gonna have to sleep somewhere else tonight. My tent is going right here!

Today is Thanksgiving, but I’m not eating anything special for dinner. Certainly not Turkey. It was sort of a weird feeling all day today, being on this long hike during a holiday. But the truth is, I have a pretty small family, and these days it’s scattered around the country anyhow. Thanksgiving at home would be nearly as lonely. But, I did splurge on some sour patch children for dessert. Beats that tube of cranberry gelatin stuff!

Day 24 – November 26th

Miles: 11.6
Animals Seen: 2 bighorn sheep, ~20 burros

The wind was whipping pretty hard last night, especially for the first couple hours. It was pretty much constant too. I put my earplugs in, something I almost never do in the backcountry. This was the only way I could get some sleep with the sound of the tent flapping in the Wind. It seemed to subside early in the morning.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona tarptent notch li

When I got out of my tent this morning, I almost forgot how beautiful this area is. What an amazing place to wake up to. I began walking down the wash, and realized what a slow day this will be. Not only a beautiful one, but it looks like a lot of off-trail hiking ahead as well. And not the easy kind either.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

This canyon had an “ancient” feel to it

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Walk through this Canyon was short, but I took my time given the beauty of it. There were small caves and arches to see if looking up, and where else would one be looking here? I was completely surrounded by towering rock walls and Crags. The wash was fairly easy to walk here, surprisingly. I certainly wasn’t complaining.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Intersection with Secret Pass Canyon

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The cable

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

As I reached the lower portion of the canyon, the map made it look like there could be a pour off here. There was a cable running across the canyon too, but it was unclear for what purpose. Perhaps left over from the old mining days? Either way, this area was insanely beautiful. I made my way down the steepest part, about a hundred foot descent, a walk down with no pour off this time.

mojave sonoran trail hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona through secret pass canyon

Secret Pass Canyon

backpacking secret pass canyon mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

A narrow pillar of rock separates two canyons

The canyon I have been walking was a feeder Canyon to the larger “secret pass Canyon”. This too was stunning. I saw a bighorn sheep running away on a Ridgeline above me as I walked through an opening of towering rock walls, deserving of some cool name on its own… Guardians of Eden, Gates of Fantasia, something! It almost didn’t even seem real. This morning’s walk was easily among the highlights of this entire route, for me.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The wash through Secret Pass Canyon

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View from my break spot in Secret Pass Canyon.

I took a short break in the wash that runs through Secret Pass Canyon. I sat under a small overhang in the rock wall, which was dramatically carved out in such a way that when one looks up, the contour of the overhang matched the overall shape and contour of the top of the canyon walls. They fit together like a puzzle.

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

backpacking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

More Secret Pass Canyon awesomeness

The excellent scenery of Secret Pass Canyon continued as I left the deepest and steepest part behind. This canyon heads east though, and I need to leave it soon.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Last look at Secret Pass Canyon…

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Looking up the unnamed wash I’ll hike

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The route up

After Secret Pass Canyon, I took a side wash that led me south towards the Wilderness boundary. Here, I will enter Mount Nutt wilderness, which I walked briefly yesterday. This time, I’ll be staying awhile.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Some cool random pillars protruding up from the ground

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

A look back down the wash I hiked up

The walk up this Canyon was another beautiful one. However, much more rugged. The wash split around a Ridge, and I had a choice, go left or go right. My original plan was to go right, and once here in person, the pathway to the right did indeed look a lot more scenic. So that’s just what I did. The upper reaches became thick, Steep and rugged, but paid off with some really awesome scenery.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View from the pass. Not worthy of a name on the map, apparently

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View over the other side of the pass. Wow!!

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

And up next, this…

At the top of the pass, again there was a choice to go left or right. Only this time, you’d have to have a death wish to go right. This was a Labyrinth of vertical Rock Spires and extremely Steep and narrow Canyons, which really didn’t even look physically possible to walk. Left it is!

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Descending into an unnamed canyon

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Looking back up at the pass I came down

The upper reaches of this Canyon were very Scenic as well. Steep it first, and I wasn’t sure what exactly I was getting myself into from the top since the bottom was out of sight. However, as I descended, I could see this one was not going to be a problem. Whew.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

I came down this

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

What an interesting rockwall

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Then I reached the wash. This canyon had a very remote feel to it. There were no signs of human use here. No foot prints, no trash, no ammo casings, no cairns. It’s canyon like this that really make you feel like you are exploring something, and not just hiking it. Sure, it may be the same thing, essentially, but different landscapes, environments and experiences can have a different effect on us. And for me, I felt like I was stepping back in time, or perhaps, into a forgotten corner of the Arizona Wilderness.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The further down I went, the thicker the vegetation became. This Canyon was easily the most vegetation choked of any along this entire route thus far. There were seas of thorn bushes lining the wash, so I took every opportunity I could to follow game trails that stayed high above it. This generally worked out, but at some point, there was always a need to go back down to the wash to cross it and get to the other side or even just follow the wash itself. So, there was much bushwhacking here.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The brush cleared up towards the lower section of the canyon. There were no big pour offs to climb in this one, making it pretty easy, besides the brush.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Looking back on the canyon I have been walking, as it intersects a larger one

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Now I’m in this larger unnamed canyon

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

This canyon is not worth of a name, either

The canyon I was following led me to a larger one. No name, but it seemed deserving of one. There were some impressive rock walls here in this Canyon as well, but the colors reminded me of Utah.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

I walked the wash downhill through a mix of open areas of bedrock and pour offs, which was relatively lush at times. There were some larger trees growing in here, like cottonwoods, that provided shade and a feeling of secrecy.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

There’s the spring

Eventually hit a spot in the canyon where there were two large pour offs to choose from, and both were unclimbable. I saw a bighorn sheep on the ridge above the wash, and so I took a high route instead. That’s the ticket, these animals know how to navigate this canyon better than I do. On the other side was the spring I was looking for. I figured it had water, because there were several large cottonwoods growing here, and they were glowing green like they were Radioactive.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Unnamed spring in the Mount Nutt Wilderness

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

I dropped down to the spring and felt like I was in a forest for a brief moment. There was no doubt I would find water here, and sure enough, I found several pools of water throughout this section of the canyon. I chose the pool that looks the clearest, and filtered 2 L of water. I chugged one right away, just to rehydrate, and took the other one with me, bringing my water reserves to 4L. This should get me by to my next source.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

A look up at the route ahead

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Well this is pretty nice

Now it was time to climb out of this Canyon and continue south. This looked daunting at first, but just a few feet above the wash there was an excellent network of game trails to follow, complete with switchbacks and all. I followed this up about half of the distance I needed to go to reach the top. The lower half was very easygoing. The top half, not so much.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The route up

The upper reaches of the canyon now are quite rugged. The train often Narrows and forces me into the wash itself, which is often a series of Rocky pour offs. All climbable, but obstacles nonetheless. Of course, there’s plenty of vegetation sprinkled in between all of this.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Looking back at the unnamed canyon I walked up

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

For some reason, the burros chose to shit on this yucca plant, a few feet off the ground. Piles of it, mixed with cholla balls. Avoid.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Grapevine Canyon

I reached the top of the pass and could see my next objective: mount Nutt. The terrain ahead looks very challenging. I took a moment to go over my maps hand get eyes on the route I had planned on taking up to the Ridgeline leading to mount Nutt. From here it all looks pretty tough. I’ll drop down to Grapevine Canyon below and have a look at it from below.

wild burros in arizona desert

Lots of Burros around here

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View from Grapevine Canyon

I dropped down into Grapevine valley below, and scared up another herd of wild burros. Seven or eight, perhaps. I have seen a bunch of these guys today, a good twenty of them now.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Upper Grapevine Canyon

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View down Grapevine Canyon

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View north to Mount Nutt ridgeline. This is my route

I started to climb up to the Ridgeline, which would be about 1,700 feet. As always, it looks pretty daunting from Below. Nothing to do but get walkin’.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Once I made it up to the top of my first small saddle, I could see that the nose of the Ridgeline I was wanting to take uphill was more rugged than the map indicates. It sure seems like a lot of 39 ft Cliffs hiding in those 40 ft contour lines. I tried to walk around the base of one, but ultimately ended up climbing to the top. It was about 40 ft, so there’s just no way the map can reflect these challenges. This one was not difficult, just more of an obstacle.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View west from the Black Mountains

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Now it’s starting to look tough…

Above This climb was a series of saddles and more steep climbs, featuring more rock faces like the one I had just climbed. I kept going up, and found some interesting rocks along the way. At one point I found a fragment of an arrowhead, the first one I had seen this entire trip.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Approaching the rockwall

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Grapevine Canyon

Eventually I reached the spot on the map where the nose of this Ridgeline looked the steepest. What I thought should be a relatively easy climb from the map is lookig a lot more challenging in person. Sometimes it’s like that.

climbing a vertical rock wall in the mount nutt wilderness

Looking down the rock wall. Not a whole lot of options.

I found myself at the base of a 60-80 ft vertical rock wall. I walked along the base of it, to the left into the right, as long as I could. There was no easy/obvious route up it, and there was no route around it. I went back to the nose of the Ridgeline, where the rock wall looked like it had the most weaknesses. I could see a climbing route up, but it’s class 4 or class 5. Lots of exposure. With a full backpack on, the difficulty of the climb is magnified.

 

climbing a vertical rock wall in the mount nutt wilderness

Looking up at my route

I decided to give it a go. I began climbing up some awkward obstacles at the base of the climb, and made it up to the first ledge. I was beginning to discover that there was a lot of loose Rock here. I grabbed a few pieces that fell off instantly, and so it was kind of hard to trust anything. To get up to the next ledge, the easiest route was choked with vegetation, including a silver cholla cactus. I kicked the cactus out of the way, and began to rip out some of the little shrubs that were rooting in the cracks. This gave me the room I needed to climb up to the next ledge above.

climbing a vertical rock wall in the mount nutt wilderness

One last look at the rockwall

There was definitely a route up to the top from here. There were excellent footholds the bottom, but the handholds I was unsure of. They just didn’t feel solid enough to trust. My heavy pack doesn’t help, either. With solid hand holds, I’m confident this climb was possible. But the consequences of getting it wrong just weren’t worth it to me. A 50 ft fall would mean certain injury, if not death. I turned around and was thankful that I was able to down climb what I had come up, and reach the safety of solid round again.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Sunset in the Mount Nutt Wilderness

mount nutt arizona black mountains sunset

mount nutt arizona black mountains sunset

The sun was setting fast now, with about 30 minutes of daylight to go. I headed back down to a saddle below, where I had seen a spot that burros had cleared to bed down. The spot looked even better now, having just made it down off that rock wall and with the sun below the Horizon now.

tarptent notch li campsite along mojave sonoran trail thru hike in mount nutt wilderness

Camp below Mount Nutt

I was hoping to have made it up to the Ridgeline leading to Mount Nutt this evening. That would have set me up real nice for tomorrow’s hike, bagging the summit and continuing on the Ridgeline South for a few miles. Now, I am not sure how I will be able to reach the Ridgeline, if it all. I only covered 11.6 miles today, which was also disappointing. However, this was one of the most scenic days for me along this route, so I can’t be too disappointed with the low mileage day. Still, I need to figure out a way up on that Ridgeline, or will have to come up with some alternate route. Things have worked out pretty well for me on this route so far, this is pretty much the first time I’ve been in this situation. Considering what I had planned, I guess I can’t be too upset with that.

Day 25 – November 27th

Miles: 13
Animals Seen: 15 burros, Jack rabbit

tarptent notch li campsite along mojave sonoran trail thru hike in mount nutt wilderness

The rock wall I tried climbing last night

tarptent notch li campsite along mojave sonoran trail thru hike in mount nutt wilderness

Grapevine canyon

Sleep came easy last night, however, every time I moved the slightest bit my knee hurt. This was from being impaled by the thorn of a yucca plant yesterday. It drew blood, but I didn’t think anything of it. I did hit it pretty hard, straight on the kneecap, it probably hit bone. And it was extremely sore.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Looking up at the Rockwall I couldn’t pass from Grapevine Canyon below

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Grapevine Canyon

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Thick brush in a few places

After breaking down camp, I made my way down into the valley below. Technically, this was still Grapevine Valley, which I will follow pretty much all the way up. It was thick and thorny, exactly why I wanted to avoid the wash in the first place and take a high route, like I did yesterday. But I’m on Plan B now. There were a couple of burros dorm in the canyon. These guys are literally everywhere.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Approaching the crux

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Getting rockier

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Hey look, water!

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

I follow the main wash up until it was time to take a side Canyon. This Canyon contained what looked like the Crux of the entire route up to the Ridgeline, a 200-foot section or so of steep terrain where I would be funneled into the steepest part of the canyon. It was very thick and thorny, but much of it could be avoided by following game trails that stay a little higher than the wash itself. This eventually led me to the choke point. Here, it was extremely Brushy, with a couple of larger cottonwood trees. After crawling through some brush, I reached a pour off, about 12 ft tall. I was surprised to see water dripping down the rocks and into a small pool below. It was definitely filterable. I probably should have filtered a liter or two here, but I passed. This poor off was easily climbable, and I was surprised to see a rope in place here. I guess I’m not the first one to come through here. However, this is definitely not the standard route for those who want to climb mount Nutt. It’s typically approached from Cottonwood Canyon on the Southside.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Pretty thick through here

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

A couple of pour offs to climb

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

The climb up

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Some really nice spots tucked away in these cantons

I climbed up the first pour off and reached a second one. Another rope in place, more thick brush. This led me to a third pour off, with yet another rope. All of these pour offs were easily climbable without the ropes.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

After climbing out of the canyon, I began zigzagging my way up the mountain side, avoiding the steepest parts. At times, there were excellent game trails to follow. Other times, it was a bushwhack. Overall it felt slow going for the amount of distance I covered.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Below Mount Nutt

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

View north

The views were pretty good throughout this morning’s climb, with Mount Nutt looking quite prominent now above me at times. After looking at my maps, I realized mount Nutt wasn’t even the high point. It was actually Nutt benchmark, about 100′ higher. Perhaps mount Nutt offered a better view, that I don’t doubt, but since it would add at least a mile of tough hiking/scrambling to reach it once I reached the Ridgeline, I decided that I would skip it. It’s been so slow going that I need to cover the miles.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Saddle between Mount Nutt and Nutt Benchmark

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona

Still, even without the summit, I still need to gain the crest of the black mountains. Eventually I did so and was glad to be out of the canyon. However, the Ridgeline wasn’t quite as nice as I was hoping. In fact, it looks quite barren at times. That was my initial impression, anyways.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

I would say that even though my immediate surroundings looked pretty bland, the bigger picture was very impressive. The views were big and it was a nice change to being down in the canyons for the last few days. It was pretty flat here, but I could see Nutt Benchmark, my next destination, not all that far away.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

Approaching Nutt Benchmark

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

Nutt Benchmark ridgeline, view east over Sacramento Valley

The approach to Nutt Benchmark was pretty nice. I walked along the edge of the steep drop off along the crest of the Black Mountains, overlooking Sacramento Valley to the east.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark summit view

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark summit view

Nutt Benchmark Summit View north

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark summit view

Lake Mojave in the distance

I reached Nutt benchmark, 5210′, and soaked in the highest View of this section, and the second-highest so far along this route, I believe. It was a Wilderness view to the North and South, but to the east and west, civilization. It was cool looking back to the north at everything I had recently traversed, from Spirit Mountain and Lake Mohave to thumb Butte and the secret pass canyon area.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark summit view

Nutt Benchmark Summit View South to Black Mesa

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark summit view

Black Mesa. I’ll be walking the top tomorrow.

Looking to the South from Nutt Benchmark, black Mesa looms large on the horizon. Still looking quite distant, but with the haze in the air, seemed shrouded in mystery. The wonders and challenges ahead weigh heavy on my mind.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

Black Mountains ridgeline view south

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

I descended the benchmark and began walking the Ridgeline South. Of course, it looks more rugged in person than it did on the map. This was the beginning of a long and tedious afternoon, hopping rocks and dodging cacti. Silver cholla and prickly pear were prominent, among others.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

A pretty awesome ridgeline to walk

Views continued to be quite good here. I got the impression this ridgeline is seldom hiked.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

Game trail skirts around peak 4975

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

The route

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona nutt benchmark

Looking back at the route around 4975

I reached the base of peak 4975, and was thankful for a game trail that skirted the side of it. At the top, it looked like the rock wall I faced last night. I was even happier when the game Trail took me around multiple faces of the mountain and directly to the saddle I wanted to reach, avoiding any elevation gain. It was steep at times but quite manageable.

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

On the map, the route ahead now looked quite easy. But of course, it was tedious and slow. Black boulders were scattered everywhere, and the name “black mountains” now made more sense. There was no trail or path to follow here, one can only hop rocks and boulders of black basalt.

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

Peak 4975 and ridgeline to 4955

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

Thimble Mountain at the end of the ridgeline. That’s it for the Black Mountains!

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

The final bit of the ridgeline became quite tedious. None of it was terribly steep, but required constant concentration of footing on all of the odd shaped rocks and boulders.

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

The route down off the Black Mountains

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

I came down this

black mountains arizona ridgeline traverse

Thimble Mountain ahead

I reached the final saddle on the Ridgeline, where it was time to drop down into the canyon below and make my way down to Cold Springs station. The Descent looked like it was going to be a slip and slide Fest, and for the most part, it was. At least for the first few hundred feet, then it was time to Contour over to a saddle on another Ridgeline. This was very tedious as well, going up and over a series of small undulations littered with rocks and boulders. And like always, cactus in between. I just put my head down and went as fast as I could, knowing that the faster I go, the sooner I reach water.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

I came down the ridgeline from the saddle in the center

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

View north, Mount Nutt Wilderness

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

Cholla forest. No way!!

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

View south, Thimble Mountain left. I’ll drop down into this valley to avoid the cholla on the ridge

When I reached the Ridgeline I was contouring to, it seemed like they’re were even more cacti here. Further down the Ridgeline, I encountered a teddy bear Cholla Forest. Well, that’s the end of my walk on this Ridgeline. Only a crazy person would walk through that. Wait, that sounds like me, though. I like to bushwhack, but noth through cholla. That’s where i draw the line. I dropped down to the canyon east of the Ridgeline in an attempt to avoid the cholla.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

First saguaro cactus!

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

Down in the wash now, there were less cactus but the Bedrock the wash was cut deep at times, making progress slow in that way. I found a few potholes of water, which I passed on because it was nasty, tough to reach and I was so close to cold springs Station. I saw my first a saguaro cactus of the trip here in this Canyon as well. Like the Joshua tree is the iconic symbol of the Mojave Desert, the Saguaro is the iconic symbol of the Sonoran Desert. Always fascinated by the slow transition of landscapes, seeing this first saguaro cactus made me happy.

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

hiking mount nutt wilderness black range arizona thimble mountain

The wash became somewhat of a Slot Canyon at times, especially towards the lower reaches. It was Brushy, but no Thorn bushes. It was fairly enjoyable for what it was. There were a lot of skeletons an animal bones in here, including a bighorn sheep.

The mount Nutt wilderness boundary finally came, and I was only a half mile Now from the main road. I believe I was crossing a thin strip of private property here, so I stayed low in the wash. I climbed a steep Bank leading up to the main road and had a short walk to Cold Springs station from here.

historic route 66 in arizona at cold springs station

Cold Springs Station

historic route 66 in arizona at cold springs station

Break time

Cold Spring Station is located on the historic Route 66 road, and operates mostly as a souvenir shop. I knew they had cold drinks, and figured they wouldn’t mind letting me use their water spigot as a paying customer, so this was my goal with this stop. When I arrived, the power was out at the store. Turns out, somebody had hit a power pole in the nearby town of Oatman. I browsed the store by flashlight, bought a Gatorade, Coke, hot fries and beef jerky. The woman running the store took me out back to use the hose for water, but with the power out, water trickled out of the hose for a moment and that was it. Bummer. For the moment though, I enjoyed a bench to sit on with a couple of cold drinks and food that was different from what I had in my bag. There were some friendly folks to talk to and share stories with.

historic route 66 in arizona at cold springs station

Route 66!

As I was getting ready to leave, the power came back on. Sweet! I filled up with six liters, hoping this will get me across black Mesa. With the Sun setting, I walked Route 66 for half a mile or so before taking a dirt road towards black Mesa. After a hard day in the mountains like today, this stop at Cold Spring Station really lifted my spirits.

 

tarptent notch li campsite along mojave sonoran trail thru hike in mount nutt wilderness warm springs wilderness

View of Thimble Mountain from camp in Warm Springs Wilderness

I walked a mile or so down the dirt road and set up camp. Nothing special, but the day has passed and its time to stop. I will be set up pretty nice for black Mesa tomorrow, which is beginning to look quite a bit longer than I thought from memory! What little references there are to it online list it as 10 miles long, yet when I checked this evening, I estimate my route will be at least 23 miles to traverse its entire length. Geez. I hope it’s easier walking then today was.

Day 26 – November 28th

Miles: 18.9
Animals Seen: 35 burros

Last night there were several burros in coyotes nearby. None of them caused any issues, but they could be heard. There was also some one car camping a half mile up the road from where I camped. I could see their flashlights after Dark, and walked right by them on the way into the Warm Springs Wilderness this morning.

cool spring, warm springs wilderness, arizona

Lots of water here

cool spring, warm springs wilderness, arizona

Cool Spring. Not to be confused with the nearby Cold Spring

There was a spring called Cool Spring just up the road from where I camped, right before reaching the Wilderness boundary. There was more water here been almost anywhere else I’ve come across on this route, besides large pools of water like Rogers spring near Lake Mead. I followed the creek bed and found multiple pools of water, some of them flowing, and even saw tadpoles in one. Of course, the burros had shit everywhere. I kept walking Upstream with the hope that I would find the source, but all I found was more water. I eventually settled on one of the larger and more clear pools to draw water from. I had 5L of water, so I filtered 2, chugged one, and walked away with 6. This ought to get me across black Mesa, which I hope to do most of in one day.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Now entering Warm Springs Wilderness

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

After leaving the spring behind, the road ended abruptly as I reached the Wilderness boundary. The map marked a Jeep trail running into the Wilderness, which I had planned on walking. This was nowhere to be found. The route I had planned to take was a roundabout way to get up to the top of the Mesa, but it would have been faster if the Jeep Trail existed. Since it didn’t, I figured I might as well take a shorter and more direct route, since I’ll be off Trail either way.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

The route up Black Mesa

After looking at the map and scouting a new route, I began to follow game trails that led me in that direction. The task ahead of me looked daunting, reaching the top of the Mesa by Crossing this Valley choked with rocks and Cactus. The game Trails were fairly weak down this low, braided and nothing more than a couple of non-human footprints here and there. Lots of interesting rocks though!

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

View of Mount Nutt Wilderness from Warm Springs Wilderness

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Nearing the top of Black Mesa

As the terrain became steeper, the game Trails became stronger. This was a good indication, as there must be a good path leading up if there are so many animals following it. I saw several burros on the way up. I noticed that the best trails were littered with scat, which made it easy to choose when they branched off. The views were getting quite a bit better as I gained elevation.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

First view from the top of Black Mesa

I made it to the top of black Mesa around 10 am. From here, I still had to climb up another 300+ ft to reach peak 4360, the high point of my route along the Mesa. None of the “peaks” here have any prominence, they’re mostly just slightly higher than everything else. This one was just a broad flat top.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

View south

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

View north

My first impression from the top of the Mesa was a good one. It did not seem to Rocky or full of vegetation, mostly just flat and easy to walk with some good mountain views in the distance.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Hiking Black Mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

However, I didn’t have to walk far before encountering a lot more rocks and Cactus obstacles. Maybe this wouldn’t be the easy walk I was hoping for. After all, I need to cover something like 25 miles today in order to do the Mesa in one day. While I don’t expect to cover 25 miles, I would at least like to hit 20 and do the majority of the Mesa today.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Big canyons along the edges of Black Mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

The walking alternated between easy and tedious throughout the day. Sometimes there were a lot of cacti, rocks and boulders and other times it was a bit more barren. Still, progress was not that fast. I tripped over a ton of rocks, and twisted my ankle more than once. The views were enticing at first, looking down into large desolate Canyons that form a maze all the way around this Mesa. But it wasn’t often that I had a view from the edge. Typically, I was just walking a broad flat landform overlooking a hazy skyline of distant mountains.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

I reached a critical point where I had two options. One, I could continue on the route as planned and attempt to hike the entire Mesa in one day. My water cache is placed at the end of this. However, getting off the Mesa at the end appeared to involve some cliffs. It didn’t look very promising from satellite, although the topographical maps didn’t make it look all that bad. Option 2, follow a very long section of the Mesa down to the valley floor at Warm Springs, the spring for which this Wilderness Area is named. I would have to come back and get my water cache after the hike, but this route would shave off a solid 10 miles, and be much more direct to my next destination. Since the previous two days I had only totaled 13 and 11 miles, I felt like I needed to make up for this. I also felt like I wouldn’t be missing a whole lot since I had already walked half the Mesa and got a pretty good vibe for what it is. If it was an incredible walk, things would be different, but it was slow and tedious. This made the decision rather easy. Option 2 it is.

plane crash site memorial on black mesa arizona desert

A plane crash memorial

plane crash site memorial on black mesa arizona desert

Part of the fuselage

While walking my option 2 route, I came across something interesting in the distance. I saw a small American flag waving, with some sort of debris propped up against a yucca plant. With a closer look, it was obvious this debris was from an airplane, part of a plane crash. This was a memorial. Now, I had come across plane crashes in the past that I was expecting to find, having known they were there. But coming across one unexpectedly, alone, all the way out here in the middle of nowhere, just hit me. It was a somber moment. One couldn’t help but think about those who lost their lives here in this remote place, their last moments up here on this mesa. Indeed, a reminder to be thankful for each day we are here on this planet.

 

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

When it was time to begin dropping down off the Mesa, the real tedious work began. There were many rocks and Cactus obstacles now, with the occasional game Trail to follow. Even the game Trails though, they are littered with rocks as well. It’s not a solid path, it’s still full of tripping hazards. The steepest part of The Descent really began to wear on me. A sea of Basalt boulders to climb over, my patience wearing thin. It’s very mentally taxing to have to concentrate on every step in this way, with no opportunity to let your guard down.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Coming down Black Mesa near Warm Springs, view south

The final descent down to Warm Springs and the valley below did, however, yield some excellent views. I completed the obstacle course and reached the valley floor. This too was littered with many boulders, here at the very base of the mesa.

warm springs, warm springs wilderness, black moutnains, arizona

Warm Springs. Lots of Burro scat

Warm Springs, which was guarded by about 25 burros. They scattered and let me have the spring for a while. Honestly, I wasn’t really that interested in it. It reminded me of a cattle pond in New Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail. The dirtiest of dirty, smelling just as foul. A sea of shit and skeletons. No thanks, you burros can keep the toilet you created. I did, however, stop and utilize the shade of one of the nearby trees. I have been in direct sunlight all day and was feeling it now. A 10-minute break sure felt great.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

The map marks a road leading out of here, but this is a Wilderness Area now, and the road is no longer in existence. It’s extremely Rocky too, not much better than walking off Trail. I followed this to the Wilderness boundary, where the road appeared. It seemed pretty good, for a minute.

 

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

There were some nice views of high country behind me as I hiked towards the southern end of Warm Springs Wilderness. I sure did feel good to be walking this flat, open valley now after a few days off-trail.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Sunset in Warm Springs Wilderness

With the sun setting I walked as fast as I could down the road. There were some spots where it was good, others where it was so Rocky that it was not even helpful being a road at all. Especially the final 45 minutes of the day. The road was littered with so many rocks that all I could do was awkwardly stumble down the road. There was also nowhere to camp. This road ran straight to the Horizon, and on both sides it was just Boulders of basalt. Eventually, I found a spot where, perhaps, someone had cleared out some rocks to make room for a car camping spot. It was about the size of a small car. After clearing a few more rocks out of the way, I finally found a spot to set up my tent. Whew, what a day.

Day 27 – November 29th

Miles: 13.4
Animals Seen: 10 burros

tarptent notch li warm springs wilderness arizona campsite

Warm Springs Wilderness campsite

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Slept poorly last night. Set up camp on a downward slope, apparently, and head to flip my air mattress around in the middle of the night. There was an occasional burro walking around nearby making noise, too.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

I’ll just walk this wash instead of the crappy road

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

The road I was walking last night continued to suck this morning. It was so bad that I eventually gave up on the road and started to walk across country directly towards my destination, a couple of truck stops along I-40 with fast food options. Surprisingly, this was much easier than walking the road. In fact, it was almost comical how much easier it was. It doesn’t make any sense; a road is supposed to be better than not having a road. It’s almost as if they made the road worse on purpose somehow.

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

Cross country across the open desert

backpacking the warm springs wilderness arizona over black mesa

The cross country walk was pretty easy here. There was an occasional drainage to go up and over comma but the tallest I had to climb over was like 40 feet, and this was very occasional. The walk was rather dull, but there were some cool rocks scattered throughout this area. Chalcedony, agate, jasper, fire agate, and even finger sized quartz crystals with points. The quartz crystals we’re pretty far downstream in the washes though, and a little weathered. I marked the location, hoping to return some day and follow the wash up stream, perhaps finding the source.

I saw a truck in the distance, parked in the middle of the desert. It was basically along the route I was walking, and instead of avoiding it, I walked right up to it. I thought it might be a rail road or utility worker. I noticed very new looking picnic table, a fire pit, and some scrap wood.

I said hello as I approached, and I could see a guy somewhat scrambling to get his stuff together, putting his shirt on and such. I asked him what was going on with the picnic table, he said he built it recently. I asked if this was a mining claim or something, but he said it was just a small plot of land he bought to enjoy for retirement. I was surprised to learn it was private property, and apologized for encroaching. He didn’t mind my presence though, I think he was just curious about what I was doing, seeing a random guy walking through the vast expanse of this desert valley. His name was Duane, and in his words, He was just out here drinking whiskey and shooting stuff. Well alright then. He offered me a swig of whiskey, but it was 10 AM and so I declined. Perhaps if it were closer to quittin’ time. Nice guy though. We talked for about 10 minutes and I moved on.

The constant drone of engines on the interstate became louder and louder. Soon, I could see with detail now The truck stops in the distance; a pilot station with a Wendy’s, and a loves station with a Carl’s Jr. Paralleling the interstate is an extremely busy railway. Trains pass here at least every five minutes. Tracks run in both directions, and as I waited for one train to pass, before I could cross the tracks, another train passed in the other direction. This is one of the busiest rail systems in the west, bringing goods in and out of the ports In California and distributing them throughout the country. Consume those goods, America. Be a good consumer and buy, buy BUY!!

I walked up the final steep hill leading out of the wash and up the embankment for the overpass above interstate 40. It’s a bizarre feeling, to crest one final hill and be instantly presented with the madness of civilization just a few feet away. But there it was.

I walked into Carl’s Jr at the loves station and ordered monster Angus thick burger combo. It’s a full one-pound burger, but I put it down like it was nothing. I could have eaten perhaps another one. I could feel the eyes of others upon me, watching me scarf down my meal, noticing my backpack and gear, criticizing my dirty and tattered clothes. I kind of enjoy playing the homeless guy, although my high end gear gives me away. People don’t know what to make of me. It’s comical watching them whisper amongst themselves.

After my meal it was time for a shower. I had never actually gotten a shower from a truck stop before, so I was trying to figure out the process. I went up to the counter and asked for a shower, and I was given a slip with a keycode on it and told to proceed to shower number one. I was a little confused because I was expecting to pay for this, but she just said “you’re good to go”. So now I’m thinking, maybe I pay after the shower? Maybe it’s timed, maybe I put quarters in, something.

The showers were really nice. You get a private shower room, there were towels waiting, the whole room was done up in tile. It was clean and comfortable. Much more than I was expecting. Washing off five days of filth felt Amazing.

After my shower, I went back up to the counter, but there was somebody different there. I said I just had a shower, how do I pay? The guy said, you pay before the shower… He just smiled and said I guess you’re good to go! So that was a really nice experience. I can only imagine the first Clerk I spoke to saw how dirty I looked and maybe just felt bad for me. Ha.

I thought about asking if I could fill my water bottles from the fountain drink machine, but considering I just got a free shower, just bought a gallon jug of water and distributed that amongst my smart water bottles. All topped off and ready for more hiking.

From here it’s a 6.5 mile walk along I-40. Yeah, that’s the downside of taking this route over to these truck stops. The other route I plotted directly connects Warm Springs with Havasu Wilderness, skipping this stop and the possibility of getting water before entering the wilderness again. Pros and cons. And unfortunately, it’s not really possible to walk too far away from the highway, because there are many washes and ridges perpendicular to it. They’re deep enough that you’ll find the route closest to the interstate the easiest, and just make quick work of it.

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The road to Havasu Wilderness

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

I left I-40 at the Needle Mountain Rd exit. It was only two and a half mile walk from the interstate to the Havasu Wilderness boundary. On google maps, there’s a spot marked “Desert Tromp”, which is apparently a big RV camper meet up event. You can really tell too, the place looks trashed. There were abandoned vehicles here, one was burned and all shot up. Gee, this seems like an event I really want to be part of!

 

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

secondary copper minerals malachite and chrysocolla found near lake havasu

Malachite and chrysocolla

There was an old copper prospect along the way, which I spent a good while exploring. There was no infrastructure here, just a ton of blue and green colored rocks on the ground. Malachite is the green, Azurite is the blue. Most copper deposits I’ve seen in the past, likely pretty low grade, featured malachite. Here though, blue was the dominant color. Very cool to find.

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

When I reached the Havasu Wilderness Boundary, I was disappointed to see assigned that said no camping. The Havasu Wilderness lies within the Havasu Wildlife Refuge, and anything that has national in it Typically comes with a bunch of regulations. When I was doing my planning for this hike, I must have overlooked this. I was planning on camping high up on a ridge line of a peak, but that’s not happening now. I’m glad it was close to 4 PM at this point, that’s it where midday or early morning this would have been a real hassle because I don’t think I could hike the entire Wilderness without a full day.

So, without any other choice really, I set up camp just before the wilderness boundary. On the bright side, I used the rest of the daylight to explore another prospect just walk around looking for rocks. After all, I always want to have time to do these kind of things, but I always end up just walking and walking. Now I have the perfect excuse to stop early for the day.

hiking lake havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Camp just outside of Havasu Wilderness

Tomorrow though, I will walk the entire wilderness and bag a few peaks along the way. It’s almost certain now that I will reach Lake Havasu City late in the afternoon or early evening.

Day 28 – November 30th

Miles: 15.6
Animals Seen: 5 burros, 2 Jack rabbits

After leaving camp, it was a short walk before the scenery started to impress. As I walked a wash, around each Corner and Bend, above each Ridge, pointy Peaks came into view. I could tell today was going to be a good day.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The Needles. I’m going to walk the top of that ridgeline on the right

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

I began the climb up to an unnamed Peak, the only reference to it I could find online calls it “havasuper peak”. It’s not just a peak though, it’s a long Ridgeline with a sheer vertical rock wall. It looked pretty walkable on the map, so that’s where I’m headed. Like many of the peaks in the Havasu wilderness, the climb is a few hundred feet, not thousands. Yet somehow, they seem to offer the same wow factor as much taller mountains.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

On the ridge

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

In less than 10 minutes climbing, I gained the Ridgeline. Good view, sure, but I still had a short climb to a higher vantage point uphill along the Ridgeline. And here, wow! The east side is a big drop, and farther up the Ridgeline, a higher point Looms, even over hanging a bit. Just incredible. This part of the Havasu Wilderness is called “The Needles”, and it’s the view for which the town of Needles, CA across the Colorado River was named for. Fun fact.

As I continue to climb in elevation along the Ridgeline, I reach a point where I need to skirt around the High Points on a lower route. This is short-lived, and I find myself back up on the Ridgeline soon. The grippy "velcro rock" makes it easy to climb this steep Rock face.

Needles ridgeline

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

As I continue to climb in elevation along the Ridgeline, I reach a point where I need to skirt around the High Points on a lower route. This is short-lived, and I find myself back up on the Ridgeline soon.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse gold dome peak

Gold Dome Peak

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse gold dome peak

Gold Dome close up

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse gold dome peak

Window to Gold Dome

Not only is the Ridgeline I’m walking outstanding on its own, but across the valley, Gold Dome Peak commands your attention. One large vertical spire surrounded by slightly lower Spires and Crags, it’s impossible to ignore.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

The Colorado River. Arizona on the left, California on the right

Next, I get a proper view to the west of the Colorado River and into the Mojave Desert of California beyond. Here, you can really appreciate the Colorado River for what it is; a lifeline. Water in the desert, and lots of it. It sustains life for 40 million people, as well as makes large-scale agriculture in this otherwise arid region possible. When you think of things like this, it makes your surroundings seem so much more significant. And that’s what these long hikes are all about. Exploring landscapes in great detail, learning about it, understanding it and how it works, and ultimately, gaining a new respect for the land.

The grippy "velcro rock" makes it easy to climb this steep Rock face.

The grippy "velcro rock" makes it easy to climb this steep Rock face.

View across the canyon to Gold Dome

The grippy "velcro rock" makes it easy to climb this steep Rock face.

I skirt around another high point. This one requires a climb up a rather steep looking rockface, but fortunately, the grippy “velcro rock” makes it easy to gain the ridge again. The view just don’t stop!

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona needles ridgeline traverse colorado river

Back up on the top of the ridge line, A View to the South opens up. Here, much of the rest of the ridge line I’m walking becomes visible. This, as well as the rest of the Havasu wilderness to the South. This view was probably my favorite along this entire route so far. And honestly, one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve been. The Ridgeline south of gold Dome Peak continues to be pointy and jagged. Beyond that, a short section of open desert with scattered mountain peaks give way to a field of sand dunes at the base of a Lone Peak. To the West, Topock Gorge and the Colorado River. The shores are green, and the water is a deep turquoise blue. The air is hazy, adding a feeling of mystery to the distant mountains. Every direction I looked, I was dumbfounded, refusing to believe what my eyes are showing me. It felt like a dream world, something made for lord of the rings or the like.

Next, I get a proper view to the west of the Colorado River and into the Mojave Desert of California beyond. Here, you can really appreciate the Colorado River for what it is; a lifeline. Water in the desert, and lots of it. It sustains life for 40 million people, as well as makes large-scale agriculture in this otherwise arid region possible. When you think of things like this, it makes your surroundings seem so much more significant. And that's what these long hikes are all about. Exploring landscapes in great detail, learning about it, understanding it and how it works, and ultimately, gaining a new respect for the land. 

Havasu Wilderness panorama

Next, I get a proper view to the west of the Colorado River and into the Mojave Desert of California beyond. Here, you can really appreciate the Colorado River for what it is; a lifeline. Water in the desert, and lots of it. It sustains life for 40 million people, as well as makes large-scale agriculture in this otherwise arid region possible. When you think of things like this, it makes your surroundings seem so much more significant. And that's what these long hikes are all about. Exploring landscapes in great detail, learning about it, understanding it and how it works, and ultimately, gaining a new respect for the land. 

View south

Next, I get a proper view to the west of the Colorado River and into the Mojave Desert of California beyond. Here, you can really appreciate the Colorado River for what it is; a lifeline. Water in the desert, and lots of it. It sustains life for 40 million people, as well as makes large-scale agriculture in this otherwise arid region possible. When you think of things like this, it makes your surroundings seem so much more significant. And that's what these long hikes are all about. Exploring landscapes in great detail, learning about it, understanding it and how it works, and ultimately, gaining a new respect for the land. 

Topock Gorge, Colorado River

Probably the best vantage point came from a knife edge section. Just below the top of the knife-edge, there was a bit of a cave carved into the Mountainside. It was large enough and flat enough to Cowboy Camp here, if only it were legal. This would provide killer view of gold Dome Peak. If only. Sections of Rock just below the top of the knife-edge for hollow, almost as if it was a small lava tube.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

View south from the ridgeline over Havasu Wilderness

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

I spent way too much time up here on this Ridgeline. But I don’t regret it. It just means that I probably won’t have time to bag some of the other Peaks I was planning on hitting along this route. I began The Descent down the knife edge. As I looked back, the section of the Ridgeline I had been walking was over hanging. So cool!

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

I reached a point on the Ridgeline where I needed to drop down off of it, as forward progress was no longer possible. The initial descent was steep but very manageable. This led me into a series of canyons and washes, a maze of sorts. There were small and large pour offs, but eventually I found my way by skirting the hillside above all of this.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

View from the pass

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Where I’m going…

I went over a small pass and dropped down into the canyon separating the Ridgeline I had just walked from gold Dome Peak. Outstanding views here as well.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

A scenic stroll through this unnamed wash