Chemehuevi Wilderness Backpack

April 5-7, 2013

The plan for this trip was to find a route from Snaggletooth to do a two nights backpack trip, find water sources at three likely sites, and monitor this area. We would be looking for a big game guzzler that we had been unable to find on a previous trip. We knew from this earlier trip that there were water filled rock tanks near the bottom of Parish Spring Canyon. Burros had contaminated the lowest tanks while less accessible tanks above had clear water. Further on our route Studio Spring had been reported to have water several years ago.The maps of our route and several waypoints are the first three photos.* The second and third photos are map enlargements of the guzzler area and Studio Spring area.*

Alexis, Graham, Paul and I started early from Snaggletooth toward the Chemehuevi Crest across the bajada. Calico cactus blooms were opening* and Ocotillo were covered with leaves and starting to bloom*. We found an isolated 5X7 cm. red and tan pottery shard with a rim section that had a curve suggesting a pot diameter of 20 cm.* The location is marked by a waypoint on the map and the GPS coordinates are recorded.The prickly pear were in bloom.* In many places in the washes small flowers were so numerous that stepping on them was unavoidable.  Brittlebush was ubiquitous and in full bloom.* A roadrunner bird flashed across our tracks.

There were recent motorcycle track in the bajada.* There was a gold and cream-colored coachwhip snake that has a scattering of black scales around the neck.* We saw a small fishhook cactus with prominent red fruit. We went over a low pass that we had found on the previous trip to the jeep road in Trampas Wash. There we saw a flat-tailed horned lizard* and a male greater earless lizard*. We left Trampas Wash on a jeep road that goes to a camp area and from there lead to a pass which goes to the wash that is on the east side of the Chemehuevi crest. The jeep road in Trampas Wash and the road up to the campsite have multiple recent truck tracks.*

At that campsite there was a desert tortoise in the road that had been eating some tiny white flowers with gold centers.* It was half way extended but did not move while we admired it and took photographs.* A few minute after we left, it extended and moved into the bush.* Later we saw it concealed in the shade behind a roadside bush. The campsite and fire ring were unchanged from my recent trip.* There were recent rifle and shotgun shell casings. I thought the guzzler might be somewhere on the other side of the pass we were approaching and was thinking of having the group spread out to search all possible nearby ravines over there when we saw water tanks at about 1/2 mile in a ravine to the right of our planned course. There was a well-used foot trail to the tanks.

Where this ravine comes to a headwall, an alcove has a concrete and rock dam with a 2 inch galvanized pipe at the bottom of the dam.* This pipe goes to two 2000 gallon camouflaged tanks.* The lid of one of the tanks was in the wash below the tanks. We replaced the lid. There were abundant mosquito larva in the tank. The tanks were full and the water was clear. From the bottom of the tanks a pipe goes a few 100 feet to a sturdy fence of galvanized pipe* that encloses an area that has a water trough.* The trough is made from a rectangular sink and has a covered toilet tank float valve. Our interpretation is that this is intended to keep the burros out. There are recent burro apples in this wash and abundant evidence of burro contamination of all of the water sources in this wilderness that I have seen that they can reach.

On the opposite wall of the wash there is another spring that flow through a few feet of a horizontal junction of rock layers, then down moss cover walls to a steep rock clef that makes a small stream that flows into a tadpole filled pool of clear water.* Adjacent to this spring there are several petroglyphs.* They appear authentic in style and technique. I have some reservations, however, because of the absence of weathering or patina. There are hints of more ancient marks on these rocks, particularly near the big horn image.*

Going up the pass was easy. On the other side was steep and the ravine was choked with boulders and brush. The west side was too steep for safe walking. On the less steep east side we found an animal trail that help us find a good route.In the wash we found a pallid-winged grasshopper on a chai blossom*, more leafed and flowering ocotillo*, teddy bear cholla in bloom,* and large bushes of desert poppy in bloom. We flushed a bird from a palo verde tree. It burst out just over our heads with the whirring sound of dove wings in flight. As it flew across the wash we saw it was a mourning dove. It had come from a fork in the tree eight feet above ground where there was a typical flat dove nest of twigs. The nest held two eggs. One of them was perched precariously on the edge of the nest.*

We saw several caterpillars on bare leafed stems and learned later that this is the white-lined sphinx moth caterpillar.* They dig holes in the ground where they overwinter to pupate. A spotted leaf nosed snake moved so fast that a partial photo of poor quality resulted.* At the rock pools below Parish spring both there are two sets of double rock pools that were full of water seven weeks previously, the lower one contaminated by burros. Now both pairs had low water levels with large exposed sand banks and both were contaminated.* The lower level resembles an over crowded equine stock pen.

As we traversed the wash on the way to Studio Spring we encountered many interesting flowers* and desert mistletoe some with abundant berries.* We camped at the mouth of the canyon that goes to Studio Spring. There were two potential locations for this spring. One was to the south 0.4 miles from the main canyon. We did not find a spring there. There were piles of huge boulders making caves and rock labyrinths leading to an impressive head wall. To the southwest 0.5 mile from the junction at a headwall there was small spring that consisted of a 14x6 inch pool that was a few inches deep.* It was filled with clear water with green moss and grass. Water overflowed down 12 feet of a steep rock crevice that was covered in moss and grass* then disappeared into wet sand at the bottom of this crevice.* We rock scrambled up this spring for a short distance until we came to the bottom of a huge dryfall.* We were about 1.5 miles and 1000’ of elevation from where difficult dryfalls and bad weather and prevent further progress down this canyon two months previously.

On our backtracking return we encountered a sunning zebratail lizard.* There were blooming, leafed, and unusually upright ocotillo more than twenty feet tall.* We had heard burros braying nearby the day before. That night one was so near that in addition to several very loud brays I could hear the intake of air before each blast.While walking north in the wash I heard a snort and then we saw a dozen burros including four colts moving away from us up the ridge.* We stopped and they stopped and watched us.* When we started moving again they continued up the hill.* As they got to the crest we stopped and they stopped and all turned to face us.* As we walk away they continued to watch us with their large ears tracking us.*

We moved briskly on our way out, collected water from the big game guzzler tank, and camped in Trampas Wash. Early the next morning I was able tophotograph  the truck track in Trampas wash in a good light.* There were long rows of bright pink flowers in the wash.*

We crossed the bajada by a better route about 0.2 miles south of the way we came in. As we were leaving the ravines we came by a rock knoll that had two caves that were full of dead cholla balls. Our speculation is that these caves are the ends of a curved lava tube remnant and contain a huge packrat midden.* Further down the shallow wash I again saw motorcycle tracks* and another example of WWII tank tracks* like those I have seen on this bajada on previous trips.