23-Nov-2001 -- 'Traditionally' we spend the Thanksgiving weekend in the desert in the far Southwest of the US. When the time came to make plans for this year I noticed that this confluence still had not been visited, so I decided to try to finish what we started earlier this year. Following our previous experience from the northwest I was looking for a different approach. After a little map study I chose a route from the northeast. The plan was to make it an overnight backpack trip and enjoy the solitude of the desert while visiting a fairly remote confluence.
On Thanksgiving Day we drove to Needles and on to the Wabayuma Peak Wilderness via the Boriana Mine road. During my preparation I found out that there is a Geocache at the Mine and we decided to take a little break there to find it. The road is relatively steep and rough and 4x4 is recommended if not required (we used ours). We arrived at the intended starting point for the hike a little before sunset just in time to prepare some dinner and set up camp.
We had planned to hike down into Walnut Creek Canyon from here and establish a base camp somewhere on the way to the confluence. As we were looking over the maps again after dinner and experiencing the cold we started to wonder about our plans and whether it would be such a good idea to spend a night in the wilderness having to carry extra cold weather gear with us. The packs were already heavy with all the water one has to carry in the desert. Re-evaluating the information showed that we might be able to do the hike in a day. The planned route followed old Jeep trails for all but the last mile, i.e., hiking should be pretty easy. I estimated it to be 14 miles round trip which would mean some hiking in the dark as daylight (even as far south as 35N) is quite short this time of year. From our camp we could see quite a bit of the road we would have to hike back in the dark and it looked like it would be safe to do with flashlights. We went to bed and set the alarm for an early departure.
At 6 am we left the camp and started hiking. The conditions were perfect for a hike in the desert with temperatures not rising much above 60F all day. The pace on the old Jeep roads was good as expected and it took us 4 hours to reach the point where we had to leave the roads. 'Roads' is actually a little misleading as it sometimes was not easy to make out the road with all the vegetation reclaiming the land, but what was left of the roads made a good, level hiking trail.
It was now time to cross one last ridge by just cutting through the bush and scaling the big rocks. My wife decided at this point to rather take a rest and prepare for the hike back than to join me on the final leg. I saved her position as a GPS landmark, we checked the FRS radios and off I went.
From here on it was all brush, thorns, cacti, yucca, giant granite boulders, and more thorns. Once on the ridge I was ½ mile from the confluence and the terrain looked reasonable and I started to smell victory. 'All' I had to do was scramble down into a little canyon and up on the other side to reach the actual confluence. I arrived there at about 11:30 am and had no problem zeroing out the GPS. Reception was good and EPE was shown as 0ft. It felt especially good to make this confluence since it had been on my mind since our failed attempt in spring. As I started to take some pictures the camera made unusual noises, I finished the roll of film and it sounded like the camera was rewinding the film. Due to the noises I decided to put a fresh roll of film in and make some backup pictures. Bad decision! When I opened the camera I saw that the film had not been rewound at all!! I quickly closed the camera and was able to get it to rewind the film properly, hoping I could salvage some pictures. The new round of picture taking went without incident.
The confluence is located among giant granite boulders at the edge of a little canyon. The canyon opens to the west with a view of I40 in Sacramento Valley and the Black Mountains in the back. I left the confluence around noon leaving nothing but footprints and met up with my wife around 1:30. The 2 mile round trip to the confluence had taken me about 3 hours! After a short break and some snacks we started our long hike back. As we hiked we took some more pictures and to my great dismay the camera did not rewind the film again! Only this time we did not open it. Once we got home we made a little make-shift darkroom out of our bathroom and were able to rewind the film manually.
As the sun set it turned out that the moon provided enough light for us to see the trail and we only needed the flashlights a few short times. We arrived at the car 12.5 hours after we had left. I estimate the total altitude gain was around 3500ft and the hiking distance about 14 miles. There may be other, shorter routes to the confluence with less altitude gain, but I think they all require bushwhacking for about a mile. We would probably have chosen a different approach had we planned for a day hike from the beginning.
It was a great hike and we were thankful for the comforts of our camp upon our return. Spending the night away from the car would most likely have been much more uncomfortable.
It is fair to say that we could feel our legs the next day and the program accordingly focused on driving activities. We took the 4WD Hualapai Ridge Road towards Kingman and continued on the historic Route 66 over the Black Mountains to the Colorado. At the river we picked up the Mojave Road (4x4 road following a historic road through the Mojave desert) to cross the Mojave National Preserve. 40 miles into that trip heavy rains forced us out of the desert onto paved roads. Even with this early termination a perfect Thanksgiving Trip!