12-Mar-2005 -- I was intrigued by the three previous well-written visit reports to 35N-114W. This sounded like another great confluence challenge and adventure in the making! I had driven by the Griffith exit a couple of times previously and had noted the general area.
The confluence lies within the Wabayuma Peak Wilderness south of Kingman, AZ.
Over the past several months I had conducted a lot of research and deliberate planning to prepare for this adventure. It appeared that the easiest approach would be to follow the trail east-southeast from the corral. From my National Geographic TOPO! Arizona 1:24,000 charts I could see a 4wd trail leading up the drainage almost directly to the confluence with a relatively steady elevation gain from the end of the trail. At the time, I thought this might be easier than having to cross additional ridge lines and associated elevation gain/loss on my way to the confluence.
I arrived at the corral at about 7:15am and was hiking by 7:30am. The temperature was nice – in the low 60's (F) and the day's high would be in the 70's. I had two long sleeve shirts in my pack but (regrettably) elected instead to put on sunscreen and continue wearing my short sleeve shirt. The area around the corral was surrounded by tall green vegetation. Several horses watched me hike by from a distance. I passed by the wilderness boundary signs and soon began to hear the sounds of running water. I managed to cross Walnut Creek without getting wet and continued on at a relatively good pace. I passed through a small open gate at N35 00.906 W114 01.957. The trail that had been paralleling a tributary to the Walnut Creek now began to criss-cross the running stream.
From this point forward is where it became very challenging. I was able to follow the drainage and stay dry as I continued further up the canyon. I encountered a flowing waterfall near N35 00.492 W114 00.829. It was a beautiful and rare sight to see this much running water (2-3 CF/S estimate) pass by Saguaro cactus. The water was merely taking the most direct path from a higher elevation to a lower elevation -- straight down -- and my intended route was upstream. As you can imagine, with the relatively steep terrain, my pace slowed considerably. Once above the falls, it was a continual steady climb deviating around large rocks and with multiple stream crossings.
The desert vegetation was happy to have had such a wet season - it was all green and vibrant, alive and growing as fast as it could before the sun, heat, and lack of water would send a majority of it back to dormancy. Vegetation on northerly facing slopes also tends to be much thicker and have an increased density per given area compared to the southerly facing slopes. I tried to stay on the southerly facing side of the valley for as long as possible to reduce the amount of extreme bushwhacking between me and the confluence on the canyon's northerly facing slope.
It was very slow going inside a mile up to the confluence.
Finally, around noon, I was there. A satellite phone call to my wife relaying my success and position was followed by some picture taking.
Picture #1 looks down the valley I came up taken from right at 100 meters west of the confluence (the proximity alarm in my GPS was sounding when I took the picture). The waterfall is out of view at the center of the picture between the second and third ridges on the right and the shadow on the left – right where it looks like the elevation drops quite a bit.
Picture #2 shows the calm waters at the bottom of the steep waterfall that would challenge me on the way up and especially on the way down. The steep part is around the corner to the right. The elevation gain is equivalent and as steep as proceeding straight up the center of the picture – steep! (With much more water!!!)
Picture #3 looks north across the valley – the side from where (I think) the previous visitors came.
Picture #4 looks east and shows typical terrain and ground cover.
Picture #5 looks south and shows more of the vegetation on the northerly facing slope and a terrain prominence (pointing up and left) that is visible from Interstate 40.
Picture #6 looks west from the confluence towards the corral but does not show the valley like Picture #1 does.
Picture #7 shows my objective – and the reason why I spent an entire day climbing to get to this arbitrary point on the Earth - a perfect confluence reading with all zeroes!
Picture #8 shows some of my confluence tools: A Suunto Tandem compass; an Olympus digital voice recorder with time-stamping (use something like this and you’ll never worry about notes again); my Garmin RINO GPS, a Panasonic Duramax cell phone, my Globalstar GSP-1600 satellite phone, and a water/crush-proof Pelican case that I carry my two phones in. You can think of the cell phone as dead weight - carried only for the work-out value since there was absolutely no reception. At times however, I have been surprised at some of the confluences where I will get a signal. The satellite phone is worth its weight in gold - the sound quality is much better than any cellular and I can hook it up to my computer! Not pictured is my Camelback Peak Bagger pack, stuffed full of additional survival essentials, a bivy sack, changes of clothes, first-aid kit, signaling stuff, food, water, Gatorade, etc, etc, etc.
I figured that my trip down would not take as long as the trip up. This would have been the case if it were not for the slick (smooth and wet) rocks near the waterfall. On my way up, it had looked like the other side would be easier going down so, on my way back, I started down on the opposite side. I soon found myself in a position I would have rather not been in.
Only 30 feet away, but it just as well could have been 30 miles because there was no way I could get there from here, was a much safer path down. I sat down to rest for a bit since I would need to scramble/climb back up a couple hundred feet, cross over and then carefully make my way back down.
Once below the waterfall, it was relatively easy going back to the corral. Picture #9 looks back east towards the confluence and shows a cholla cactus vibrant from the wet winter season. If you look closely, just to the right of the tall part of the cholla and left of the near ridge on the right is the prominence described in Picture #5, just above and south of the confluence.
I stopped at Walnut Creek and this time submerged myself while sitting in the knee-deep running water for several minutes to rinse off all the dirt, sweat, and stickers. What a difference that made! I made my way back to the corral and passed several cows milling about. The solar shower placed on top of my Tahoe in the morning was now nice and hot. It's amazing how good simple things like a hot shower followed by clean and dry clothes will make you feel after a long day hiking!
I can tell you that the previous visitors' reports of terrain and vegetation were not underestimated! My experience was much like theirs - I went through over 8 liters of water (and gatorade) and still came back thirsty. This was on a cool spring day….
Another interesting observation: For all my confluence hikes, I leave a detailed map with the route printed out, departure time, expected return time, etc in plain view on the dashboard. This time I left one of my RINOs outside on the windshield with the route loaded and instructions on how to poll my RINO. While I was hiking, I would periodically key the microphone on my RINO to update my position with the one left on my hood. Analysis of the track log from this unit reveals that my position was updated whenever I had line-of-sight to the corral -- including while I was at the confluence 3.7 miles away!
Picture #10 is a look back towards the confluence after my hike from where I parked by the corral. You can see the prominence (identified in Picture #5) just to the right of picture center just above the confluence. This helps show the scale and slope of the climb. The waterfall area is just beyond the shadows.
For future visitors - this is another confluence you cannot over-prepare for. Read the previous visit reports. Have good topo charts. Visit the general area before you go. Visit the BLM web site http:/www.az.blm.gov/rec/wabayuma.htm. Do not leave your tweezers in your vehicle - stick them in your pack – where they are readily accessible. Heavy gloves will protect your hands from the thorns and from being shredded on the rocks. I wore them continuously above the gate. Even if it's warm, wear a long sleeve shirt! My hands don’t have a scratch, but my forearms and upper arms were scraped with quite a few significant cuts. Eye protection and shin guards also protected me several times while bushwhacking. Carry extra water and leave it half way up – it will be waiting for you on the way back.
Plan at least a full day for this confluence. From the corral, it was 9.7 miles roundtrip and took me a just over 9 hours. The confluence is about 2000' higher than the corral. This doesn't include the ups and downs you will need to make along the way. From Interstate 40, it took me just about 20 minutes to get to the corral.
A very worthy and personally satisfying confluence adventure! This ranks right up there with my visits to 33N-114W, 37N-118W, and 41N-123W.