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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 9 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 9

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

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

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 9 Journal

Day 40 – December 12th

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

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

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa new water mountains arizona desert

I’m heading for that mesa, called Black Mesa

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

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

Black Mesa

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

A nice wash to walk

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

Climbing obstacles in the wash

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

The canyon I came up

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Rocks. Lots of them.

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

The route up Black Mesa

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa Mine. Some cool minerals here

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

On top of Black Mesa

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

View from the summit of Black Mesa

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa summit panorama

hiking ranegras plain to black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

View east along the mesa

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa is actually two conjoined mesas separated by this canyon

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Canyon between the Black Mesas

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

A treacherous hike down Black Mesa

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Coming down this steep slope of Black mesa

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Route down from Black Mesa

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Looking back at the route I came down

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

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

Day 41 – December 13th

Miles: 14.6
Animals Seen: Bighorn sheep

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ranegras Plain campsite below Black Mesa

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

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

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ramsey mine

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

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Ramsey mine

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

hiking black mesa plamosa mountains arizona desert

Black Mesa

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

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

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

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

Twin Peaks

hiking ranegras plain to new water mountains arizona desert

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Guzzler near Twin Peaks

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

The permanent trough

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

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

 

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

A nice walk down this canyon

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Entering the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Hiking the New Water Mountains Wilderness now

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Water in this hidden slot canyon

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Eagle’s Eye

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

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

Approaching the crest of the New Water Mountains

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

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

Just below Eagle’s Eye

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

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

Going over the crest of the New Water Mountains

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

View southeast along the New Water Mountain crest

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

View north/west across Ranegras Plain to Plamosa Mountains

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

 

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

Eagle’s Eye, New Water Mountains

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

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

View east from the north side

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

Check this place out!

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

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

Looking back at Eagle’s Eye

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

The route ahead

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

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

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

Camp in the New Water Mountains Wilderness

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

Day 42 – December 14th

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Outstanding desert landscapes of the New Water Mountains

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Just below the summit of Hidden Benchmark

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Crest of the New Water Mountains, view east

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

 

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

Looking back towards Hidden Benchmark

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking hidden benchmark summit

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

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

Prominent landmarks abound

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

hiking the new water mountains wilderness arizona backpacking

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

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

New Water Mountains

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

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

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

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

See the windmill blades?

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

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

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

Yum!

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

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

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

Kofa Cabin

hiking arizona desert inbetween new water mountains and kofa mountains

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

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

A wood burning stove!!

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

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

This place is solid!

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

 

camping at ofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Fully stocked with, uh, stuff

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

 

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

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

camping at kofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

camping at kofa cabin in the kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Home for the evening

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

Day 43 – December 15th

Miles: 19.8
No Animals Seen

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

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Today’s walk…

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

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

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Small amount of water at Wilkinson Seep

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Wilkinson Seep

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

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

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

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

hiking kofa national lifelife refuge desert backpacking

Water at Mid Well

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

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Wilkinson Cabin. This one is much rougher than Kofa Cabin

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

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

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

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

Camp for the night in Wilkinson Cabin

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

camping at wilkenson cabin kofa national wildlife refuge arizona

A sink full of mouse shit

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

Day 44 – December 16th

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

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

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

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

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Scenery is getting better now…

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Coming down the little pass to the wash

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Back to a little climbing obstacles along the way. Fun

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Awesome!

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Mountains Panorama

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Wilderness

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Making my way to the high point

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Look at those colors!

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Another majestic unnamed canyon

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View out to King Valley

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Big Dick Canyon panorama

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Big Dick Canyon

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The view back down Big Dick Canyon

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View from the top of the pass

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The route to the ridgeline

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Mountains ridgeline

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

View down the crest of the Kofa Moutnains

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Arch in the distance

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Sunset behind an arch on the Kofa Mountains ridgeline

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Full moon tonight

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

Day 45 – December 17th

Miles: 14.7
Animals Seen: 1 bighorn sheep

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Morning view on my last full day of hiking

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Crest of the Kofa Range

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Heading down off the ridge

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

The route to Squaw Tank

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Tank

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Squaw Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Kofa Queen Canyon

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Indian Canyon, the route to Signal Peak

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

 

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

hiking the kofa mountains and kofa wilderness in arizona

Hard mode.

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

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

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

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

The route up to Signal Peak

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

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

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

Indian Canyon

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

The route up

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

 

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

The route continues up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

La Posa Plain

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

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

Signal Peak summit view panorama

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

Signal Peak summit view west over Kofa Wilderness

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

King Valley, Castle Dome Range, Kofa Wildenress

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

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

Signal Peak summit view panorama

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

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

Ridgeline below Signal Peak

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

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

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

Descending Signal Peak

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

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

Entering Indian Canyon

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

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Hiking Kofa Queen Canyon. A pretty damn nice road walk

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

Skull Rock Campsite

hiking kofa queen canyon to skull rock kofa wilderness arizona

The famous Skull Rock

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

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon campsite

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

View from camp in Kofa Queen Canyon

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

Day 46 – December 18th

Miles: 12.4 (half day)
No Animals Seen

 

Last night was pretty tolerable compared to th

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Morning, day 46

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

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Kofa Queen Canyon

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The route up to the pass

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Route up

hiking kofa queen canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The pass between Kofa Queen Canyon and Four Palsm Canyon

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Looking down on Four Palms Canyon

 

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

The saddle

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Four Palms Canyon

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Saguaro on guard

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Lower Four Palms Canyon

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Pillars guarding the entrance to Four Palms Canyon

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Sunlight creeping over the pillars

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

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

hiking four palms canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

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

 

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

hiking palm canyon kofa wildenress arizona backpacking and camping

Palm Canyon

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

panorama view of kofa mountains and palm canyon arizona

Kofa Mountains and Palm Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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