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

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

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Went around this one

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

A fun climb down

Down in the wash, I was making better progress now. There were a couple of climbs down small pour offs, and at the end of the canyon, one final obstacle; a 15-foot down climb of a vertical pour off.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Peak 1144. The view would be outstanding over these dunes

Next, I walked a short section of open desert, surrounded by peaks I wish I had time to climb. I headed for the sand dunes, which I will need to go up and over. I had debated on climbing Peak 1144, which sits just south of, and surrounded by, the sand dunes. On the map it looks pretty simple and straightforward. Up close, I could tell it would be more involved, more time consuming. I had to pass. Since there’s no camping allowed in the wilderness here, I need to make sure I can get out before sunset. I’d really like to make it to the main Highway before dark.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The Colorado River is not that far away…

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Havasu Wilderness sand dunes panorama

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Needles behind the sand dunes

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Even though I’ll skip peak 1144, I’ll still walk the sand dunes. The dunes were a cool experience, providing unique views of the Needles in the distance with the textured look of the wavy, untouched sand in the foreground. Plus, not all of the sand was deep, much of it was packed hard enough to not be a complete nuisance to hike through.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Good scenery behind me, loose gravel in front of me

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

After the sand dunes, it was a couple mile slog through a loose gravel wash. Tough to walk through, and the scenery was less impressive. I saw a couple of burros here.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Looking back on the route I’ve hiked through the Havasu Wilderness from the pass

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Still some rough coutnry ahead

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Open up over pass at the head of the canyon to drop me down into another wash on the other side. I could see Lake Havasu City in the distance now, but still a long way off. In between looks to me at least a few more miles of some pretty rugged country.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The route down the cairned canyon

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

I had planned on taking a different route, a different direction, through this Canyon, up and over another small pass. However, I noticed some cairns leading down another Canyon. This one will take me where I want to go, roughly, so I followed the cairned route. I hope not to regret this.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The canyon quickly narrowed, an turnout out to be a really great hike. It was mostly pretty easy to walk, but I knew there was probably a big obstacle at the end. But that’s a problem for later.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The lower part of the canyon widened a bit, but was very deep and comprised of some pretty sheer rock faces. There even appeared to be some saves, but I didn’t have time to poke around. After all, it’s town day, and there’s a cheeseburger at the end of the rainbow for me if I hurry.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The pour off is ahead

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The final obstacle: an 80-100′ vertical pour off

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Looking back up the canyon near the pour off

After a couple of small pour offs and down climbs in the lower reaches of this Canyon, I reached one final obstacle at the end; an 80-100′ vertical pour off. There were a couple of anchor points at the top of it for ropes, but no ropes.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

The route around the pour off is along the ledge on the right

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

A look back at the unnamed canyon with the pour off

Luckily, there is a way to skirt around the top of the pour off, and walk a class 2 route down around the worst of it. Whew! I am really glad I took this route down this canyon, it really worked out.

Down in the wash now, I was two and a half miles away from the main road with an hour of daylight left. I followed this wash, up another Ridge line and down into another wash, and followed that to the end of the Wilderness boundary. About a mile before hitting the main road, there were a bunch of RVs parked. I passed about 20 of them. These are more of the long-term crowd, common to the Lake Havasu area and the general region here.

hiking havasu wilderness and wildlife refuge arizona

Hwy 95

I reached hwy 95 at sunset, and opted for an Uber ride instead of hitching. Nobody picks up hitchhikers at this time today, especially not in this part of the country. Lake Havasu City is pretty spread out, and my hotel is pretty far away… it’s unlikely I would be able to Hitch directly there anyways, so the Uber ride really saved the day.

I stayed at the lake Place Inn, mainly for its location. Fairly close to grocery, post office, and the marina that I will be utilizing to take a ferry ride across with the Colorado River to begin section 7. I checked in at the motel and picked up my bounce box. Time to get started on backing up all of my media from the last three sections.

Day 29 – December 1st

Zero day

arizona rockhounding lake havasu

Rocks I picked up along the last section. I mail these home when I get to town

Didn’t sleep that great last night. Someone tried to get into my hotel room in the middle of the night, trying to enter the wrong room I guess. I walked about a mile to McDonald’s for breakfast, and then hit the grocery store on the way back.

I backed up all of my photos and video today. I also spent a good amount of time doing some rerouting for the next section.

Day 30 – December 2nd

Zero day

Did my grocery shopping, picked up boxes from the post office, did lots of route planning and modifications, and ate a ton of food. I washed out my tent and scrubbed the zippers. They have been giving me a lot of trouble over the past few weeks, and I have not been able to fully zip up the inner netting. Starting to have issues with the outer fly zippers too. Dirt, sand and grime built up and make the zippers catch and stick. So after washing it, I went to the hardware store and bought silicone spray to lube up the zippers. Hopefully they will operate smoothly now.

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