Creating new thru-hiking routes & guides, hiking videos, outdoor documentaries, backpacking trip reports, trail journals, photos and more!

Latest

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.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 5: Searchlight to Bullhead City

 

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 5: Searchlight to Bullhead City

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

Spirit Mountain, high point of the Mojave-Sonoran Trail

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 5 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 5

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 5 – Searchlight to Bullhead City, 58 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 5 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 5 Journal

Day 18 – November 20th

Miles: 22.9
No animals seen

Ate breakfast at McDonald’s, along with some fresh fruit… Blackberries and banana. Took care of a few more chores and left Searchlight at 7:30. It felt good to be walking out of this town. If I never come back here that would be great.

hiking eldorado valley south of searchlight nevada hiking eldorado valley south of searchlight nevada

I walked the paved road east, leading to cottonwood cove, for about 2 miles before taking a dirt road South. The scenery here was rather bland. Low rolling hills, and just not that much to see. Easy to cover miles, though.

The first few hours were spent going up and over a small set of hills, and following a wash that leads out to the Nellis wash Wilderness. I won’t quite enter the Nellis wash wilderness though. Instead, my route parallels its western boundary.

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

View across Nellis Wash Wilderness to Spirit Mountain, Newberry Mountain Range

view of lake mojave and colorado river from nellis wash

View east to the Colorado River and Lake Mojave

When I reached the lower end of the wash, I went up over a hilla nd got my first distant view over the Nellis Wash Wilderness, towards the Newberry Mountain Range and Spirit Mountain. There was a distant view of Lake Mojave too. But in between all that, where I found myself, it was cross country travel perpendicular to the direction of all of the washes leading to the Colorado River. Just open desert hiking.

Open desert trek across Nellis Wash

I find the best way to deal with boring sections like this one is to put on some good tunes and jam out. I’m a metal head, liking stuff that’s heavy and high energy. Instead of trudging through the desert, I felt like I was flying across it with ease. With metal, anything is possible 🙂 Ha. But seriously, it’s true.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

I made short work of this open desert walk, and once again I found myself in some washes me entering through some small and unremarkable hills. It was incredible how and brown and boring this area looked. It was now noon and time for lunch. I was quite happy with my progress, having covered 13 miles so far.

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

Not much to see here

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

Spirit Mountain in the distance

hiking through nellis wash wilderness to newberry mountains nevada

After lunch, more boring walking. Every now and then I would get a good view of spirit mountain though, as well as some distant landmarks. Spirit Mountain is a massive granite mountain; jagged and imposing. At some point tomorrow I will attempt to summit it. But for now, I find myself walking off trail again across a huge, empty valley. I mean really, really huge! Not the prettiest place, but wow, what a place to find yourself.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

Spirit Mountain

I eventually hit a dirt road that I would follow east towards spirit mountain. It’s getting closer now, bigger and badder looking. The road bends to the south and now walks parallel to the northern Foothills of Spirit Mountain, through the Newberry mountain range. I passed a few guzzlers, but didn’t want to stop and take the time to collect water from them, with my experience from two days ago fresh in my mind. I anticipated this, and tried to hydrate as much as possible before leaving town this morning, in addition to carrying five liters with me.

hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada hikers view of spirit mountain from desert valley nevada

It was late afternoon when I reached camp Thurman, as it’s marked on the map. The map also says “potential mine”, which I have never seen before. There was nothing here resembling a camp, but there are some old mine shafts and plenty of tailings. It was 4pm now and I had covered Nearly 23 miles, and had only drank two of my five liters of water. I thought maybe I could make this last until I get to a spring tomorrow, and avoid filtering from the small game guzzlers. Have one more guzzler to walk by tomorrow before I summit spirit mountain, So I will make that call then. Still, I felt pretty damn good covering 23 miles on two liters of water.

View of the Newberry Mountains from camp

tarptent notch li campsite on nevada thru hike

Camp at “Camp Thurman: A Potential Mine”

I set up my tent and used the remaining 20 minutes of daylight to poke through the tailings of the old mine. My notes say this was a lead and silver mine, but I also found some green colors, meaning malachite. This indicates the presence of copper, which is a common companion mineral to lead, or galena. This was the most interesting thing I found.

Today was my biggest mile day so far hiking this route, beating my previous highest mile day by about five miles. My progress today almost ensures in early arrival in bullhead city the day after tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to a zero day here for some R&R. My ankles have been a little sore and the top of my left foot is sore as well, from smacking it on a rock a few days ago. Time for 11+ hours of sleep, thanks to the long nights this time of year.

Day 19 – November 21st

Miles: 22.8
Animals Seen: 3 Jack rabbits

The wind picked up around 9pm, then subsided. It picked up again, then was still as can be till morning. It was cold this morning, and with the rising sun came increased winds, making it feel even colder.

I had about two and a quarter liters of water at my disposal this morning, and drank about a quarter liter with breakfast. I’m shooting for a small game guzzler about two miles away, but if that doesn’t work out I have a solid 15 miles to my next water source, and a mountain to climb on the way.

hiking the newberry mountains nevada to spirit mountain summit

Spirit Mountain from Roman Mine

a small game guzzler in the newberry mountain range nevada

Small game guzzler near Roman Mine. This one looks much more difficult to collect water from

Not long after leaving camp I passed another mine, the Roman mine. This is where I would have camped last night if I didn’t stop at Camp Thurman. There is a small game guzzler just up the hill, but I was disappointed to see that the roof of the guzzler was only 15 inches or so above the ground. This would make it very hard to crawl under there and draw water from it. I passed, not feeling that desperate. The mine was rather boring as well, with little rocks of interest to my untrained eye.

dilapidated cabin in nevada mountains

Old mining cabin in the Newberry Mountains

dilapidated cabin in nevada mountains

There was an old cabin farther up the road, pretty dilapidated and not much to see or do here. These cabins generally do not offer much to explore. There is no backstory to learn about what went on here, and nothing of value or interest is left.

hiking the newberry mountains nevada to spirit mountain summit

I kept walking up hill until it was time to leave the road and begin the climb up spirit mountain. The mountain looks imposing from afar, and up close. It looks like a steep climb on the map. To be honest, I’m dreading this climb. I’m already thirsty, and I know it will be a lot of hard work. But this is what I came here for. I’m not skipping Spirit Mountain.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

A look at the climb ahead…

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Good views so far

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

I began the climb up the gully, acutely aware of the wide array of cactus that littered the landscape here. It wasn’t on before I stumbled on the climber’s trail, complete with frequently placed cairns. Awesome, this will really help.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Pillars of awesomeness

The climb up was less dreadful than I made it out to be, even with the water rationing. Still, it was physically demanding and often slow. It was class 2 all the way though, with only an occasional class 3 move, mostly near the top. Still, the terrain was steep and loose, often loose scree over hard packed dirt or rock. Perfect for slipping.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Jagged ridgeline

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

The landscape was extremely impressive. Not just in one or two spots either, pretty much the whole way up. The entire mountain consisted of tall, jagged rock spires, and the entire climb was beautiful.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Nothing but jagged rock and spires

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

An incredible hike the entire route up Spirit Mountain!

Eventually I gained the Ridgeline, and was only 200ft below the summit. Here, on top of the ridge line, on the east side was a bit of a depression that was mostly flat and somewhat protected. There is an excellent campsite here, So I guess I wasn’t the only one that has summited this mountain with a full pack. Not tonight though, and definitely not with these winds.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Numerous routes exist between the various pillars and rock formations

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Looking ahead to the final ridgeline leading to the summit of Spirit Mountain

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

What I thought was the summit…

The true summit is not initially obvious. There are several outcrops of rocks close together that are nearly the same height. After reaching what I thought was the high point, I noticed another spot along the ridgeline that looked slightly higher. So I headed down and worked my way over to that.

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Summit view over Lake Mojave

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view northwest

hikers view form the summit of spirit mountain, newberry range, nevada

Spirit Mountain summit view southwest

Of course, the true summit had and ammo box used as a summit register. Spirit Mountain, at 5639′, is the highest point along the Mojave-Sonoran Trail. The views are excellent, overlooking many miles of the Colorado River, lake Mojave, vast expanses of desert, countless distant mountains, and Bullhead City, my next town stop.

spirit mountain nevada summit hike views of jagged rock spires and pillars

A damn fine lunch spot

I snapped a few pictures, signed the register, and headed down. It was very windy and quite cold. I stopped for lunch just below the summit, in a spot protected from the wind. I am now on my last liter of water.

spirit mountain nevada summit hike views of jagged rock spires and pillars

Picking my route down Spirit Mountain

The route down was a little tricky just below the ridge line. I missed the cairns a few times and head to backtrack to find them. I also slipped and fell a couple of times, due to the steep and loose terrain Coupled with the lack of tread on my shoes. At this point I’m just being stubborn, Since I have a new pair in my backpack. But with only about 250 miles on these shoes, I’d really like to make it into bullhead city. I just hope it doesn’t cost me an injury, or worse.

hiking to the summit of spirit mountain newberry range nevada

Looking back up at Spirit Mountain

The rest of the climb down was tedious and slow, but still faster than the route up. I made pretty good time going down, and before I knew it I was looking back at Summit Mountain from the valley below.

Next I crested a small pass that dropped me down to Grapevine Valley. There was a road here, and I was looking forward to the easy walk. I saw 2 vehicles go by on my way down to the road, which was a bit surprising. So far, I’ve barely seen any humans outside of a few spots like Valley of Fire and gold strike hot springs, let alone vehicle traffic.

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Scenic road walk. That’s the back side of Spirit Mountain ahead

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Bridge Canyon Wilderness

After walking the road a short ways, I was presented with a choice. I could take grapevine canyon, which is home to Moss Spring (a maybe), and would be all off trail. My other option is to follow the road I am on, with no spring. Both are the same distance, and both take me to Sacatone spring, which I am pretty sure has water. I chose the road, to make sure I get there as fast as possible.

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

View into the Bridge Canyon Wilderness

hiking the bridge canyon wilderness lake mead national rec area nevada

Bridge Canyon Wilderness

The road ended up being a pretty solid choice. That only was it fast and free of thick vegetation, unlike the off-trail option, but the scenery was excellent along the first half of the walk. Here, I overlooked The Bridge Canyon Wilderness, as well as the back side of Spirit Mountain. Although the Colorado River is out of sight, it’s pretty clear that the landscape here is dropping down to it.

sacatone wash along the mojave sonoran trail nevada

Sacatone Wash. I thought this spring would have water, but its dry

When I reached Sacatone wash, I could see a ton of really thick vegetation here, and it looked like this wash get some larger flash flood action. All of the signs looked good, but in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling about this one. I continued to walk the wash, which had copious amounts of vegetation ranging from Cottonwood trees to thorn bushes, but never saw a drop of water. Damn!!

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Hiking Sacatone Wash

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

One of many such pour offs to clime in Sacatone Wash

So now I found myself in a bit of tough spot. I have about 5 ounces of water now. My options were to backtrack to the road and try to flag a motorist down for water, or continue down the wash towards Lake Mead, which would likely be seven or eight miles of unknown canyoneering work. The map shows a very deep and narrow canyon ahead for several miles. It was 3:30 PM now, so I had just over an hour of daylight.

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

A look down Sacatone Wash

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

 

I decided to take my chances and continue walking this wash down towards Lake Mead. I knew I wouldn’t reach the lake tonight, but thought there was a good possibility of finding potholes of water along the way. There were also quite a few risks to this plan. I’ve already walked several Canyons just like this one, and I’m fully aware of the challenges that likely lie ahead. Namely, pour offs. Still, I figure I’m feeling pretty good despite my lack of water intake over the last two days. I’m out on one of the biggest adventures of my life, so I might as well make a good story out of it. No water? No problem!

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Sacatone Wash widens out and becomes flat, for now…

hiking sacatone wash spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Upper Sacatone wash was very thick with vegetation, not quickly thinned out downstream. There were a couple of small pour offs to climb down, and some pretty cool scenery. Then, the canyon really widened out. I was walking as fast as I could without running, trying to cover as much ground as possible.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Somewhere near here, Sacatone Wash merges with Grapevine Canyon, which I continue to follow down towards Lake Mojave

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Great scenery in Grapevine Canyon

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Eventually, grapevine canyon dumps into Sacatone wash, and the Canyon is now marked on the map as grapevine. This is where the canyon narrows and becomes deeper and steeper. There are some pretty impressive rock formations here. It was a shame to be moving so quickly through such a cool Canyon, but necessity beckons.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

An awkward downclimb climb

With about a half hour of daylight left, I came across a challenging pour off. It looked to be about 20 feet down, but no easy way to down climb. With little time to Think about it, I lowered my pack down with a string and carabiner and began to down climb this tricky section myself. It was too wide to use my legs to span the distance of the choke point, instead I had to hug a part of the rock that stuck out farther than everything else. This required some movements on faith, and with very little to work with for handhold. Eventually I made it work and made it down safely. Whew! This one was sketchy.

I turned the corner in the canyon and found two potholes of water. Although I was expecting to find them somewhere, I was extremely lucky to find them here, moments before sundown. I dropped my pack and quickly loaded up with three liters of water; two liters in platypus bag and one leader in my dirty water bottle. Water had an extremely strong yellow tint to it.

With only a few minutes of daylight left now, I found myself in a wash that was just wide enough to set up my tent. Fortunately, the ground in this wash was fairly solid, because the high winds are still a problem and They seem to be blowing straight down this canyon, like a funnel.

thru hiker's platypus water bladder with dirty yellow water

Dirty water I collected from a pothole in Grapevine Canyon

After setting up my tent, I began to filter water. I have filtered water that was a very strong green color before, and that made it out clear using my Sawyer filter. However, I was disappointed to see that the water I had just filtered was only a shade of yellow lighter than the dirty stuff. Really Sawyer? Really? I did a very quick taste test and it seemed okay, but clearly something in this water is not being filtered out. I keep some chlorine tablets in my kit, and this is the perfect time to use them. I dropped two tablets into one liter and let that sit for a while. I still haven’t drank it, debating whether or not it’s worth risking it. The water in those pot holes is some pretty nasty stuff. I’m sure I could mask the taste with some drink mix, but I really don’t know what’s causing that yellow tint. It’s not light either, it’s a fairly strong tint.

Day 20 – November 22nd

Miles: 12.2 (half day)
No animals seen

mojave sonran trail thru hike tarptent notch li campsite in canyon

Camp in Grapevine Canyon, just below Sacatone Wash

There were strong gusts of wind every five or 10 minutes throughout the night, with dead silence in between. I ate a flat, smooshed bagel for breakfast, and washed it down with my last two ounces of water. Of course, I had the water that I took from the potholes last night, but since I’m only a few miles from Lake Mohave now, I think I’ll just wait until I get there and avoid dealing with this yellow water. I’m thirsty, but honestly not doing that bad.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

The hike continues down Grapevine Canyon

The walk through the middle section of Grapevine Canyon this morning was excellent. There were surprisingly few pour offs to deal with, apparently having tackled the Crux of the entire Canyon just before I reached Camp last night. I can’t say it enough; these Canyon walls were impressive. It’s a deep Canyon, narrow and at times, very interesting rock formations. For example, veins of Darker colored Rock several feet thick could be seen in the host Rock, typically angled up at a 30 or 45 degree angle.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Excellent hike through Grapevine Canyon

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

As the middle part of the canyon gave way to the lower part, which was much wider now, there was one final pour off to climb. I was surprised to see a rope in place here, and so I knew pretty much everything below this would be fairly easy going. The Climb I did last night, right before camp, was much more difficult and there was no rope in place there.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Climbing obstacles

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Lower Grapevine Canyon

The lower part of the had a completely different feel to it. It was obvious it got a lot more traffic, as people had etched their name into the banks of dirt that were cut away by flash floods. Lake Mohave could be seen in the distance now, just a few miles away.

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Final stretch to Lake Mojave. Water!!

hiking grapevine canyon spirit mountain wilderness nevada

Looking back at Grapevine Canyon

As I left the canyon there was a short one-mile section of open desert to cover before reaching the lake. As I approached it, I could see several Camper vans parked along the shore. Apparently, it’s some sort of Campground. I hadn’t planned on coming down here and actually, so this area was a bit of a surprise to me.

hiking the beaches of lake mojave colorado river

Beautiful beach along Lake Mojave

hiking the beaches of lake mojave colorado river

Lake Mojave shoreline. It STINKS!!!

When I reached the lake, I saw several pit toilet bathrooms along the shoreline. I searched for a water spigot, but couldn’t find one. I went down to the lake, where the wind was absolutely whipping, ready to filter some water. I was surprised at how disgusting the shoreline and the water actually was. It smelled like a sewer. There was tons of seaweed and algae that had washed up on the shore, and had decomposed. The water itself was turbid, from the high winds stirring everything up. I decided to walk down the shoreline a little bit before filtering my water, holding out hope for a water spigot or something.

I walked by one camper van and startled their dogs. This also prompted a brief conversation, where I asked if there was a water spigot in the campground. The woman said no, but asked if I needed water. Why yes, I could use some. She was surprised to hear that I had just walked from Searchlight, through the mountains no less. She directed me to their freshwater holding tank where I was able to fill up with 4L of water. Of course, I immediately chugged one. It’s amazing how you can just feel the energy flowing back through your body. A truly incredible feeling. I had walked 52 miles on just 5L of water over 2.5 days.

lake mojave roadwalk

After leaving the campground behind, I followed a road a short ways before heading into a side Canyon, out of the Wind, to take a break. Now that I had water to drink, I could also eat food. I had been trying to eat light in order to avoid using too much water in order to digest food, but now, it’s a free-for-all.

lake mojave area hiking ruins at old mine

Ruins at an old mine

lake mojave wash hiking

This wash will lead me to the Davis Dam

With a belly full of food and a bladder partially full of water, I set out to walk the final two to three hours into town. I followed a series of dirt roads and 4×4 trails, walking past a few old mines. Nothing incredibly interesting, and so I walked quickly, ready to reach civilization. Rest is not far away.

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Approaching the Davis Dam along the Colorado River

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Don’t step over there.

I could see Davis Dam in the distance as I walked my final wash of the day. This Dam holds back the Colorado River and forms Lake Mohave. It’s closed to vehicle traffic, but apparently, pedestrians are allowed to cross it.

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

Crossing the Davis Dam on foot

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

View of Lake Mojave from the Davis Dam

hiking across the davis dam on foot, crossing into arizona from nevada

View downstream along the Colorado River from the Davis Dam

Still, I was apprehensive approaching it, feeling like I was breaching some sort of National Security measures by walking across the dam. I knew I was being watched, with security cameras hanging from the street lights. But of course, I was doing nothing wrong. Still, I didn’t stop for more than a few seconds to take photos and film Lake Mohave, or the Colorado River downstream.

davis dam sign colorado river nevada arizona border

Davis Dam, the Nevada-Arizona Border

Having crossed the Davis Dam, I left Nevada behind and entered Arizona. Although the boundaries are not definite by any means, for all intents and purposes, the Mojave section is done with, and I’m now entering the Sonoran Desert environment. Indeed, a new chapter this hike has begun.

davis dam sign colorado river nevada arizona border

Lake Mojave, the impoundment formed by Davis Dam

After crossing the dam, I tried hitchhiking into Bullhead City, but there wasn’t much traffic. What few cars that did pass wanted nothing to do with me. I was fortunate that Bullhead City has Uber, and so I utilized that option for a ride into town.

I got a hotel, shower and got started on town chores. I know I will be be staying for at least one zero day, I could really use the rest.

Day 21 – November 23rd

Zero day

Didn’t do much today except go through photos, catch up on my journal entries, etc. I also took the time to go over my map and plans for the next section. This is an essential part of hiking a new route, especially in parts of the country I am not familiar with. Oftentimes the route I plan at home is far too ambitious for reality, and needs adjustments based on my experiences on the ground in previous sections.

Day 22 – November 24th

Zero day

Did my grocery shopping today at Safeway. Bullhead City is very spread out, not a very good hiker town. All of the good places to eat are in one area, hotels are in another area, grocery stores are in another part of town. There is a bus system, but the bus only comes by once an hour, so the timing pretty much never works out how you like it too. Thankfully, there is Uber in this town, and I have been utilizing that for most of my stay. After two full zero days here, I’m feeling quite rested and ready to go tomorrow.

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 4: Boulder City to Searchlight

 

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Thru Hike 2021 – Section 4: Boulder City to Searchlight

backpacking the eldorado mountains nevada

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 4 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 4

Mojave Sonoran Trail Thru-Hike Section 4 – Boulder City to Searchlight, 80 Miles

The above map only represents represents section 4 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 4 Journal

Day 13 – November 15th

Miles: 12.5 (half day)
No animals seen

Left the hotel around 7:30 am. First I went to the post office and got there around 8 am, when I thought it opened. However, it opened at 9 am. So now, I walk to the UPS Store to return a MicroSD card I ordered on eBay that was faulty. Then I got breakfast at Jack in the Box. Well, actually lunch, since they serve burgers during breakfast time, and I had already eaten a breakfast at 6:30 a.m.

Then I walked back to the post office and mailed out my bounce box to a hotel in Lake Havasu City. I also mailed home some extra gear that I didn’t need and some rocks that I found from the previous sections. This freed up some room in my backpack, now I can make a run to the grocery store and buy food for the next section, as well as some staple items to send to Searchlight, my next stop. All they have there is a gas station, so they don’t sell things like tortillas cheese and pepperoni.

After doing my grocery shopping, I went back to the post office and mailed out some of the food that I bought to Searchlight. On the way to the post office, I passed an older couple sitting on the patio of a restaurant along the main strip in Boulder City. They saw me walk back and forth a couple of times across town and was curious what I was up to. I told them about the hike, and we had a really nice chat for about 20 minutes. Bob and candy were their names. Bob said, I want to give you something, and reached into his wallet and pulled out some cash. Immediately, I tried to decline, as I really don’t need it. However, he insisted, saying that he would really like to help out and that he is lucky to be in a position to do so. Reluctantly, I accepted the $20 dollar bill. I always feel awkward receiving gifts from people. I’m so incredibly thankful that someone would bestow a gift upon me of any kind. This really made my morning. And yet another reminder of the kind and generous folks I always seem to meet along the way on these long-distance hikes.

I walked out of town, taking my last steps off pavement at the end of a subdivision and on to dirt, back into the desert. Within a few hundred yards, I was down in a really cool little red slot canyon, but this faded out pretty quickly.

hiking near hoover dam nevada

My next destination is Gold Strike Hot Springs, and the route there basically follows a bunch of power lines. Not just one set of them though, various networks of large power lines and substations. After all, the Hoover Dam is right around the corner. The entire area is just littered with infrastructure related to the power grid.

abandoned mine tunnel entrance near hoover dam nevada

First mine tunnel of the hike

I walked under Interstate 11 and continued through the power line the District of Southern Nevada. About the only interesting thing I saw here, besides the great view of Lake Mead in the distance, was an old mine. A horizontal mine shaft tunneled into a hillside, pretty easy to access. So of course I went in. At the entrance was a pile of clothes and a little bit of garbage. It appeared that a homeless person might call this home, at least at some point.

I spent about 15 minutes exploring the mine. Probably a gold mine, as the host Rock had thin quartz veins, and was very crumbly. One didn’t even need a rock hammer here, you could just grab the Rock and pull it off the wall. Alas, I found no gold, and no quartz worth keeping.

hiking near hoover dam nevada

Say goodbye to Lake Mead

hiking near hoover dam nevada

Interstate 11. And, an incredible hot spring down this canyon…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead nevada

Those crazy kids.

Eventually I reached the Gold Strike Hot Springs trailhead, right along the interstate. There were probably 15 or so Vehicles parked here. There really isn’t a trial here to follow per se, but it’s the obvious wash leading down the canyon. Does it count as a “trail”?

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead nevada

Hiking to Gold Strike Hot Spring

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Awesome hiking

One interesting thing about this area is all at the helicopter traffic. At first I thought it was something to do with Hoover Dam, maybe some sort of national security thing. But then I remembered, helicopter tours. It was usually one helicopter every 10 minutes or so, along the same route. But at times, it seems like there was 10 helicopters per minute, almost as if they were in some sort of helicopter traffic jam. Pretty annoying after a while!

 

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Don’t forget to look up every now and then

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

I saw about 25 people coming in and out of the Canyon today. For some reason I was expecting more. They were spaced apart quite a bit as well. One couple who is carrying a crying baby! That was surprising, since there were many areas where you needed your hands and feet to climbing scramble.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

Pretty stunning hike, really…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail las nevada lake mead

The middle part of the canyon began to really impress. Not unlike the Canyons I’ve already hiked on this route, and so it was a great walk. But of course, each canyon has it’s own “feel”, and for that reason, these kind of walks never get old.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Water! And it’s warm. Follow this…

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Towards the lower portion of the canyon, there was some trickling water now coming out of the ground. It was warm, as expected. Then the Steep walls of the canyon became Lush with green vegetation and dripping water. There were small waterfalls pouring off the canyon wall and a babbling Creek at times with small Cascades. It was here that I realized how incredible this place was. A true Oasis, a special place. I would say a Hidden Gem, but it’s no longer hidden. Very well known to the public. A once-hidden gem, we’ll say. But still, quite an incredible place.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Mini waterfall

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Crazy mineral deposits accumulating from the warm water dripping along the cliff walls

I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry at this point. I had already slipped down a Rock and gotten them wet, so now I just walked through the creek. The water was warm though, and quite Pleasant to walk through. There were all sorts of colorful mineral deposits accumulating on the cliff walls here as result of the water continuously dripping.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

A small waterfall coming from the side of the cliff

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Farther down, there was a small waterfall pouring out of the canyon wall, about 20ft up. Not much more than a trickle, but for a desert as dry as this, it’s not hard to appreciate this water for what it is… an oasis.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

The Colorado River

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Hwy 93. Hoover Dam is 1 mile upstream from here

campsite on colorado river at goldstrike hot springs

Campsite along the Colorado River at Gold Strike Hot Spring

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

View up Gold Strike Canyon from Colorado River

There were three people in the mean soaking pool of Gold Strike Hot Springs when I reached it around 4 pm. I walked right by and just a few 100 ft later, I reached the Colorado River. It was pretty shallow at this point, but just being here along the river in this deep Canyon was awe-inspiring. There were some flat Sandy spots right where the creek meets the Colorado River, and found a spot to set up my tent. What a campsite!

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Gold Strike Hot Spring. Time for a soak!

After setting up my tent I went back to the main soaking pool of the hot spring. I had it all to myself now, and it was time to get in and have a soak. The main part of the pool was pretty shallow, but there was a very small, Maybe 5 ft in diameter, circular pool below a cascading waterfall. It doesn’t look like much, but it was dug out to be about 4 ft deep, with some sitting rocks inside. Perfect, absolutely perfect! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, song things like “yeah right” and “no way”. A place this amazing along a desert hike like I’m doing is not to be taken for granted.

For all the work and effort it takes to get to a place like this, I only spent about 15 minutes here. Daylight was swindling, and I wanted to get back to my campsite and get dry before Darkness fell. With no one around, I didn’t think twice about just getting naked and drying off with my shirt, which I hoped would dry overnight, while I slept in my base layer top. Of course, as I was finishing drying up, I looked back above the waterfall and saw a person approaching. I can’t be sure if they saw me or not, but after they rounded a boulder I was dressed again.

The couple that walked by with down to the Colorado River, as I was walking back to my tent. It was now moments before darkness, and they began to walk back uphill. I said hello, and the woman asked if it was possible to have a boat pick them up. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little, saying that this was probably not going to happen unless it’s a true emergency. I asked if they had headlamps, and they did not. I was beginning to worry a little bit about their safety now. They have cell phones with a light oh, so they won’t be completely in the dark, but it’s certainly going to be a challenging walk, with 1000 feet of elevation gain, in the dark, following a specific path uphill that requires climbing and sometimes with the aid of ropes that are in place, left by previous hikers. They said they would be fine, and I hope they are. I told them if they get into any trouble, I am down here camping for the night and while I don’t have an extra tent or sleeping bag or anything, maybe there’s some way I could help, in an emergency.

Before going to bed, I noticed that the water level of the Colorado River had risen since I arrived, only two and a half hours earlier. This is a bit disconcerning considering my tent is only 50 ft away from it. I’m only about one mile below the Hoover Dam, so if anything, the water level should be lower at night. This is because electricity usage is higher during the day, thus more water must be sent through in order to meet the electricity demands. I highly doubt it will end up being an issue, but still, I don’t have as many things strewn about tonight, pretty much everything is packed away in my backpack and ready to go in case I wake up floating in my tent.

Day 14 – November 16th

Miles: 17.1
Animals Seen: Tarantula, Desert tortoise

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

Sunrise over the Colorado River

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

One last look at Gold Strike Hot Spring

Everything worked out the water level with Colorado River last night, I didn’t float away. I began filtering water while I broke down camp. This was going to be one of the longest water carries of the route, about 30 miles. This wouldn’t be a big deal on a normal thru-hike, but since this all off trail and through some rugged canyons with a lot of climbing, this is two days of hiking. I took 8L with me, after chugging 2.

hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada hiking gold strike hot springs trail colorado river nevada

From here, I need to go back up the canyon. There is no way to follow the shoreline of the Colorado River here. I knew this going into it, I just wanted to hit Gold Strike Hot Spring even if it meant an out-and-back. Going up the canyon this morning seemed to be quicker than going down.

tarantula at gold strike hot springs hiking trail nevada

I threw a saddle on this guy and rode him out of the canyon

I didn’t see anyone else on my way out of the canyon this morning until I reached beside Canyon I was about to take to exit Gold Strike Hot Springs area and make my way over to Boy Scout Canyon. A guy here waved me over to show me a tarantula. Pretty cool, first one on this trip!

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

Hiking north of Gold Strike Hot Springs now

hiking leake mead national recreation area cross country through canyons

Small canyons to follow

The next several hours were a challenge. A lot of the same terrain I’ve already traversed, deep Canyons with a lot of pour offs, boulders to climb, etc. Very slow. Beautiful Canyon though and very impressive.

lake emad national recreation area water source in narrow canyon

Water. Was not expecting this here

lake emad national recreation area pothole water source in narrow canyon

I wouldn’t want to fall into that one

I saw several potholes of water as I walked my way up the washes. One was fairly large, depth unknown. Because of the Steep and slick rock around it, there were almost certainly dead animals in it. This is not the kind you’d want to fall into. As much as I wanted to feel hopeful about the water situation moving forward, I knew this Canyon was nothing more than an anomaly. Much of the time, I will be high up on a Ridgeline, with almost zero chance of water.

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Stuff to climb

There have been many dry waterfalls to climb over along this route. Far too many to count. I reach one this morning, about a 15 or 20 ft climb, that got my heart rate going. The hand and foot holds were decent, but the rock was slick. Additionally, my camera that hangs off my chest was getting in the way, I needed to hug the rock a little bit closer and couldn’t. I was barely holding on, and felt like I was slipping. With one final push, somewhat a leap of faith, I crested the top of the pour off. I let out a cry of victory at the top of this one.

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Hoover Dam to the north

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

hiking south of the hoover dam lake mead las vegas nevada

Hoover Dam close up

After a couple hours of working my way up hill, I looked back and could see the Hoover Dam. Pretty cool! What a unique vantage point over this iconic landmark, and without any crowds.

Next I worked my way around Gold Strike Mountain. This is where I enter the Black Canyon Wilderness. Home to the picturesque and rugged Eldorado Mountains, this wilderness unit is a maze of peaks and side canyons with vertical cliffs extending to the edge of the Colorado River. Much of the terrain was formed by volcanism.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Small cave above an unnamed canyon in the Black Canyon Wilderness

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Next up: unnamed canyon

After skirting Gold Strike Mountain, I found myself overlooking a deep and rugged canyon filled with black (basalt) boulders. Imposing, for sure. But after a moment, I see my line down and get to work.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

Scenic climbing obstacles

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

Hey look, a slide!

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area slot canyons

A dark canyon hidden in the desert

Like all of the other washes, there were countless dry waterfalls to work around, in between steep sections of boulders and some Thorn bushes. I saw a couple of bighorn sheep skeletons down here, as well as earlier in the morning. I slipped and fell a couple of times, but no major damage done.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Colorful

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Another scenic wash to walk

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Next I entered the main wash that leads into Boy Scout Canyon. I would have loved to check this one out, but there was a 350 ft rappel needed to progress down the canyon. There was a class three option to avoidant the rappel, but honestly, I just didn’t have the time to go down this Canyon considering it would be an out-and-back. So I headed up the wash instead. This was an easy walk for about a mile before it was time to leave it for more off Trail hiking.

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

hiking black canyon wilderness lake mead national recreation area

Climbing up to the ridgeline of the Eldorado Mountains

After leaving the wash, it’s an 800ft climb to the ridge. The route was straightforward and not too difficult.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A lovely desert scene

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

On the ridgeline now of the Eldorado Mountains

The climb up to the Ridgeline the Black Canyon Wilderness was not all that difficult. I made good time, and found myself on top with an excellent View by around 1 pm. It was great to be out of the Canyons and up high again with a distant view.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Easy hiking for a while on top of the Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Looking south over the Colorado River

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

View north along the Colorado River

The walking here was a lot easier than down in the washes. Eventually, I hit a four-by-four road that I followed for about a mile. This led me to an excellent Overlook off the Colorado River and the Beautiful Canyons that surround it. However, this is where the road ends. I needed to backtrack now to a spot where I could continue along my Southern trajectory.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

desert toirtoise in lake mead national recreation area, eldorado mountains, black canyon wilderness envada

Desert Tortoise

I left the trail again and stayed high on a small Ridgeline above a wash. At some point, I needed to cross the wash though. When I dropped down into the wash, I heard a hissing sound. I was startled, and immediately thought it was a snake. But when I looked down, I was surprised to see a desert tortoise. I have seen a few shells, but This was the first live one I had ever seen. These guys are pretty rare, actually.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A short walk on this dirt road

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

After crossing the wash, I met up with another dirt road. I’ll follow this one for another mile or so before I leave it. There were remnants of an old 4×4 road here too, though, from a time before this land was designated as wilderness. In time, nature will take this road back and it will be gone forever. For now, it gives me a path to follow, and I am not complaining about that right now.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

A super enjoyable hike along the crest of the Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Black Canyon Wilderness high point along that ridge. Should I go for it?

Of course, the dirt road eventually ended and I was off Trail Again. By this time, I had about one hour of daylight left. I was approaching the high point of the Black Canyon Wilderness, and debated whether or not I should go for it. In the distance I could see power lines running across the landscape. This would likely be my best chance of finding a campsite for the evening, as I have not seen many other options recently. I figured it would take me about 1 hour to bag the Summit and then get down to the power lines.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Summit view from Black Canyon Wilderness high point

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Sunset from the summit

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the High Point. I made it in one solid push, with no break. I was very hungry and thirsty at this point, and felt like I was running on fumes. I didn’t spend more than 2 minutes on the summit, snapping a few pictures and then began walking the Ridgeline down.

hiking the eldorado mountains in black canyon wilderness nevada

Coming down the ridgeline, north side of Black Canyon High Point

The Ridgeline leading downhill looked a little bit more challenging than the route I took up, however, it was pretty easy. It was also much shorter. It only took me 15 minutes to descend from the summit down to the saddle where the power lines were.

tarptent notch li campsite at sunset in nevada

I found a flat spot to camp pretty close to the dirt road that runs along the power lines. With 15 minutes of light left, I didn’t waste any time setting up my tent. I was feeling slightly dizzy from the lack of food and water, and all of the exertion from this afternoon. It had been several hours since I had eaten, but I really needed to cover some miles. After all, my next water source is quite a distance away.

There’s almost no chance of reaching my water cache by tomorrow evening, but I should get within Striking Distance for the following morning. Of course, the terrain ahead is going to be tough, and there’s no way of telling how long it will actually take. There are two Springs ahead along my route, but both are likely to be dry.

Around 7pm, a vehicle pulled up where I was camped. His headlights eliminated my tent, and he should have had no problem seeing a human being here. The Jeep pulled out enough to parking area where I was camped and continued down the road. Shortly thereafter, I heard a bunch of gunshots. This continued for about two hours. I figured this guy would be camping down there, but he left around 9pm. Now driving back out on the road he came in on, he passed me again. Only this time, he slammed on the brakes about a hundred feet past my tent, put it in reverse and proceeded to drive (rapidly) right up to within 20 feet of my tent, headlights on me. What the hell? I know the guy has a gun, but there’s not much I can do other than shine him with my head lamp. So that’s what I did, and thankfully he turned around and left. But seriously, what was that all about? Shit.

It’s now 9pm and I haven’t gotten any sleep yet. I dozed off for a little while, but then around midnight, another vehicle pulled in to the area I was camping. I immediately shined him with my head lamp, and he drove away, down the road to the same place as the first guy. It sounded like he fired off a couple rounds as well, but it was only a few, not an all night event like the other guy. There is a gun range only a few miles away, I’m guessing these guys like to have a few beers and shoot at rocks or whatever in the middle of the night after the gun range closes. How annoying. Anyhow, I didn’t hear anything from this guy anymore and I was able to get some sleep for the rest of the night.

Day 15 – November 17th

Mile: 17.5
Animals Seen: Tarantula

When I woke up this morning I noticed a Gatorade bottle, half full, sitting on the ground nearby. Considering I was short on water, and being the dirty piece of hiker trash I am, I inspected the bottle and ultimately drank it. Electrolytes, it’s what I crave.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Looking back north, I see this awesome banded rock face

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Mountains

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View east. The farthest ridgeline in the distance is in Arizona

The road I camped along last night was the dividing line between the black Canyon Wilderness and the Eldorado Wilderness. Now, I continued south into the Eldorado Wilderness. I briefly walked a wash before beginning to climb up to the ridge line. Lots of scattered basalt and volcanic rock here.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness views

To the east, 2500ft below, lies the Colorado River. There is usually no view of it from the crest of the Eldorado Mountains though, unfortunately.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

I found this part of the Eldorado Mountains to be pretty plain and barren looking. Despite this, it was rugged and impressive. Usually it’s one of the other. The terrain below the crest to the east, leading to the Colorado River,  commands respect, but little about it usually stands out and immediately grabs your attention.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Awesome desert views

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Nice hike this morning along the crest of the Eldorado Mountains

It was around here that I noticed the helicopter traffic that plagued the Hoover Dam area has pretty much stopped. Cool. It was much more quiet now, less plane traffic too. Just silence, solitude and big views now.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View south along the ridge

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

View north along the crest of the Eldorado Mountainshiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness

I walked this ridgeline for a couple hours. The best views were towards the south, shortly before I jumped down off the ridge. Here, there was a bit of a knife edge to walk along the ridge. This was perhaps one of the more scenic spots I’d seen this morning, and so I figured it was a good place for a break.

mojave yucca plants in the eldorado wilderness nevada

First Mojave Yuccas

mojave yucca plants in the eldorado wilderness nevada

a snake in the rocks in the eldorado mountains, nevada

The only snake I saw on my entire hike

I skirted west of peak 3125 and began working my way down the ridge. To do that, there was a somewhat flat stretch on a shelf to walk before the final drop into a wash a few hundred feet down. It was here that I saw my first Mojave Yucca plant. I was surprised I hadn’t already seen many more, but I really don’t remember seeing any north of Lake Mead. I also saw the only snake of my entire hike here. Non poisonous, just basking in the sun. Cool.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Time to drop down into this canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Down off the high ridges and into the low desert

As I descended the ridge, I began to notice more interesting rocks… Clusters of druzy quartz and a few pieces of chalcedony. Now I found myself at the bottom of a canyon, walking a very easy wash. What a nice relief. However, the scenery was pretty bland.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

I weaved in and out of the wilderness boundary, walking an occasional 4×4 road. Then, it was cross country hiking again.

a dry spring in the nevada desert

Forlorn Hope Spring. A great name for a dry spring

I debated whether or not to climb up hill and see if there was water at forlorn hop hope spring ultimately, I did check it out, and it was dry, as expected. The name kinds gives it away.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Awesome views of the Mojave Desert

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Continuing south towards Oak Creek Canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Eldorado Wilderness

Next I went over a small pass, and the views improved. I was begging to real like the was some sort of transition in Landscapes now, which I was expecting as the hike progresses from the Mojave Desert Environment to the Sonoran Desert.

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

Unnamed wash that will lead me to Oak Creek Canyon

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness, lake mead national recreation area

After cresting another small Hill, I dropped down into an unnamed canyon that will lead me to the larger Oak Creek Canyon. The views improved massively as I entered this canyon. Wow!

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness

Hiking a cool unnamed wash in the Eldorado Wilderness

hiking the eldorado mountains in eldorado wilderness

Down in this wash, the shadows began to creep over the canyon walls. My water cache near Nelson ghost town is a few miles away now, but I am beginning to doubt I’ll reach it tonight. I filled up with 8L yesterday morning, and my supply of water is now running low.

teddy bear cholla forest in eldorado wilderness nevada

teddy bear cholla forest in eldorado wilderness nevada

Teddy bear cholla forest

 

The canyon dumps me out into upper Lonesome Wash. Here, I encountered a sea of teddy bear cholla cactus. Careful… this stuff is brutal! Now, I’ll follow Lonesome Wash uphill to Oak Creek Canyon.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Hiking Oak Creek Canyon

 

Next, I entered Oak Creek Canyon. It looks impressive on the map, with some deep and narrow sections. And that’s just what it was… big cliffs walls, and just a cool place to walk.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

It was clear I wasn’t going to reach the water cache tonight, but I will make it fairly close. I was feeling really tired now. Probably from the lack of sleep last night.

The upper reaches of the canyon became more difficult, just as the sun was going down. With 30 minutes of daylight left, I was climbing boulders and small pour offs again. I found a pretty nice spot though protected by rock walls on three sides, on a nice bed of gravel. This will do!

Update on the water situation, I drank 4L today, plus the half liter of Gatorade. No regrets on that Gatorade. That leaves me with a liter in the morning, and that will get me about 2 miles, over some tough terrain, to my water cache.

Day 16 – November 18th

Miles: 18
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

backpacker's campsite in oak creek canyon nevada

Camp in Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Slept great last night. Barely woke up at all, and even with a solid 10 hours of sleep, didn’t want to get out of my tent this morning. But that’s fairly typical of me, I’ve never been a morning person.

mojave yucca and cliff walls of oak creek canyon nevada

Upper Oak Creek Canyon

I reached the top of the Canyon I had been walking Shortly after breaking camp. I found some cool druzy quartz specimens on a hillside.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

View from pass down over Nelson ghost town

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Last look down into Oak Creek Canyon

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

The route down

Next it was time to Crest the top of the pass. On the other side is Nelson ghost town, and my water cache. However, the descent looked steep and loose. This also marks the southern end of the Eldorado Wilderness, and now I enter BLM land.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Little canyon, big views

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Pretty cool nodules with quartz

The descent was not as bad as it looked from the top, but was still slow going. There were some really interesting rocks in some of these washes. I found chalcedony, quartz, and some really cool nodules that I’m not sure about. Farther downhill, I saw a couple of these nodules that were broken open and filled with quartz crystals, basically geodes. Great stuff, I hope to return here someday to do a dedicated rock hounding trip.

hiking oak creek canyon eldorado wilderness nevada

Down in the wash, time to find my water cache

mojave sonoran trail thru hike water cache at nelson ghost town

Water cache near Nelson Ghost Town

mojave sonoran trail thru hike water cache at nelson ghost town

Looking out of “water cache cave”

Finally down in the wash, I found my water cache. It was still there, and so I got to work distributing the one gallon jug amongst my four one liter bottles. I was a bit disappointed though when I took my first swig, as the water had a pretty awful after taste of chemicals and plastic. Yuk.

nelson ghost town nevada

Nelson Ghost Town

nelson ghost town nevada

Entering Nelson

nelson ghost town nevada

Next I approached The Nelson Ghost Town. There are several old wooden buildings here decorated with old cars, equipment and route 66 style decor. It’s owned by a family that runs it as a tourist attraction, giving tours of the nearby mines and the ghost town itself.

I walked in the main building which operates as a check-in point for visitors. Inside was a woman sitting down on a chair and reading. I asked if they had any Cold drinks, and she pointed me to a refrigerator with Gatorade and sodas. She quoted me a price and I dropped my backpack to retrieve my wallet, which is typically buried pretty deep in the pack considering it doesn’t get much use on trail. She asked where I had come from, and I told her about my hike as I rummaged through my backpack looking for my wallet. She said don’t worry about it, the drinks are on us. How kind! Almost immediately, a couple walked in and paid a small entry fee to roam the town. They handed the woman a $20 bill and said keep the change. Essentially, they bought my drinks. Funny how these things work.

They have a bar set up in the main room of the old storefront and I sat down on one of the bar stools, charging with the woman for a while. Then the owner and his sons walked in and sat down. We conversed for a while, and it turns out the old man did a bit of hiking back in his heyday. In 1976, he walked from bad water in Death Valley to Mount Whitney, the route today we refer to as the lowest to highest route. He recalls temperatures of 119, with overnight lows of 94. He had ambitions for other long walks, but then started his family.

hiking south of nelson ghost town blm land nevada

Leaving Nelson behind

hiking south of nelson ghost town blm land nevada

Before I got too comfortable, I got up and left Nelson to keep walking. After a short paved roadwalk, I left this for a dirt road that would cut across the mountains and take me to Eldorado Valley. There were some elevated views above the Colorado River, with Arizona as a backdrop. Lovely.

abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada

Old mining cabin

abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada abandoned mining cabin near nelson ghost town nevada

I came across an old cabin that had been used by miners, basically living next to their claim. It said “gladiator Corp” on the outside, which was full of bullet holes at this point. The roof had caved in and the inside was in shambles. There were a couple of bunk beds set up, and interestingly enough, they were covered with cholla balls. A bed of nightmares. There were a couple of cholla balls on the ground as well inside the cabin, and I accidentally kicked one with a footstep that embedded it into the ankle of my other foot. The pain was sharp, and any movement caused further anguish. Outside of the cabin, I dropped my pack and pulled out my Gerber dime multi-tool, and utilized my pliers. You cannot simply use your hands for removing these. There were so many needles of this one ball stuck in my ankle that pulling on the needles on the other side of the ball with my pliers just meant that the needles broke off. I eventually dislodged it, and walked away with a reminder that I didn’t really need, to respect the cholla.

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

This one isn’t all that old. It had drywall and electricity

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

The Belmont-Phoenix mine

Farther up the dirt road, I came across the Belmont Phoenix mine. Wide variety of minerals were mined here, including gold, silver, copper, zinc, pyrite, chalcopyrite, etc. There were a couple of cabins here as well, One of them newer and in decent condition. The hardwood floors inside were intact and the walls had drywall.

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

View from the upper hills of the mine

exploring the abandoned belmont phoenix mine in southern nevada

Bummer!!

The mine itself was blocked off, both the vertical shaft and the horizontal tunnels into the mountain. It’s always a bummer to see these tunnels gated off like this, preventing people like me from getting inside and exploring them.

First small game guzzler along my hike

Small game guzzler. Notice the small opening to the underground tank where water is stored

The road eventually dumped me out into Eldorado Valley. Here, I had a water source marked, a small game guzzler. I found the guzzler, and now it was a matter of how to get the water out of it. This particular kind features a tank that is mostly buried in the dirt with an opening about 18 inches high, and a ramp that leads down to the water inside the tank. Their appeared to be six inches of water or less. The ramp itself was about 6 feet from the top down to the water level, and so there is no way to just scoop it out.

thru hikers system for getting water from small game guzzler in nevada desert

My setup for retrieving water from small game guzzlers

thru hikers system for getting water from small game guzzler in nevada desert

Chuck it in, hope the bottle’s lid sinks under the water level

I anticipated a scenario like this, and brought a length of string for just such an occasion. I tied the string around the mouth of my wide-mouth Gatorade bottle, and put a few small rocks inside the bottle to give it some weight. Without the rocks, the bottle would simply float on the water and water would not enter the mouth. Even still, it took several tries to perfect my technique, to chuck the bottle into the water in such a way where the rocks would not be at the bottom of the bottle, causing the mouth to tilt up out of the water.

I was able to pull up a few Gatorade bottles worth of water before crappy knot I tied came loose, I lost my Gatorade bottle inside the depths of the guzzler. I found the longest branch I could from a nearby shrub and use that to fish out my Gatorade bottle. I was lucky to get it back. I tied a better knot and continue to draw enough water to fill my two liter platypus bag. Quite a bit of effort to filter two liters of water, but sometimes this is the reality of the desert.

hikers view of the ireteba peak wilderness in nevada

View south to the Ireteba Peaks Wilderness

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Entering Eldorado Valley

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Hiking Eldorado Valley

It was now decision time once again on how best to proceed along this route. My planned route has me doing a continuous ridge walk of the Ireteba Peaks, this off trail Traverse will be very slow. I need to reach the post office by 3:45 PM tomorrow in Searchlight, before it closes. If I do the ridge walk, I won’t reach Searchlight at all tomorrow, let alone before 3:45. Additionally, that would mean I would probably have to camp up on top of the ridge tonight. With all of these things combined, I decided a lower route would be best. I’ll take a route through Eldorado Valley, consisting of dirt roads and cross country hiking.

sunset in eldorado valley nevada

Sunset in the Mojave

tarptent notch li sunset in eldorado valley nevada

Camp in Eldorado Valley

I walked a sandy wash til sunset, which was quite nice here in this huge and empty valley. I found a great spot for my tent, flat and clear. One big reason I’ve been setting up my tent before the last several nights, as opposed to cowboy camping, is that the nights have been cooler. The tent really cuts down on the wind and makes very much warmer sleeping experience. I only have a 40-degree bag for this hike, So the little extra things to stay warm really make a difference.

 

Day 17 – November 19th

Miles: 14.6 (half day)
Animals Seen: No animals

Woke up this morning to large birds squawking and buzzing my tent. They must have been large, the sound of their wings flapping was quite loud. It was a cold night. I put on my pant legs for the first time along this route as I got going. The clouds obscured the sun for a while, making it feel colder.

lone joshua tree in eldorado valley nevada mojave desert

First Joshua Tree!

lone joshua tree in eldorado valley nevada mojave desert

Big and burly

thick stands of joshua trees in the nevada mojave desert

A Joshua Tree forest

I continued walking dirt roads, making good time. One road followed power lines for several miles. It was here that I saw my first Joshua Tree of the entire hike. Then, a few more. Eventually, the entire landscape was a Joshua Tree “forest”. These are generally confined to the Mojave Desert. After searchlight, I’ve only got another 60 miles or so of Nevada left, and then I cross into Arizona. While the boundaries of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts are not exact, a rough dividing line is the California/Arizona border, just south of the southern tip of Nevada, which I am fast approaching.

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

hiking eldorado valley mojave desert nevada

Looking back at the Ireteba Peaks from Eldorado Valley

Today’s walk was rather dull, otherwise. I saw a few mining prospects and mines that had been filled in, but nothing interesting.

road through eldorado valley to searchlight nevada

Road to Searchlight

Spirit Mountain in the distance. I’ll climb this on the next section. It’s the highest point along the Mojave Sonoran Trail

I hit some areas of private peppery along my route into Searchlight, which requires a small detour. I followed an underground gas pipeline for the last few miles into town.

The town of searchlight is extremely depressing. There are few homes, most are trailers patched up with garbage. There is garbage everywhere in the street, much like the last few miles of desert walking into town.

My first stop in town was the El Rey motel, which had no vacancy. Damn. This was the place I had planned on staying at. I tried calling them last with my limited cell phone signal, but there was no answer.

So, I headed over to the other motel in town, the By Motel. This place was interesting. Some shady looking characters outside the motel asked “can I help you” in a tone that made me wonder who they thought I was. They did have availability, but it was cash only. Seems legit. With no other hotels in town, I went to the ATM and pulled out $60, and did the deal. No extra fees either, and I’m not complaining. So I handed my money over this crackhead looking guy working there, like an older, dirtier and more inbred version of Charlie Sheen in the movie “ferris buellers day off”.

mismatched mattress and box frame size in motel

This one is a first for me. The rest of the room was for of the same kind of oddities

The room looked surprisingly decent at first glance, but it had many issues, oddities and quirks. First, there was no door knob on the door, just a little handle to pull it shut and an old school key lock. The need sheets looked dirty(and definitely loose debris on the sheets), the floor was tile and made crunchy noises from all the dirt as I walked across it, and all the furniture looked worn and filthy. The shower had no curtain. The shower was tile, and had a large sunken area where water collected. The water barely trickled out of the shower head, not even enough pressure to wash away dirt that was washed off my dirty hiker trash body. The shower tile was dirty. There was no light above the sink, outside the bathroom. The bed Das a full mattress on a twin frame, overlapping or and hanging off. Under the bed I found another dead bolt lock from the last time they changed the locks. There is no wifi. The TV turns on but the cable box does nothing, and its missing buttons. There is no garbage can in the room. There was no soap, I had to ask for it. The heater /ac unit wouldn’t turn on. I could go on, but you get the picture. Funny thing is, as a hiker who just spent 4 days out in the desert without a shower, my standards are so low that none of this upsets me, it’s simply comical.

Outside the motel, there are a couple of abandoned vehicles, and a few more that are missing bumpers and generally looking like a junkyard puked it out. There were trailers full of garbage bags in the parking lot. But perhaps best of all, I could almost constantly hear someone screaming, in an extremely frantic and shrill voice, “I’m going to kill you!! I swear to God I’m going to f’ing kill you!” Not in a joking manner, either. I was waiting for gunshots or screaming at any moment.

The funny thing is, this hotel has a 4.4 out of 5 rating on Google reviews. It’s clear all of the reviews are fake when reading them. They all praised management, and one even said “they serve great food”.

I had been considering taking a zero day in searchlight, but this motel was my motivation to get my chores done and leave in the morning. At the post office, I mailed home rocks from this section and picked up two packages from general delivery; a new pair of shoes and foods I mailed from Boulder city. Searchlight only had gas station convenience stores, so I mailed my staple items here; Tortillas, cheese sticks, pepperoni and pure cooked bacon. I ate lunch at McDonald’s, bought some food from the convenience store, and took care of the rest of my chores.

Looking ahead at the next section, I made some adjustments to the route, bypassing a suicidal ridgewalk I had apparently planned, for something more realistic. I figure 3 days to bullhead city, my first town stop in Arizona. I’ll be looking forward to taking a zero here at a real motel, hopefully.