Old Woman Wilderness
BLM Monitoring
December 13-16, 2013

"We can carry four liters of water and find at least one water source to let us add a day.”

Our objective was to evaluate the Old Woman Wilderness for backpack routes, water sources, and monitor the area. This wilderness has many cherry-stem roads, many named springs, and several windmills.

At our car camp on the east side of the wilderness we were visited repeatedly for over an hour by three curious kit foxes. During this trip we saw several covey of quail, northern harriers, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, and a mare burro with two colts.

Pov and I started on the northwest on the wilderness by exploring Scanlon Gulch and Bert Spring. A big brown tarantula was moving slowly across the sand permitting several photos.* While they have a venomous bite they are unlikely to bite you. Their defense is irritating barbs on their back that they flick off with their back legs. In Scanlon Wash we found strange double sine wave tracks that continued for hundreds of yards.* I have since learned that this is the track of a game cart.*

The wash narrowed as we approached the spring site with huge boulders stacked like primitive sculptures.* Near the spring there were small then larger juniper trees. There were dry watermarks on the rock below the spring for a tenth of a mile. At the spring there was about a quart of clear water in a rock crevice.*

We saw several phainopepla birds in this area. This is a flycatcher with a thin body, long tail and a narrow crest. The males are glossy black with prominent white wing patches when in flight. Juveniles and females are light grey. These birds eat mistletoe berries. The seeds are excreted in a sticky blob that glues the seeds tree limbs propagating the mistletoe. At the spring there were many blobs of mistletoe seeds attached to the rocks.*

There were abundant plants in the area of the spring. There was a wildgame camera on a tree in front of a rock alcove above the spring.* From there we could see no reasonable course to continue toward the mountain crest because of the steep incline and the nature of the rock.

That night we camped in the wash below the spring near a large Juniper tree. As the setting sun casted a red glow a full moon rose from behind the mountain crest.* That evening a strange tracks crossed from a boulder to the base of a bush. What at first looked like a knobby motorcycle track was the path of little feet that frequently cross the sand from an underground nest to the side of the wash.* Old Woman Statue is a prominent spire on the mountain crest. We could not see it from the narrows near the spring. On our way out we could see it in the distance.*

Since this part of Old Woman would not be good backpacking area because the mountain crest and the walls of the ravines would be difficult to climb, we returned to the car and drove around to the northeast of the wilderness to the wilderness boundary near Golden Fleece Mine.

At Old Ranch Corral there was an wood corral, a building of local stone and a large galvanized stock tank. The tank was about three quarters full of water with a moss-covered bottom. There was water slowly dripping from a float valve.* There were dead bees floating on the water.* Filtering this water through a bandana and treating for microbes would make it drinkable. Some would find it unacceptable for esthetic reasons. The water came from an underground pipe. The source of this water was not apparent. Next to the building there was a 10,000 gallon steel tank containing a few inches of water.

About a half a mile south of the corral there was a quarry with multiple shallow pits* and a derelict loading structure. We camped in Sweetwater Wash. That evening there was a misty moon rise filtering through cholla branches and yucca leaves on the near horizon.*

At dawn there was a bright red and yellow cloudscape.* The canyon walls on the way to Sweetwater Spring were composed of alternating layers of glossy back rock and cream colored rock.* There were derelict galvanized pipes in the wash below the spring.* The spring was a muddy puddle trashed by cattle.* We found a horseshoe in the wash that had been nearly dissolved by rust.*

We walked north in Sweetwater Wash where Pov saw a phainopepla perched in a tree. Two quick photos were made before it rapidly departed.* There was a natural rock sculpture.* We saw fields of barrel cactus and yucca trees, a puffball mushroom, beavertails, bladder sage, hedgehogs, and coyote gourds.* There were several cactus wren nests in chollas.*

On going through a wide cleft in the mountains we found a small game guzzler with the inscription, “Water for Wildlife Volunteers / Rehab 2011”, and two signs with “Game Refuge Hunting and Possession of Guns Prohibited / Division of Fish and Game / Federal Aid Project”.* The access port was fused closed and the water in the tank was unaccessable.

Three quarters of a mile soutsouteast of a working windmill and west of the wilderness boundary near Sunflower Springs Road we found a large oil can labeled “Base General … / San Bernardino, Cal…/ Desert Training C…/ 5 US Gallons / 2-140 B / SAE 30”.* This is clearly relic of General George Patton’s 1940’s Desert Training Centers.

In eighteen square miles in California, Arizona, and Nevada eleven training camps and nine airbases were established. A million troops were trained between 1941 and 1944. Clipper camp, between Clipper Mountain and Piute Mountain is 12 miles north of the oilcan.

We went to a windmill that we saw in the distance. If we could find good water we could extend this trip. “There should be water there since the blades are turning.” Then, “I can see the pump shaft moving up and down so there must be water.” But, sadly even thought the pump was pumping there was no water.

Honeymoon Spring would be our last chance to find water. In the wash on the way, there were derelict galvanized and PVC pipes remnants of previous attempts to capture the water of this spring. There was a derelict concrete basin with its foundation mostly washed away.* A metal pipe coming out of the rock was slowly dripping water.* A little further up the ravine there was a small square pit in the rock with disintegrating lumber and two plastic pipes but no water.* We had enough water through breakfast the next day then we would need to go the car.

We camped a short way from Honeymoon Spring where the sunset and sunrise was impressive.* On the way back to the car we encountered a hill that appeared to have been blasted apart.* I said, “Lighting strike?... no. Maybe a meteor strike?... Probably not.” This is probably a prospect site, perhaps a dynamite blast.

In the distance Pov saw a white PVC claim marker. There were three uncapped PVC claim markers.* On taking them down and evaluating their contents two of them had a wide variety of numerous dead insects, another had two small dead birds.* Because these claim markers are abundant and killing birds by these markers has been well documented the BLM recommends taking down uncapped PVC claim markers. Then leaving them on the ground at the site to preserve the historic record. The dirt plug should be removed to find the contents and to prevent any animal from being trapped.

Cattle polluted water sources and trampled most of the ground that we covered. We found interesting terrain, animals, plants, and historic structures, however, the degradation of the area by cattle make this location undesirable for backpacking. We made plans to return and explore the south half of the wilderness.