CO – Colorado National Monument, Let’s Go Hiking!

I’d attempted a visit to Colorado National Monument in early September 2017 (link), but it was too smoky and too hot for hiking. I was excited to give this place a second chance.

Almost immediately upon entering the park I saw this sign.

Lucky me, a couple of turns later and I had my first and only sighting over the week I spent visiting the park.

I entered the monument from the Fruita entrance (west) and after stopping at the visitor center and most of the wayside displays to reorient myself, I started hiking near the east entrance.

Hike #1 – Devils Kitchen Trail

There are a lot of unmaintained, well-used and defined trails in the area so it’s pretty easy to find yourself heading up the canyon rather than exiting at this monolithic formation (yes that’s what I did).

Looking down on Devils Kitchen, due to my navigation error.

Hike #2 – No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail 

A view of the first pool. Midday light is not the best for capturing this pool and cascading waterfall, nor the next waterfall. This is a seasonal pool and stream. It was such a delight to hike along a stream after recent hiking in more arid environments and suffering from the heat.

You can see here the size of the stream in places.

Kudos to the trail builders. It looks like the tread could use a little maintenance.

I met a couple groups who said the first waterfall was not flowing but after finding it myself, it seems they didn’t hike far enough. The location matched my Gaia map. Tip: if you don’t see this sign, keep hiking.

It was challenging to capture the waterfall with the sun shining at a less than optimal angle.

Bonus: First collared lizard sighting. He ran to the shade and said this is the best you’re getting.

Hike #3 – Upper Monument Canyon to Independence Monument 

The trail descended but thankfully not all the way to the canyon bottom. There are a few named formations along the way including this one called Kissing Couple. I guess a lot of imagination is required.

Independence Monument is probably the most famous in the park.

From each angle it looks a bit different.

I’d stopped at some of the viewpoints along Rim Drive to view Independence Monument from different angles.

There was a tiny bit of water in a few places but as per LNT expectations it’s to be left for the critters.

On my return hike, I was a little frustrated waiting for a group of about 60 kids, on a field trip, plus another group of about 10 adults to pass going in the opposite direction. It probably only took 10 minutes but I could hear them for a long ways. It was near noon and the kids were expressing their feelings of being hungry, tired and hot. But my reward was finding my second collared lizard, this time it was resting in the sun making for a much better photo. I can now check this experience off my bucket list!

A good view of the some of the switchbacks to help with the transition between the canyon rim and bottom.

Hike #4 – Coke Ovens Trail

As I climbed back toward the trailhead and canyon edge, it was tempting to skip the short hike to view the coke oven formations, but I knew I’d regret it so onward I went.

An interesting perspective of the coke oven formations.

Hike #5 – Upper Liberty Cap Trail to Otto’s Bathtub

There were several of these bench-like structures along the trail. They were all quite tall but this one was the tallest nearly reaching my chest. I forgot to ask about them at the visitors center.

The “route” to Otto’s Bathtub is not a maintained trail nor marked on maps. This junction was evidence it’s a very well used path.

Otto must have been a big guy! I’d call this a bathtub suitable for sasquatch.

There was even a little water in the bathtub’s drain.

The views were WOW WOW WOW! I enjoyed looking back into Upper Monument Canyon were I’d begun my hike to Independence Monument.

There had been a little rain the previous night which nicely filled the pot holes, much appreciated by the wildlife I’m sure. I loved walking this slickrock ramp. This view looks toward Black Ridge which I’d hike the next day.

The ridge below the snow-covered mountain is the one that houses Otto’s Bathtub and the slickrock I so enjoyed traversing.

This little guy said don’t forget about me. You like those colorful collared lizards but hey I’m the much more common variety.

Hike #6 – Otto’s Trail

It only made sense to hike Otto’s Trail after hiking to his bathtub. Who is Otto?

He pioneered many routes in the canyon including a climber’s route to the top of Independence Monument.

I was fortunate to see climbers on top one day.

Hike #7 – Black Ridge Trail

This trail provided more distant views of the canyon and surrounding mountains.

I found one of the original signs from this historic trail. I enjoyed walking along thinking about how this was a cattle drive route, something still done in my home town.

For those with ambition and interested in both a good workout and some technical hiking, you can start in the valley and hike up the old route which runs along the second level in this photo. I plan to explore on a subsequent visit.

This is a fertile valley with the Colorado River running through it. I was impressed with the miles and miles of agriculture country.

I really liked the variety of this park. The landscape was beautiful offering so much more than a canyon. I liked the options of hiking along a creek, past waterfalls, scrambling on rocks, walking ridges, etc. I left many hikes for future visits. I’ll return for certain. I’m always happy when expectations are exceeded!

Yes there were blooms!

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 23-28, 2019

Tips:

  • First warning about Tularemia I’ve ever seen.
  • The 19-mile road is a slow drive as it has speed limits from 15-35 mph.
  • LNT is a problem with this being in the middle of two urban areas. Bring along a trash bag and help clean up the park. The biggest offenses I saw though was graffiti on the sandstone, plus bikes and dogs in areas prohibited.
  • There always has to be one that say’s “rules don’t apply to me!”
  • Beware of the biological soil. It takes a long time to form and easily crushes. It’s the foundation for plants and restoring desert health. DON’T BUST THE CRUST! It makes finding a backcountry campsite a bit challenging.
  • The port-a-potty requirement is becoming a bit of a standard for dispersed camping in popular desert areas.
  • Love’s and Pilot Travel Centers are good options for showers while in the area.

Resources:

Links:

UT – Cedar Mesa, Lower/Middle Grand Gulch

“Cedar Mesa is a network of canyons that are home to numerous prehistoric ruins and rock art panels. Excellent exploration opportunities exist for those seeking beautiful scenery and fascinating cultural remnants. Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the canyons and mesa tops between 700 and 2500 years ago. Many of their dwellings, farming areas, and rock art sites remain in excellent condition. Stone and bone tools, pottery pieces, and other artifacts give us hints of the lifestyle of these people.” Source: BLM Trip Planner

This was another J&J adventure, my 5th year sharing a spring trip with Joan aka Hemlock. We spent five days roaming the canyons of Grand Gulch first going south and then east, starting and ending at the Collins Spring Trailhead. I hiked a portion of this section in the fall of 2017 with Nancy aka WhyNot?! (link). Since I don’t have a great memory, it was almost like a new trail. The first point of interest was the Cowboy Camp, now that I remembered.

This trip made me feel like I was in a living art gallery.

Besides wildflowers, rock art is one of my favorites. When I posted about my last trip, I was reeling from a comment left on facebook inferring that the sharing of these panels was disrespectful. I’ve since spoken with rangers who have stated otherwise. Most of the sites have been looted and it’s important that what remains be preserved, thus they recommend removing geo tags and withholding exact location. Part of the thrill of walking these canyons is self-discovery. I’ll admit my vision is not nearly as good as Joan’s and I would have missed a lot without her eyes. Furthermore, while these sites have been removed from current digital and printed maps, research may offer additional details. The theme of this trip was hands, birds and anthropomorphic characters, as well as red, white and blue.

There were also architectural sites to be discovered.

Shaw’s Arch was chunky compared to those in Arches National Park.

Viewing pottery sherds, corn cobs and other historic items in their natural environment is a real treat. Something like 90% of these sites were pilfered long ago. I’m glad the Edge of Cedars Museum now houses many items of historic significance.

We saw a ton of buds and a few blooms, a sure sign spring is on it’s way.

Another theme of this trip was mud. It was to be my first experience walking on spongy sand turned quicksand where I sunk to my knees and felt the death grip trying to steal my shoes.

This is The Narrows at 4pm on April 19th.

About 8pm we witnessed a spring flood, said to be fairly rare, when we discussed our experience later with the rangers at Kane Gulch Ranger Station. We heard what sounded like leaves rustling from wind only to discover what had been mostly a dry canyon now flowing rapidly, carrying with it plentiful debris swept from the banks as the water surged. The next morning we hiked back to The Narrows to see the difference. The Ranger we spoke to said it was caused by the 200% snow received in places like the Abojos, combined with 80-degree temps of past few days, late snow fall, cooler temperatures earlier in the month resulting in south facing slopes holding snow longer than usual (such as Bears Ears).

It was a cloudy day and we were a little nervous about rising waters since we didn’t know what had caused the surge. I checked weather on my InReach. It indicated we might get a few sprinkles. Thankfully we met a couple who were out for a day hike and had stopped at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and were assured while there might be slight rises in the afternoon, there wasn’t any significant rain in the forecast.

Just like in the mountains, as the temperature warmed during the day, the water rose. We were on an out and back hike so we saw this waterfall in the morning and again later in the afternoon when indeed it was rushing and gushing a bit stronger.

We kept our feet fairly dry as we crossed the gulch a zillion times during our first three days but by the fourth day our luck ran out and we gave in to having wet feet.

Sometimes you just gotta embrace the muck . . . and pretend like you’re sitting next to the Chocolate Milkshake River.

Collecting water wasn’t a problem for our first few days when water was plentiful in puddles and pot holes.

Once the water started flowing, finding clear water became a challenge. One solution is to gather the muddy water through something like a buff, bandana or shirt and then let it settle for about 12 hours before pouring off the top 50%.

We stopped at the Edge of Cedars Museum in Blanding. Well worth the $5 to see the fantastic displays of pottery, fabrics, tools, etc., as well as absorb more information provided through interpretative displays.

And then it was time to close the chapter on another memorable spring trip with Joan. Where shall I go next? When will I once again reunite with Joan? Only time will tell!

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 17-21, 2019

Tips:

  • Good navigation skills are recommended for this route. You may find some helpful and others not so helpful cairns, as well as both human and animal trails. Lots of options. Using a hiking tracker like Gaia can be beneficial.
  • Available water can be slightly alkaline. I recommend bringing a flavor additive. Using a prefilter is helpful to strain floaters and swimmers.
  • Respect ancestral sites and rock art by following LNT guidelines, as well as turning off geotags on your photos and not mentioning the site name nor location when sharing on social media.
  • Be wary of the biological soil by camping in established sites, walking on rocks in washes or on established trails.
  • The Kane Gulch Ranger Station includes some excellent interpretive and educational displays.
  • I recommend a stop at the Edge of Cedars State Park and Museum to learn more about the area and history.

Resources:

Links:

AZ – Arizona Trail, Pine Passage #26, Climbing to the Mogollon Rim

I continued my travels north after finding the Oracle area a bit too warm for my winterized body. I found myself in Pine, a place I remember fondly from an aborted hike in 2016.

The Arizona Trail connects many existing trails including the bulk of this section which shares tread with Highline Trail #31.

There’s the Mogollon Rim. That’s where I really wanted to be but there’s still a bit too much snow and deep sole-sucking mud. Besides conditions and temperatures were perfect and I still had plenty of time for higher country. The Highline Trail reminds me a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail where you stay below the high point, feeling teased all the time to climb just a bit higher to walk the ridge. Dirtmonger wrote an interesting post (link) on the Mogollon Rim and how it runs from New Mexico through Arizona. Of course he hiked the route. I’d be really interested in traveling Forest Road 300 which traverses along the rim (link).

Mogollon Rim sunset tease taunting me to come visit.

Trail porn.

There was a great mix of vegetation. One of my faves was the Juniper Pine sporting alligator bark.

I don’t know the name of this tree but the orange really popped.

What are these called? Buds?

There was plenty of seasonal water along the trail so I didn’t need to use any springs or wildlife tanks and in fact didn’t need to carry more than a liter at a time. What a pleasure after hiking in 2015, a drought year.

Natural water sources rank high on my list of desires when selecting trails. I really hate carrying water. That 2 pounds per liter is a killer for my body. For me it takes the enjoyment factor from fun to drudge.

I’m always happy to find bridges. Water crossings are high on my anxiety list.

This was my most challenging crossing not because of the water flow but because it was hard to make the leap from the rocks up that eroded embankment, and no way was I walking the logs. The main reason I’m including this photo however is a reminder to watch for wildlife cameras. At a small stream, I’d taken off my shirt to wet it down when I looked up and saw the camera. I wish I would have taken a photo and looked closer to see if it had any owner identifying information. My understanding is that these cameras are not permitted on forest service lands. Furthermore it was along one of these small streams I saw what I believe was a coatimundi. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. It’s been confirmed that these critters can be found this far north.

This section of trail has several car friendly access points,  is well signed and easy to follow.

I eventually transitioned from the Highline Trail to the Colonel Devin Trail #290.

I did this as an out-and-back hike starting from the Pine trailhead, traveling through Geronimo and Washington trailheads before turning around at Forest Road 300 and the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument, which mark the end of Passage 26.

Climbing the two miles up powerline road was quite challenging. I was happy to finally see the AZT sign!

I was saddened to see this graffiti on the Battle of Big Dry Wash Historical Monument.

The view from the top from where I’d come.

There was a lot of amazing trail work along this section to prevent erosion by bike riders and equestrians. Even the hikers caused some deep holes hiking through the mud. There were several sections with giant ruts asking for a twisted ankle.

A nice example of what happens in this soggy red dirt. The good thing is that these ruts seem to crumble when dry allowing it to once again become smooth trail.

Nice trail work to reroute deep channeled sections. The rut on left will eventually fill in.

The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) has done an outstanding job raising funds to replace rancher gates with this much more friendly hiker, biker and equestrian gates. I was a little surprised to see the old gate lying on the ground rather than being removed.

I took a detour on the BSA (assuming Boy Scouts of America) Rim View Trail. It hasn’t been maintained in a long time and didn’t show use beyond animals.

The trail leads somewhere up there.

It eventually leads to the point left of the tree.

Follow the green and orange signs plus a view triangles and a few cairns. Was it worth it? Not really.

Where there’s Boy Scouts, there must be Girl Scouts? I actually met a group of Girl Scouts out for a night I believe on this section. It was a bit disappointing to see them being led by a male. Just a reminder we need to step up to mentor the younger generation.

I thought I was looking at the Four-Peaks but now I think this is the Mazatzals, which I hiked the following week.

Or maybe I’m right and those are the Four Peaks and these are the Mazatzals? I didn’t have sufficient battery to check my Peaks app nor explore more on Gaia. I read that in this passage you’d spend a lot of time looking at the Mazatzals.

Nature’s art. Loved this!

Look it’s a giant heart.

The rocks were sparkly and colorful.

Hard to capture the color and sparkle.

Nice of the trail maintainers to cut a seat while they were cutting the log.

The ATA has created a program called the Remote Maintenance Task Force which encourages users of the trail to help by carrying shears or a saw (which they provide) to help with trimming.

And YES, I found some early blooms.

Spring means ladybugs and butterflies.

There’s one place on trail where you cross a road near private property. As I was approaching this sign at first glance I thought it said, “Loaded Gun, Turnaround.” Funny what the brain sees.

First signs of being out of shape. My poor tender feet suffered a bit. I haven’t had skin tears, rubs or blisters in years but always carry leukotape just in case. This was made worst by forgetting to let the leukotape fall off naturally.

I found temperatures perfect for hiking and backpacking. Chilly nights in 30’s to 40’s with daytime temperatures 50’s to 70’s.

Although this time of year, you really have to watch the forecast. This is mountain country.

LNT Issues:

Not quite sure how this big chunk of styrofoam got to this location. It was fairly remote. I didn’t carry it out.

Seriously, the campsite doesn’t need to be swept clean. Pine needles make for soft bedding and prevent a muddy mess.

By far the worst offender. It was full of something. Might of been leftover food, or garbage or  . . .

Seeing a thru-hiker leave this package outside the restroom at the Pine Trailhead was unacceptable. There were three vehicles with AZT hikers who would have carried it out. I offered to a group when they camped near my car and they accepted. I know another driver offered to a large group; sadly it was one from this group who decided to leave this gift for the trash angels instead. There is a large sign clearly stating no garbage service. If this area is abused like so many others, the forest service will remove this great hiker camping option.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 29 – April 2, 2019

Tips:

  • The trail as shown on digital maps excluding the specialized Arizona Trails app, have not been updated to show current trail. I tracked my hike using Gaia with several map layers including National Geographic, USGS and Gaia Topo. None showed current trail.
  • Unlike the PCT and AT, the Guthook/Atlas Map app does not show campsites. They are fairly plentiful along the way and some are mentioned in comments for water or trail junctions, etc.
  • Yep there are bears in these mountains.I carried an Ursack.

  • Knowing we have missing hikers who like me don’t always leave an itinerary, this is one method to help SAR should something happen.
  • This was a challenging section. Lots of up and down. This denotes one way going north.The trip totaled about 45 miles and 6,000 feet elevation gain/loss.

  • Camping is allowed at the Pine Trailhead. The evening after my hike, I found these elk gathering.
  • Laundry is available in Pine but no showers without paying for lodging. THAT Brewery is known to be hiker friendly although service can suck. I had an awesome experience at Joy’s Sweet Shop and Espresso Cafe. They had great WiFi as well as good coffee, sandwiches and friendly staff; however they are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you need a shower, I recommend hitching to Payson and visiting the Payson Campground and RV Resort. You can grab a shower for $10 and laundry for $4 (as of this writing), including WiFi. The place is extremely clean and friendly.

Resources:

Links:

AZ – Arizona Trail, Oracle Passage plus a visit to Tucson-Sonora Desert Museum

I said goodbye to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and headed east on Highway 86 where I found some delightful wildflowers including these Prickly Poppies. They were such standouts I couldn’t resist pulling over to photograph and see in person.

I was so near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I figured I’d regret not stopping by. I really didn’t want to pay the $24 entrance fee but I talked myself into not being a tightwad. I was concerned as the temperatures were in the 80’s when I arrived and since I was already suffering I worried about enjoying the experience. As anticipated I continued having signs of heat stroke or exhaustion even though I was wearing my hat but wishing I’d brought my umbrella. I made the best of my time although cutting it much shorter than the $24 fee warranted.

I especially liked the hummingbird room.

My friend Petra had given me maps and information for hiking the Santa Catalina Mountains including Sabino Canyon, which I’d hiked as part of the Arizona Trail (AZT) in 2015. I was excited about these possibilities until I saw 93 degrees registered on my car and the forecast for continued increasing temperatures. It was time for this winter acclimated gal to find higher elevation. As one who avoids traffic I found myself on the wrong side of the mountains. Waaaa

I drove and drove and drove way more hours than I like trying to find cooler temperatures. At least I found a sunset.

I eventually found myself at Tiger Mine Road Trailhead near Oracle where I have some of the best memories from when I hiked Passage 13 with Joan in 2015 (link). This is when we made our funny gear shakedown video which still makes me laugh.

I saw these flowers blooming when I hiked this section before but wasn’t able to identify with my wildflower app.

I was glad to find a few blooming beauties along the trail.

Firecracker penstemon.

Mariposa Lily.

The trail has become so civilized.

So inviting. Love this photo!

Too bad it’s dry.

I liked how this wallflower intermingled with this yucca.

This wallflower stood tall as the standout.

Mixing things up.

I’d love to see this cactus in bloom.

Wild rhubarb.

Wildflowers sure cheer up this normally dry grassy terrain.

Near the end of my hike, I was overheated and thankful to take a break in the shade of this underpass.

Bad LNT 😦 Yes, I picked it up although usually TP is where I draw the line.

So glad this rattlesnake sang loudly as I approached and that it wasn’t too close to the trail.

The Arizona Trail Association is to be commended for doing such an outstanding job growing this trail into one that many now desire to hike as either sections, day hikes, or long thru-hikes. It’s a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and equestrians.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 25-26, 2019

Resources:

Links:

 

AZ – Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Estes Canyon and Bull Pasture

It’s the second day driving the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive loop. The previous day I’d hiked Arch Canyon and since I’d gone much further than planned, this hike got delayed by a day. When I reached Bull Pasture once again I couldn’t stop.

Looking toward Mexico and down at Ajo Mountain Drive.

The Peak Finder App is so helpful. You can take a photo and align the named peaks. I was told you can also reach the summit off this trail.

I liked looking down at the trail I’d hiked as well as the large rock outcropping.

The colors of the rock mixed with the green vegetation was spectacular but I just wasn’t successful capturing with my camera.

This is appropriately named Teddy Bear Pass . . . but make no mistake those cholla are NOT cuddly!

First of the season Fiddlenecks.

Mariposa lily.

Not sure on this one, possibly a lupine or blue bell?

Phacelia

These are very similar to that pictured above. They are called Scorpionweed for a reason. They smell like onion and can leave you with a rash much like poison oak or ivy. The easy way to tell the difference is the yellow stamen.

I’m intrigued with the juxtaposition of typical mountain flowers mixed with desert vegetation.

I found a large batch of monkey flower near a seep.

Look at all the babies on this organ cactus.

This looks like possibly a cat claw. Maybe I’ll forgive their pokey stems since they offer flowers in exchange.

This 4.25 mile route took me 5 hours. It was less technical than the Arch Canyon route but still provided plenty of challenges with 1,200 feet of climbing.

While driving the Ajo Mountain Drive loop, I found this orange heart on the mountain. Is it poppies? Is it natural or was it shaped?

A few other reminders you are near the border with Mexico.

It’s time to run elsewhere. It’s getting much too hot for this gal. By the time you read this, I’ll consider these optimal temps.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 24, 2019

Tips(s):

  • Camping is available both at the campground and on nearby public land.
  • A benefit for the campground is showers included in the campground fee. Unreserved sites don’t become available until after 11am.
  • Gila Bend, Ajo and Why are nearest towns for groceries, gas, etc.
  • You’ll go through an Immigration Checkpoint leaving Organ Pipe heading back toward Ajo. It was an interesting and intimidating experience.

Resources:

Links:

AZ – Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arch Canyon

Sunrise provided some color but from the campground, photographic opportunities were limited. From my campsite it was a morning to say goodbye to the moon.

On this day, my goal was to hike Arch Canyon and Estes Canyon Bull Pasture trails along Ajo Mountain Drive, a 21-mile dirt/gravel road.

Once again I was reminded to be on alert, especially as a solo hiker.

It seemed I was the only one on the road around 8:30am so was happy I could stop and admire views and take photos as I desired.

I believe that’s Tillotson Peak.

First view of THE arch, and if you look carefully the double arch. There’s a tiny arch on top of the big arch.

Hike #2: Arch Canyon

Trail details. The plan was to hike the .6 miles on the maintained trail.

Since I was tracking wildflower blooms on this spring jaunt, I was thrilled to find poppies.

The trail was lined with my favorite happy flower.

I found the first Owl Clover of the season.

First Blue Dicks of the season.

First Larkspur.

You just can’t seem to get away from the warnings, as I said it reminded me of grizzly country.

So when I got to end of maintained trail . . .

This cairn may have called my name. I tried fighting the calling.

When the route was like this it was difficult to resist the pull.

A gift along the way. Wonder what it is?

There were a few remaining potholes full of water for the wildlife, now that’s a gift.

Desert penstemon tangled with a ocotillo.

Verbena

Chicory

Always doing my part to clean up after others.

Where is this trail taking me?

The outcroppings sure were pretty.

I found some incredible views. That’s looking back down onto Ajo Mountain Drive. Hmmm . . .  I hiked from way down there. I guess I won’t be doing the other planned hikes today. Might as well keep going and see where this “trail” takes me.

That’s Mt Ajo, which supposedly you can climb from both this trail as well as the Estes Canyon / Bull Pasture trail. This rock had so much color and definition to the naked eye but my camera just wasn’t able to provide good images even with a little editing.

This cairn marked my turnaround spot. I tried finding the backside of the arch but finally just had to cry uncle.

And then what did I stumble upon following one of the many cairn routes? Why yes, that’s THE backside of THE arch! If you look closely you can see a use trail to the arch. I found the way but it would have taken a lot more effort than I had left in me so this distant view was the best I was going to get on this day.

This 3.25 mile route took me over four hours. It provided more than enough physical and technical challenges for me on this day.

After leaving Arch Canyon, I stopped along the way for flowers and views, including this one of a Fairy Duster.

The massive amounts of mallow was impressive.

I stopped by the visitor center to ask a few questions and learn a bit more about the park. In so doing, I learned about Kris Eggle for whom the visitor center is named.

I also collected my I Hiked for Health pin. This is my fourth I believe. It’s an Arizona parks program. I wish more would do it to encourage movement and exploration beyond the vehicle or campgrounds.

I drove up Puerto Blanco Drive to Pinkley Peak viewpoint for sunset.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 23, 2019

Tips(s):

  • Camping is available both at the campground and on nearby public land.
  • A benefit for the campground is showers included in the campground fee. Unreserved sites don’t become available until after 11am.
  • Gila Bend, Ajo and Why are nearest towns for groceries, gas, etc.

Resources:

Links:

AZ – Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Palm Canyon

After 1,700 miles of driving over the past couple weeks, I said goodbye to California but couldn’t resist this short stop to admire Salton Sea and the surrounding geology. Sad to learn about it’s shrinkage and negative impact on wildlife.

Hello Arizona! Have you missed me?

I found myself in the middle of a butterfly migration. It was crazy seeing the thousands flying through traffic on Interstate 10. Sadly more than a few found themselves splattered across my car.

You know you’re in Arizona when . . .

I stopped in Quartzsite and was so disappointed in the quality of the library and services after my time in Borrego Springs where everything exceeded expectations. But when I drove toward the refuge and saw the beautiful Kofa Mountains all was forgotten.

I stopped at the kiosk on Palm Canyon  Road.

As I drove Palm Canyon Road in the late afternoon, I got this first view of the the area I planned to hike the following day.

Lighting was good for photography, so I stopped to explore further.

There was a sign at the informational kiosk indicating Big Horn Sheep so I was pretty excited to be welcomed by this little guy. It’s the only one I saw during my entire visit.

There are great dispersed camping options along the road. The Reserve has done a great job making designated areas for camping which provides plenty of privacy. I hiked a nearby knoll to watch sunset.

Sunset colors were phenomenal.

I like to align my car to capture morning sun.

There is a light use trail around the front of the mountain. Per internet research I found there’s a route around the mountain. The first day I hiked to the north. After about a mile the use trail disappeared. There were multiple cairns which could be followed but they were all over the place making it a bit easier to just make your own trail. I called it my Etch-A-Sketch hike.

I found a few blooms along the way including this Broomrape.

Phacelia and poppies.

Poppy love.

Ghost Flowers.

Globe Mallow.

After hiking for a few hours I arrived at this feature just before the Queen Canyon Road.

I loved the shapes and colors of the mountains.

I’d heard the palms in the canyon were only visible mid afternoon due to sun position and shadows. This was at 2:50pm and only the lower half was visible.

This is the canyon where the palms are hidden. According to the handouts these are the only native palm trees in Arizona and they are California Fan Palms. In 1986 42 trees were counted.

After my hike I saw this guy preparing to go out overnight. He was with three others who were not armed. This is a very family friendly trail. It was very disturbing to see someone going out with such armory.

I was delighted by another nice sunset my second night.

I hiked south along the front of the mountain the next day. You won’t hear me complain when there’s flowers.The use trail disappeared much sooner going south and there were far fewer cairns.

I was told by another hiker the palms were fully in the sun around noon so I hiked up earlier my second day. I arrived at 11am and waited until 11:30am. The sun still had a long way to go so I accepted what I got.

The only designated hiking trail in Kofa is the short one to the view the palms. There are many use trails and roads in the preserve but many of the roads are only accessible by raised 4×4 or ATV. If you’d like to hike maintained trails, check out those in nearby Dome Valley like Muggins Mountain. My friend Petra lives nearby and introduced me to the area. Loved the geology.

Here it is mid-March and temps are increasing quickly.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 14-19, 2019

Tips(s):

  • I found the travel center truck stops at the junction of I-10 and Hwy 95 were a great option for a shower. Pilot had a shorter line and nicer place to wait vs Love’s but both were extremely busy and noisy. Pilot also has free WiFi whereas Love’s charges.

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