Forum Index > Trip Reports > Kofa Natl Wildlife Refuge Sonoran Desert Extraordinaire!  Nov 17-19, 2018
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John Morrow
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PostWed Dec 05, 2018 12:01 pm 
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It was a long drive but Kimberly and I departed Lake Mead for Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in SW AZ exchanging Mojave Desert landscapes for the lush and beautiful Sonoran Desert.  It is a festival of chlorophyll color with abundant ocotillo, saguaro, barrel, cholla, and many other cacti.  So hard to get pictures to do it justice.

Kofa is about 1/2 million acres, with much of it wilderness in between of significant road access points.  For these hikes Kimberly's Jeep was important to get us 3 or 4 miles closer to the Signal Peak and Castle Dome scrambles than my Subaru Forester (yup, traded in the Civic) could get.  Though nothing reaches 5000 feet high, it is incredibly jagged and mountainous, with multiple mountain ranges rising out of vast desert flats.  One real uniqueness is that the refuge rock type possesses many natural tanks that can hold monsoonal rain water for months between rainfall.  Learning that, we decided it must be backpacked at a future date.

It was daytrips for this visit, concentrating on several very aesthetic and enjoyable peak scrambles.

Nov 17:  Signal Peak 4877', Ten Ewe Mountain 4720', and a evening run up Peak 2383'.


Kofa Overview
Kofa Overview
Signal Ten Ewe
Signal Ten Ewe

We arrived to Kofa and set up camp in the dark at the start of the Kofa Queen Canyon Road: a definite 4WD track.  The next morning we drove into the canyon entrance and started hiking.  Indian Canyon was an obvious drainage to the south.  A cairned trail/route rose up a rib and on to Signal Peak.


many spires
many spires
hunting picto
hunting picto
side canyon start
side canyon start
view north
view north
Kimberly ascends
Kimberly ascends
Ten Ewe for later
Ten Ewe for later
what a mountain range
what a mountain range

Then I shot across for Ten Ewe.  With no beta I failed miserably on the north side of it trying to locate a break in the cliffs.  Determined, I turned back beneath the west face and found the key rising gully that broke through the cliffband impasse.  Great slabby shelves then gave way to a short gully and onto the summit plateau.  It goes straightforward once you reach the rising right to left gully (Class 3 exit).


head for lower left trending gully
head for lower left trending gully
inside key gully
inside key gully
Easy Class 3 crux
Easy Class 3 crux
Ten Ewe summit in site
Ten Ewe summit in site
Oh wow!  The Kofa Mtns. Range
Oh wow!  The Kofa Mtns. Range
Castle Dome Range (namesake left)
Castle Dome Range (namesake left)

Afterward, we drove to the King road for a nice dispersed car camp and I did a quick evening scramble of an aesthetic Class 2 east ridge of Peak 2383'.  I was surprised to find a register left by the two most prolific desert peak rats of the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section: Barbara Lilley and Gordon MacLeod.


Pk 2383 and HorseTanks
Pk 2383 and HorseTanks
sunset on Signal
sunset on Signal
sunset scramble of PK 2383'
sunset scramble of PK 2383'

Nov 18:  Horse Tanks Wash.

We enjoyed a morning exploration of Horse Tanks Wash area before the long drive to the start of tomorrow's Castle Dome 3788'.


Horse Tanks
Horse Tanks
more tanks
more tanks
nice canyon
nice canyon
veg
veg
Kimberly admires rock art
Kimberly admires rock art

In the late afternoon I roamed up Peak 2683' to the NW of our camp in the wash of Castle Dome.  Despite loose gullies and suspect rock, there was much interesting Class 3 scrambling on either of the two SE trending ridges to the climbers right of the highpoints.  Another MacLeod/Lilley register was at the top...those two get everywhere!
The sunset was sublime.


Tomorrow's destination
Tomorrow's destination
Sonoran scene
Sonoran scene
Peak 2683' for afternoon
Peak 2683' for afternoon
blossom
blossom
barrels and ocotillo
barrels and ocotillo
ascent ridge (right SE Ridge)
ascent ridge (right SE Ridge)
upward scrambling
upward scrambling
2nd SE Ridge for descent
2nd SE Ridge for descent
Castle Dome towers
Castle Dome towers
Castle Dome Mountains
Castle Dome Mountains
descending good rock
descending good rock
descent ridge
descent ridge
descent on good rock
descent on good rock
what is this????
what is this????
ocotillo glow
ocotillo glow
descent ridge at sunset
descent ridge at sunset
last light
last light

Nov 19.  Castle Dome 3877'

Castle Dome turned out to be one of my favorite desert Class 3 scrambles of all time!  Easy routefinding (abundant cairns) led us to the inside of the dramatic NE spire where 350 feet of stepladder Class 3 scrambling began.  Fabulous solid scrambling seemed to go on and on till we were at the summit.  We were elated at the quality of the scrambling!


early start for Castle Dome
early start for Castle Dome
view north
view north
Kimberly enjoys great scrambling
Kimberly enjoys great scrambling
smiles!
smiles!
More great scrambling
More great scrambling
top looking SE
top looking SE
view south
view south
our ascent wash
our ascent wash
flower
flower

The return down the canyon wash showcased all that we love about the Sonoran Desert landscape and flora.  I can't wait to get back down that far south and experience more of the Sonoran.


last view
last view
cholla forest
cholla forest
terrain and flora
terrain and flora
love chollas!
love chollas!

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
― MLK Jr.
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Fletcher
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PostWed Dec 05, 2018 2:35 pm 
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All these desert reports are making me want to head south!
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John Mac
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PostWed Dec 05, 2018 6:53 pm 
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Thanks for posting John. Enjoy your sunny adventures every year.

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How miserable are the idle hours of the ignorant man. Ariosto
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Sculpin
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PostThu Dec 06, 2018 8:13 am 
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...and a horse tanks to you for posting this.   up.gif

Crags are always good.  It is not so easy to find crags in places that were never glaciated.  I recall Gimpilator's crag views of the same area.

Looking at the terrain and the topo, I am reminded of my trip into the Turtles, not so far away.  That is to say, above the alluvium, even on flat ground, it is a bit scrambly because it is so rough.

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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John Morrow
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PostSat Dec 08, 2018 5:35 am 
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Sculpin wrote:
Looking at the terrain and the topo, I am reminded of my trip into the Turtles, not so far away.  That is to say, above the alluvium, even on flat ground, it is a bit scrambly because it is so rough.

I'm really looking forward to spending a nice chunk of time in the Turtles someday!  Just (re-)located your TR, Sculpin.  Thanks again!

--------------
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
― MLK Jr.
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Eric
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PostSat Dec 08, 2018 9:13 pm 
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That is a very pretty and rugged area.  smile.gif I've done Castle Dome and Signal Peak but need to get back out there for some other peaks. Great winter destination, thanks for sharing.
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joker
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PostSun Dec 09, 2018 11:33 am 
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Thanks for sharing!

John Morrow wrote:
So hard to get pictures to do it justice.

If you haven't seen them already, check out Jack Dykinga's photos of that region. He lives in AZ and clearly loves and spends a LOT of time in the  Sonoran Desert. I think it's the specific landscape that lured him away from the field of photojournalism (for which he received a Pulitzer, btw) and into landscape photography some decades back. In addition to a book he published on the Sonoran Desert, it's possible to find such photos online, including on Facebook...
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Kofa Natl Wildlife Refuge Sonoran Desert Extraordinaire!  Nov 17-19, 2018
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