It’s been a while since we have seen our friends, Paul and Marsh (Where’s Weaver), so when our travel paths finally crossed in Yuma, we took the opportunity to spend the day with them and share a bit of hiking.
Just north of Yuma is the huge Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, established in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep, encompasses over 665,400 acres of the Yuma Desert region of the Sonoran Desert. The name Kofa comes from a former area gold mine: the King of Arizona mine (active from 1897 to 1910), with Kofa a contraction of the name.
Al from The Bayfield Bunch (a blog Pam follows) has hiked in the area with his wife, Kelly, over the last few years and was kind enough to email a great set of directions for a couple of good hiking destinations. So early Thursday morning (OK, early for us, not for the Weavers) we picked up Paul and Marsha and headed north on Rte. 95. At mile marker 76 we turned east on King Valley Road, a gravel park road. A few miles later we turned to the south on to a Jeep road (one that requires high vehicle clearance) labeled 42 on the map for a four mile ride to the first stop, the Horse, Grey, Arch, and Bandy Tanks.
Tanks in the desert are depressions that collect rain water. In Kofa the many tanks provide a vital source of drinking water to wildlife during the long dry spells. Once we arrived at the end of the road, it was just a short hike up some rocks to these tanks.
The first tank was a fairly large pond with plenty of water.
The tanks in this area have been enhanced by concrete spillways added by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase the amount of water captured during periods of rain.
Al’s directions had another spot to check out about a quarter mile back down the road, so we went past the Jeep and hiked up a small wash to check them out.
John always seeks out a spot with a bit of elevation with a view for a lunch break and the rest of the group were so happy to follow him up the hill!
Just after the group photo was taken there was a technology incident with a fatal casualty. Marsha’s camera, mounted on a tripod, tripped and fell on to the rocks (and the rocks won)! A trip to the Yuma BestBuy is on the horizon!
Near the peak where we enjoyed lunch is another large mound with a small, sheltered area in the rocks. A healthy covering of lichens surrounding the opening add some great color to the scene.
The cave was evidently highly used by early inhabitants of the area, as it contains a number of very deep morteros (round holes in rock created by grinding grain).
After completing our hiking in this area, we returned to Rte. 95 and drove north to mile marker 85, and turned right on to Palm Canyon Road. About two miles up Palm Canyon Road we stopped to check out a “Circle of Life” someone had constructed in one of the dry camping lots.
The circle looks pretty cool when you zoom in on it using Google Satellite.
About seven miles from the main road, Palm Canyon Road ends in a parking area, the trailhead for the Palm Canyon Trail.
After about a mile of hiking up into the canyon we came to a small sign. The sign is well-placed, as we may not have looked up to our left to see the palms.
Palm Canyon is a unique natural feature predominantly known for the native palm trees that grow in the canyon. These are rare in Arizona and are likely relics of a geological period when the area was wetter and cooler.
Returning back to the highway we made the most important stop of the day! Date Shakes! If you’ve never experienced the joy of a date shake, don’t miss the opportunity if it presents itself. The vendor at this little stop along Rte. 95 was very proud of his shakes. They only contain three things: French vanilla ice cream, whole milk, and chopped dates. Delicious!
We had a great day exploring Kofa National Wildlife Refuge with Paul and Marsha. On Saturday we both head out on I-8. Paul and Marsha head west to Anza-Borrego while we will head east toward Why, AZ for a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We found a good park there using the new website “Campendium.” Our friends Leigh and Brian of Aluminarium have been hard at work for a couple of years constructing this new source of parks and campgrounds and have recently opened it up to the public. If you need to find a park or campground in your travels check it out. We think you’ll like it!