24-Nov-2001 -- This is not a confluence that we would recommend attempting without some preparation. In fact, to be frank, we don't recommend it at all unless you are brave and strong and in love with the desert. Rather, we'd suggest staying home with friends and family and eating turkey and mashed potatoes and watching football. Boulders the size of buses. Thorny brush deceptively cloaked in leafy green. Cholla. Steep canyons. The classic terrain of the American Southwest - rugged and empty from a distance, tangled and difficult at close range.
We were a bit deceived by the data. An unconquered confluence lying only 8 miles from a major highway seemed like an anomaly, apparently overlooked by the zealous GPS hounds. The topographic maps appeared to present a decent approach path from the northwest quadrant. We decided that the Thanksgiving holiday seemed like a good time to make the attempt.
Passing the location on 11/22/01, we noted the freeway exit and the general lay of the land, deciding to dedicate the whole of 11/24/01 to the attempt. Returning to the Griffith exit (I-40) at 8am on the 24th we began our trek. An initial suggestion: bring a 4 wheel drive or at least a pickup. The road is decent but very rough. The Acura Integra we were driving was not really fit for the job. We bounced eastward for about 45 minutes, past a few low hills to the north and a large corral complete with curious cattle to the south, finally parking about 5 miles from the freeway. Our devious GPS receiver read 2.24 miles to the confluence. Sounded like a nice morning hike. We planned to be back to the car by early afternoon at the latest. Looking back on this now we laugh sadly at our naivete and youthful optimism.
We began by energetically crossing the wide, dry riverbed that cut across the valley and cutting up the hillside to the west in order to avoid the dense brush lower down. The GPS receiver clicked off the mile tenths as we began to climb higher and our optimism grew. One minor peak led to another and the brush and cactus began to thicken and turn mean. As often happens with these things, the rising difficulty was accompanied by an increasingly broad and magnificent view until we reached the highest point of elevation for the day about a mile from the confluence. If we had been able to see into the future we might have turned back here and pointed the car for Kingman and a late lunch at Denny's. But we were stubborn and ignorant and we continued. In the dirt along the ridge we picked up a worn and rusty horseshoe.
Thirsty and tired and three hours from the car, we came to the end of the ridge and stared in dismay at a brushy canyon that plunged steeply downward in front of us (Photo 5). The GPS receiver gave us 0.6 miles left to our destination, somewhere on the other side of the yawning mouth in front of us, and it was easily apparent that we were entering the most difficult part of the trip.
An hour later the GPS read 0.4 miles to the confluence. Our goal seemed to be a steadily receding mirage before us. A nightmare of thorns. It was Heart Of Darkness with cactus (Photo 2).
In our fifth hour it became clear that the beloved confluence was actually located high up on the steep north-facing slope of the canyon. I began planning my escape. This looks just fine, I thought. We'll take our pictures right here and register our partial, 0.15 mile claim on 35N x 114W. Maybe I'll even have time to get a nice BLT and a Coke by sunset. My partner had more courage than I and pointed the way through the brush. I tucked my camera back in my bag and followed her up the slope.
The next half hour is mostly a blur. Hands and knees crawling steeply upward through the brush. Giant boulders the size of houses. In the shadow of the peak the GPS coverage began to get spotty. We ended up a hundred feet higher than the confluence. Found the exact spot (Photo 3). A panorama picture for the website (Photo 4). A little pile of rocks, a dead branch and one apple core to mark the spot (Photo 1). Now finally we could turn toward the car.
Like the biblical Wise Men from the East, in the interest of safety and having a bed to sleep in that night, we decided to return by a different route. From our vantage point, the east-west canyon we were in appeared to drop down steadily to open up near the corral we had passed in the morning (Photo 6). Not too much brush. We made our choice and headed downward to the west. This seemed like a good idea at the time.
The following four hours will go down in my memory as some of the longest I have ever experienced. That's pretty much all I have to say about that.
We have a few more recommendations for the intrepid traveler who might follow in our footsteps. Bring water. Wear heavy, thorn-proof clothing. Start early. Plan for a whole day. Don't come up the canyon above the corral (southeast), even going down it was difficult. Don't go while it's hot. November was good. Watch for nifty rocks. There were a lot of them. Keep an eye out for the jumping cholla. I was still pulling spines out of my calves two days later. Keep an eye out too for the spectacular sunset. It's apparently an endemic species in western Arizona.
There was a bright spot in the return trip. Because of our different return path, we rejoined the road a mile or so from our car, happy to be on flat ground but ready for the relative comfort of the Acura. Within minutes, we were overtaken by a pickup heading up the road. Three cowboys in tall cowboy hats squeezed in the cab. "Hop in," they said. We gratefully and painfully clambered over the tailgate of the truck. When they dropped us at our car, they looked us over slowly and, unable to contain themselves, blurted out, "What are you doing here?" We spent the next few minutes explaining the Confluence Project and taking pictures. They will probably read this sometime. If so, thank you again for the ride.
The sun was long down by the time we made it to the freeway and a cold wind was whipping across the valley, but Interstate 40 looked to us like a street of gold and Denny's a little bit like heaven.