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

hiking whipple wash in the whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

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

hiking whipple wash in the whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert

Whipple Wash

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 7 Map

mojave sonoran trail thru hike map of section 7

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

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

Mojave-Sonoran Trail Section 7 Journal

Day 31 – December 3rd

Miles: 14
No Animals Seen

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

London Bridge, Lake Havasu City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Whipple Mountains are growing closer

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

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

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

War Eagle Mine

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

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

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

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

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

Day 32 – December 4th

Miles: 19.2
No Animals Seen

whipple mountains war eagle mine camping california mojave desert

Camp near War Eagle Mine

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

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The canyon is narrowing, and the scenery improving

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

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

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

Following this wash uphill to the crest of the Whipple Mountains

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

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

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

A really cool wash to hike

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whipple mountains wilderness mojave desert california

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

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The upper basin

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

The route up to the crest of the Whipple Mountains

backpacking the whiplle mountains wilderness mojave desert california

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

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

Crest of the Whipple Mountains

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

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

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

Whipple Mountains high point summit view

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

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

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

View west along the Whipple Mountains ridgeline

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

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

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

Mojave Desert, California

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

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

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

Looking back at the high point

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

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

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

Lake Havasu City in the distance

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

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

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

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Upper Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Getting interesting now

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Alright, this is pretty awesome now

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

One of the climbs

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

When the walking is easy

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Piles of boulders to climb

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Intersection with large canyon

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Tallest cholla I’ve ever seen!

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Water in Whipple Wash. Tadpoles swimming in this puddle

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Typical view from Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Sunset in Whipple Wash

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

Day 33 – December 5th

Miles: 19.2
Animals Seen: 5 burros

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

Camp in Whipple Wash

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

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

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Leaving Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Water near in canyon intersecting Whipple Wash

hiking whipple wash through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Copper Basin Reservoir

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

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

Seriously?? That’s a dick move.

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

The route up, to the left of the high point

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

Copper Basin Reservoir

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

View east from the pass

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

hiking whipple mountains through whipple mountains wilderness california mojave desert backpacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entrance to Forbidden Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lone saguaro

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

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

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

One little climb along the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

More boulders now

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

Getting steeper now

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

The route up

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

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

I need to climb that

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

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

Looking down what I’ve climbed up

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

View back down the canyon I climbed up. Wow!

 

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

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

I’m headed up that canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 34 – December 6th

Miles: 21.1
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Sunrise on The Mesa

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River panorama from The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Sunrise over Bill Williams River from The Mesa

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Leaving camp, walking The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Overlooking Bill Williams River

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Bill Williams River. Much nicer here

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Arizona desert views from The Mesa

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

I love these big canyon views

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Canyon view panorama

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Leaving the top of The Mesa

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

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

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

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

Walking a wash to the guzzler

hiking the mesa buckskin mountains arizona overlooking bill williams river

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

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

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

There she is

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

The guzzler

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

Good water!

guzzler in the buckskin mountains arizona

Collections area for the guzzler

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

 

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

The Hayden Rhodes aqueduct

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

East Cactus Plain Wilderness

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Tarptent Notch Li campsite in the East Cactus Plain Wilderness

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

Day 35 – December 7th

Miles: 23
Animals Seen: Jack rabbit

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Vertical shaft. I don’t mess with these.

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Mine tunnel. Of course I went in

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Walkin’ fenceline

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

East Cactus Plain Wilderness

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

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

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

A look back west along the Aqueduct

hiking the hayden rhodes aqueduct through cactuc plain wilderness arizona

Road to Bouse. 8 miles…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like what you see?