Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

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bobcat
Posts: 1964
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by bobcat » April 20th, 2018, 2:43 pm

We did a spring trip down to the deserts of California and Arizona, hoping to enjoy the attractions in balmy weather. We got the blue skies, but temperatures were unseasonable and 10 – 15 degrees above normal. Our lowest high was 77 on our first day in Palm Springs, while our last day (in Phoenix) was a bracing 98! Tina put the damper on any aspirations on my part to design this primarily as a “hiking” trip and that, combined with the fact that she positively wilts on days above 75 degrees, meant that our outdoor excursions were more limited than I had hoped. Much of the time, we were down near the border and, although we never crossed into Mexico, we went through at least five border checkpoints and Border Patrol SUVs were omnipresent.

Note that under the "new and better" upgrade, file names are not automatically translating into visible picture captions as before. You can run your mouse over the picture to see the file name, which serves as a caption.

1. Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

My eyes were on the Skyline Trail, 10 miles and 7,000 feet elevation gain up to the end of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, but we were in the area with friends from Portland who had other ideas. One hike was on the Lykken Trail, from the beginning of the Skyline, which offered views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
Warning for Skyline Trail, North Lykken Trailhead, Palm Springs.jpg
View to Casa Cody and the Santa Rosas, Lykken Trail, Palm Springs.jpg
Barrel cactus, Lykken Trail, Palm Springs.jpg
California barrel cactus (Ferrocactus cylindraceus), Lykken Trail, Palm Springs.jpg
Notch-leaved phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), Lykken Trail, Palm Springs.jpg
Chuparosa (Justicia californica), Lykken Trail, Palm Springs.jpg
We also hiked in two of the “Indian Canyons” on the Agua Caliente Reservation ($9 admission per person). The attraction here is the creeks shaded by California fan palms, the only palm tree native to the western U.S. Both of these areas were within the national monument.
Arriving at Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Sacred datura (Datura wrightii), Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Wild Canterbury bells (Phacelia minor), Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Tina under fan palms, Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi), Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Gander's cholla (Cylindropuntia ganderi), Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Murray Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
Agua Caliente shelter, Andreas Canyon, Indian Canyons.jpg
2. Joshua Tree National Park

We made a day excursion to do some short hiking trails in Joshua Tree, and experienced the lowest temperatures and coldest winds of the trip at Keys View (5,185 feet, 53 degrees). This was the only three-layer day of the trip!
Yucca and outcrop, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park.jpg
Juniper, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park.jpg
Claretcup hedgehog (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park.jpg
Pinyon pine, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park.jpg
Joshua tree, Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park.jpg
3. Mecca Hills Wilderness

These bleak hills near the north end of the Salton Sea have a slot canyon where ladders have been installed by a local hiking club to ease you up some vertical chutes. It was 95 degrees, so Tina found a patch of shade to read a book, while I headed up a scorching wash. Once inside the slot canyon, however, temperatures cooled about 25 degrees.
Palo verde in Big Painted Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness.jpg
Blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida), Big Painted Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness.jpg
Ladder in Ladder Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness.jpg
In the slot, Ladder Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness.jpg
View to the Santa Rosa Mountains, Ladder Canyon, Mecca Hills Wilderness.jpg
4. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

This is the largest state park in the United States. It is even more widely known, perhaps, as a staple of every generic nature calendar ever printed, the scene usually a brilliant carpet of wildflowers as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, the desert here hasn’t bloomed for a couple of years because they’re in a severe drought. I did entice Tina into another slot canyon on a 95 degree day.
Coming down the Narrows Earth Trail, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.jpg
Tumbled boulder, The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.jpg
Long-tailed brush lizard (Urosaurus graciosus), The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.jpg
The arch at The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.jpg
Tight fit, The Slot, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.jpg
We also enjoyed wandering through the creosote/cholla/ocotillo scrublands outside Borrego Springs visiting scores of life-size metal sculptures installed by artist/welder Richard Breceda.
Extinct horses, Galleta Meadows (Borrego Springs Road South), Borrego Springs.jpg
Tina coddling Utahraptor, Galleta Meadows (Borrego Springs Road South), Borrego Springs.jpg
Bighorn sheep, Galleta Meadows (Borrego Springs Road North), Borrego Springs.jpg
The serpent and coils, Galleta Meadows (Borrego Springs Road), Borrego Springs.jpg
Merriam's tapir and young, Galleta Meadows (Big Horn Road), Borrego Springs.jpg
5. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Out the back door of the Visitor Center, I almost stepped on a western diamondback. I told the ranger, who got excited and fetched her snake stick but ended up just taking pictures. We hiked a trail up in the Ajo Mountains; we were only four miles from the border, and signs reminded us that these canyons sometimes serve drug traffickers as well as tourists.
Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
Organ pipe cactus and chollas, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
Chain fruit cholla (Opuntia fulgida), Arch Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
Head of the canyon, Arch Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
Caution sign, Arch Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
Coulter hibiscus (Hibiscus coulteri), Arch Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg
View to the arch, Arch Trail, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.jpg

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bobcat
Posts: 1964
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by bobcat » April 20th, 2018, 2:57 pm

6. Saguaro National Park

We spent a few days in Tucson and so were able to do some short hikes in both the west and east sections of the national park. Temperatures were around 90 here as well, but we caught a handful of saguaros in flower (They usually bloom in May).
Contorted saguaro, Valley View Trail, Saguaro National Park West.jpg
Black-tailed gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) on nest, Valley View Trail, Saguaro National Park West.jpg
Fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), Valley View Trail, Saguaro National Park West.jpg
Valley View Trail, Saguaro National Park West.jpg
Tipping a barrel, Signal Hill, Saguaro National Park West.jpg
Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), Saguaro National Park West.jpg
View to Tanque Verde Ridge from Javelina Overlook, Saguaro National Park East.jpg
Desert zinnia (Zinnia acerosa), Javelina Overlook, Saguaro National Park East.jpg
Desert garden, Javelina Overlook, Saguaro National Park East.jpg
John and saguaro, Freeman Homestead Trail, Saguaro National Park East.jpg
7. Ironwood Forest National Monument

There are no trails in this national monument on BLM land, but I found a possible excursion, described in Summit Post, to the summit of Ragged Top in the Silver Bell Mountains. The catch was that I had a rendezvous with my wife at the Tucson Art Museum at noon. I spent some time locating a suitable trailhead and then wandered through cholla/palo verde scrub and an ironwood wash to reach the slopes of Ragged Top. Here, I surprised a herd of desert bighorn ewes who stuck around for a while and eyed me cautiously. The ascent route was up a steep, boulder-filled gully tangled with whitethorn acacias sporting one-inch thorns. I worked my way up to a roomy cave and, still about 300 feet below the summit, knew I had to turn around or lose my freedom.
View to Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Engelmann's hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Harris's hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Crags on the west ridge of Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Desert bighorns (Ovis canadensis nelsoni), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Bighorn group, Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Desert honeysuckle (Anisacanthus thurberi), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
The scramble gully, Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
View on the descent, Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Desert star (Monoptilon bellioides), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor), Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
Looking up the wash to Ragged Top, Ironwood Forest National Monument.jpg
8. Ramsey and Brown Canyons (Miller Peak Wilderness)

Again, I escaped in the cool of the morning to do a longer loop up Ramsey Canyon and then down Brown Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. I began in the Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve (admission fee), which borders on the wilderness. The canyons are shaded by leafy Fremont cottonwoods and white-barked Arizona sycamores, which were just beginning to leaf out. As with other border “sky island” ranges, this is a hot spot for birders seeking the numerous species that enter the U.S. only in these parts and nowhere else. A group of enthusiasts pointed out to me an elegant trogon, and I was able to identify several other borderland species as I completed the loop. Brown Canyon has been a notorious drug trafficking route in the past; these days the area is monitored by a TARS (Tethered Aerostat Radar System) blimp, which screens the airspace for all those drug payloads delivered via cartel-owned drones.
Ramparts above, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Massive sycamore, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
James Cabin, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Under the sycamores, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Wilcox barberry (Berberis wilcoxii), Ramsey Canyon.jpg
View to Ramsey Peak, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
At Ramsey Creek, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Oak gobbling rock, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens), Ramsey Canyon.jpg
View to Sierra Vista, Brown Canyon Trail.jpg
Rock outcrop, Brown Canyon Trail.jpg
Bridled titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi), Brown Canyon.jpg
Black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), Brown Canyon.jpg
Painted redstart (Myloborus pictus), Brown Canyon.jpg
Old cattle trough, Brown Canyon Spring, Brown Canyon.jpg
TARS (Tethered Aerostat Radar System) blimp, Brown Canyon Trail.jpg
Looking back to Ramsey Peak, Brown Canyon.jpg
Ranch house, Brown Canyon Ranch.jpg
In the mesquite, Brown Canyon Ranch.jpg
Mule deer, Ramsey Canyon.jpg
Gould's wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo mexicana), Ramsey Canyon.jpg
9. Coronado National Memorial

This is park of yucca grasslands and expansive views down into Sonora, Mexico and back to 9,470-foot Miller Peak. We hiked from Montezuma Pass along the ridge to the Yaqui Ridge Trail, which leads down one mile to the Mexico border.
Montezuma Peak, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
View to Sutherland Peak from Coronado Peak, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
Cane cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior), Joe's Canyon Trail, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
Cerro el Tejano (Mexico) from Coronado Peak, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
Miller Peak from Coronado Peak, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
Junction with Yaqui Ridge Trail, Joe's Canyon Trail, Coronado National Memorial.jpg
10. Chiricahua National Monument

In terms of hiking, this was probably the highlight of the trip. Temperatures were cooler up here, and we spent most of the day hiking in and out to Heart of the Rocks and then doing some shorter trails. The fantastic formations here are the result of 27 million years’ erosion of welded tuff deposits from the Turkey Creek Volcano. The loop in Heart of the Rocks allows you squeeze through the landscape of bizarre pinnacles. There’s also some magnificent stonework on the trails completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Columns, Ed Riggs Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens), Ed Riggs Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Ramparts above, Mushroom Rock Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Mushroom Rock, Mushroom Rock Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Yarrow's spiny lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), Mushroom Rock Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
On the Big Balanced Rock Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Big Balanced Rock and companions, Big Balanced Rock Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Pinnacle Balanced Rock, Heart of Rocks, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Rockscape, Heart of Rocks, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Narrow defile, Heart of Rocks, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
View to Totem Rock, Ed Riggs Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Pinnacle, Ed Riggs Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Arizona claretcup cactus (Echinocereus arizonicus), Ed Riggs Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
View to Cochise Head, Massai Point, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
At lookout perch, Massai Point, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Balanced slab, Echo Canyon Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
CCC stonework, Echo Canyon Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Sugarloaf Mountain, Echo Canyon Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg
Inside the Grottoes, Echo Canyon Trail, Chiricahua National Monument.jpg

pablo
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Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by pablo » April 20th, 2018, 10:36 pm

Amazing places and wonderful reports & photos describing them.

Thx,

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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romann
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Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by romann » April 20th, 2018, 10:48 pm

Great info and pictures - thanks for posting!

So many cool places to see in Southern Arizona and So Cal, most of these I never heard of.

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BurnsideBob
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Location: Mount Angel, Oregon

Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by BurnsideBob » April 21st, 2018, 6:37 am

Awesome!!

Thank you for sharing your experiences!!
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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sgyoung
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Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by sgyoung » April 21st, 2018, 10:28 am

These are great photos. Thanks for sharing. The SW is an amazing place. Desert scenery manages to be incredibly beautiful despite the austerity (or because of it?).

Thanks for all the details about these locations hikes. Checking out more of Arizona has been on my radar for a while so this a helpful summary of the areas you visited.

That's a cool rattlesnake encounter too.

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Nybble
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Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by Nybble » April 21st, 2018, 6:33 pm

Spectacular photos! The SW is such a beautiful place, so dramatically different from our environment here in the NW.
I'm not sure if they're the captions you had intended, but I'm seeing what I'm assuming are your (delightfully descriptive) filenames when hovering a mouse over each image.
Thanks for sharing!

Aimless
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Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by Aimless » April 21st, 2018, 7:03 pm

Could you forward a copy of the first photo in your TR, of the sign stating you hike at your own risk, to the FS people who are in charge of opening the trails in the Columbia Gorge? This seems like such a simple, cheap, obvious solution to opening trails that can be hiked with a certain amount of risk, even before trail crews can certify they are "safe" for the flip-flop crowd. I'd appreciate the local FS personnel seeing how directly and easily their colleagues in Arizona decline taking liability for trail hazards.

Webfoot
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Re: Desert borderlands 3-27 to 4-12-18

Post by Webfoot » August 29th, 2019, 4:15 am

That looks like a really interesting trip! Thanks for posting all those photos.

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