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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Coffee and Canyons in the Aubrey Hills

It's our habit first thing every morning to take our coffee mugs out for a walk.  Usually this is a stroll of only an hour or so before breakfast, and so our options are limited.  Often it becomes a perambulation of our campground.  Occasionally, we have more scenic choices, such as here at The Steps, where we could walk off in any of a half dozen directions and see things of interest.

This morning we found a wash at the south end of our boondock area.  The wash had potential as it wound eastward up into the Aubrey Hills and disappeared around a bend thick with cottonwood and other greenery.  So we headed down a steep ATV trail to the bed of the wash and turned upstream:


Surprise!  This wash had three beautiful drop-offs, where periodic flash floods had polished the red rocks to a white luster:


Each dry waterfall was easy to navigate.  Here's Kathy looking up to Dave's clearly masterful rock-climbing skills:


This is the ecotone between the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, to the east, and the Mojave Desert of California, to the west.  Thus, saguaros are few and far between.  But we did see this lone sentinel who undoubtedly was marking our progress and trying to decide whether to warn his fellow cacti that danger was near:


Every turn of this wash had something new and interesting.  Among other things, we found rich veins of quartz that diverted us for long hunts among stones for the perfect specimens; and David spotted this dramatic cliff formation carved by the rushing waters:


It is early Spring here, and we noticed a beautiful little purple wildflower clinging to fresh life in the rock walls above the wash:


As all good coffee walks go, this had to end, but we decided to mark the far point of our exploration with a rocky shadow photo.  Cheers!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jeeping to Rovey's Needle

Our current boondock spot, The Steps, is located at the base of the Aubrey Hills, only a mile or two up from the shore of Lake Havasu in Arizona.  There are jeep roads everywhere in this area, and so we decided we would take a day to explore by jeep.  Our book on Arizona backroad and 4WD trails lists a drive from our location to Cattail Cove on the Bill Williams River, which empties into the southern end of Lake Havasu, just above Parker Dam.  We decided this would be our route, since the book provides a very helpful guide; but we decided to drive only as far as Rovey's Needle - about 8 miles round trip - nothing extreme.

Rovey’s Needle is a curious geological formation, also sometimes called Holey Rock or Honeycomb Rock because of the hole in the middle and its honeycomb texture.  It stands tall over the desert floor, surrounded by desert washes and hills.

We asked Dusty if he was up for the challenge, and he hopped up and down in excitement.  He even put on his beer whip for the occasion and posed jauntily with one wheel on a large rock outcrop to show his expertise:


As the road leaves our camping area, it rises quickly through the steps that were once planned for some sort of residential lots.  As we looked back, we could see Buster far below with Lake Havasu in the background (yes, I know we already posted a view like this in another blog entry, but this is from a different perspective, and we find the scenery inspiring):


Once we had climbed over the pass and dropped down into the nearest wash, we followed the wash south, past this very idiosyncratic saguaro:


It is the beginning of Spring here in the Sonoran Desert, and this ocotillo was dressed in her finest, freshest green:


We climbed again from the wash toward Rovey's Needle.  We decided the last hill was steeper than we cared to challenge in the jeep, so we parked the little feller and climbed on foot.  If you look closely, you can see Kathy climbing along the side of the road, with the washes below and behind her:


From where our jeep was parked, we had a perfect view of Rovey's Needle, standing proudly on its own sandstone/volcanic hill:


Like all good needles, Rovey's Needle has an eye - a hole you can peer through, and even climb through.  This was our first view through the eye of the needle:


Kathy took this shot of David standing at the needle's eye, with the honeycomb weathering evident all around:


The photo below gives you a much closer view of the formation's honeycomb weathering.


Honeycomb weathering, named for the weathering's resemblance to a honeycomb, also is known as fretting, cavernous weathering, alveoli/alveolar weathering, stone lattice, stone lace or miniature tafoni weathering is a form of salt weathering common on coastal and semi-arid granites, sandstones and limestones. The honeycomb features can develop as fast as several centimeters in 100 years.  Honeycomb weathering occurs throughout the world from the polar regions to the equator.  The sources we've read suggest that salt air is generally required.  However, there is no salt air in the Sonoran Desert.  We wondered how, then, honeycomb weathering could occur here?  Research sources indicate that many washes in the southwest are dry for most of the year but are very rich in dissolved salts when they do flood. In desert environments, honeycomb weathering occurs predominantly along dry stream beds and canyons. When a flood comes through, even though the water may not be as saline as the ocean, it is still salty enough to form small salt crystals when it evaporates.  So, presumably, Rovey's Needle was once the wall of a canyon through which flash floods ran periodically, depositing mineral salts over a long enough time to create the honeycombs.

But enough about geology.  Here's a photo of Kathy looking for a creative view up to the peak of the needle.  She's lying on her back, oblivious to the impending doom behind her.


We, of course, had to try to crawl through the needle's eye, which we successfully did.  Kathy was the brave one to try it first, so she gets the honor of the photo of her triumphant return through the needle's eye.  Either she isn't rich or she'll be very adept at getting to Heaven.


After exploring Rovey's Needle, we climbed back down near the jeep and found a quiet spot with a view for lunch.  While we munched, we looked at things on the ground.  David found some beautiful buttercup-like flowers in full bloom --


-- and Kathy found some beautiful quartz rocks, which she set up in display to memorialize our lunch spot:


Our drive back to camp went without incident.  We won't bother to tell you about it, because it was the same as our trip out to Rovey's Needle, except backward.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Culvert Operation at the Steps

Dear Blog!

On Monday, February 20, 2017, we moved from the SARA Park Rodeo Grounds in Lake Havasu to a dry camping area along AZ 95 just north of Parker, Arizona known as "The Steps." This area is owned by the Arizona Land Trust and can be used with an annual permit. Once you visit "The Steps" you will understand where it gets its name. There are a number of leveled out "steps" leading up the side of the hills. We have heard a number of stories about the history of this place. Some say the area was used during the construction of the Parker Dam as a work camp. Others say it was going to be a housing development that went bankrupt and the state took it over. We weren't able to corroborate either story. All we know is the area is a mecca for RVers, especially those with ATVs who like to ride up and down The Steps.

After getting settled, we met up with fellow Boomers, Ron and Dee Stuebing, and cooked dinner over a campfire. On Tuesday morning, we ventured out to explore our new camping area. We ran into another RVer who suggested we hike the wash down to the edge of Lake Havasu. It sounded like a great adventure, so we packed our packs, loaded the GPS with fresh batteries and slathered on the suntan lotion.

We had no trouble finding the wash. It was so large it needed five culverts to pass under AZ 95. Dave picked his favorite one and posed for scale.


Wait! Where did Dave go? It was so dark inside the culvert, you couldn't see him until he popped out the other side.


Some culverts get more use than others. Kathy posed by the "culvert less traveled":


We soon left the highway behind and the desert opened up before us. There is a big lake out there somewhere.


We followed the wash downhill. We could  have said downstream, but there was barely any moisture.

After passing through a small slot canyon, we came across one of our favorite desert plants. California dodder is a leafless, parasitic, viney plant with slender orange to yellowy stems which are each fastened to their host organism by means of a knobby root-like structure called a haustoria, which allows it to draw its nourishment from the host. It is really creepy, but very cool.


The shorelines of Lake Havasu are a transition zone from the higher Mojave Desert to the west, to the lower Sonoran Desert to the east.


Once we reached the lakeshore, we climbed up a ridge to see what we could see. We spotted several BLM campsites complete with picnic tables and port-a-potties. These campsites are usually accessed by boat, but we didn't have too much trouble hiking in. Right next to the campsites was a beautiful cove with clear blue-green water.


We decided to pick the campsite with a picnic table right next to the water.


It wasn't long before the boots came off!


We munched our lunch while dangling our toes in the water. Speedboats would zoom by, creating waves that washed small shells up on the beach. After we gathered a good number of shells, it was time to hit the trail again. On the way back, we noticed things we didn't see on the way down, like this really cool cave.


We did see the first palm tree on the way down, but when we explored the side canyon on the way back, we found there were actually three palm trees.


The hike was only four and half miles round trip, but we felt like we were transported to a totally different environment. The scenery was as beautiful as in many national parks.  We could easily spend another 2 or 3 weeks exploring the various washes, canyons, coves and caves in the area.  But we only have a few days and we already have some other ideas.

So ends another adventure. Stay thirsty my friends.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Crack in the Mountain Trail - Lake Havasu

SARA (Special Activities and Recreation Area) Park is an 1100-acre regional park with spectacular mountain views and access to Lake Havasu. The park's facilities cater to a wide range of recreational activities and also serve as venues for events such as the popular Winter Blast fireworks display, obstacle races and concerts throughout the year. SARA Park has a network of hiking and mountain bike trails, ballfields, dog park, rodeo and fairgrounds. Other activities include BMX and motocross racing, roller hockey, RC plane field and a shooting and archery range.

The park boasts an extensive network of hiking and biking trails.  Since we are only here a short time, we picked the Crack in the Mountain Trail, which is the most well known in the park.  This beautiful trail runs 3.3 miles from a trailhead in SARA Park, through BLM lands, down a natural wash, navigating "Crack-in-the-Mountain," one of the most famous slot canyons on the Lower Colorado River. It ends at scenic Balanced Rock Cove, named for a precariously balancing caprock, sitting on a stone column, that presides over the blue-green waters of the cove.  Locals related that bighorn sheep can often be spotted along the network of trails.

This was our view down the valley through which we would be hiking to Lake Havasu:


While much of the trial follows a gravel wash, the geology of the land around the wash changes dramatically at nearly every bend.  Here, Kathy gazes up at some particularly interesting rock formations:


As we approached the slot canyon, the wash took on the look of a mountain stream:


Once we entered the slot canyon, we were clambering down slick-rock formations where the canyon walls were close enough together for us to touch both walls at the same time:


After the main slot canyon, the wash dominated again for perhaps half a mile, returning to a lesser slot canyon before opening out with a glimpse, over the wash's foliage, of the lake through some unique rock formations that we like to call the "Organ Pipes":


Once we reached Balanced Rock Cove, we climbed steeply back up to the ridge in order to work our way around the cove.  This gave us a breathtaking view of Balanced Rock with the cove, and the rest of Lake Havasu, in the background:


The waters of Lake Havasu are a gorgeous blue-green and were, in fact, the origin of the lake's name.  "Havasu" is Mojave for "blue-green," and a local Native American couple was said to have given the lake this name when the muddy sediments in it settled after the Parker Dam was completed in 1938. Below, Kathy admires the beautiful color of the lake water, set off so splendidly by the reds, tans and greens of the surrounding terrain:


We just couldn't get enough of the views of rocks and water.  This photo looks back through our "Organ Pipes" rock formation toward where the wash made its way down to the cove:


We made our way around the cove and down to the shore to a BLM picnic and camping site, where we paused for a well-earned lunch:


Kathy took the opportunity to dip her toes in the COLD waters of Lake Havasu.  Here she is registering her mighty enjoyment of the refreshing dip:


After lunch, back we trekked past the Organ Pipes, with a view of a lush green-and-siena wetland that provides shelter for a variety of shorebirds.


We saw an egret, several ducks, many coots, and a flock of over half a dozen Clark's Grebes, whose behavior made us think of loons with ADHD:


Back up the wash we worked our way, climbing back up the ledges of the slot canyon that we had slid down previously.  Some trail angel had left a short metal ladder at one point, and we didn't hesitate to make full use of it:


At another spot, someone had anchored a climbing rope, conveniently sporting knots for hand-holds. We each grabbed hold and walked up the slick rock.  Here's David turning toward the camera in a victory pose after his climb:


The hike was thoroughly enjoyable, with gorgeous scenery and interesting rocks, flora and fauna at every turn.  As we neared trail's end, Kathy paused to pose with a few of her rocky pals:


We wish we had another three weeks here, to explore all the other trails.  One rocky climb can take intrepid hikers to the top of Picnic Table Mountain, aptly named for the picnic table that some climber found a way to set on the mountaintop - we don't know how.