2014Chemehuevi - Trampas Wash

Desert Survivors
Chemehuevi Wilderness Backpack
January 10-12, 2014


This trip was to be a two nights trip from Snaggletooth on the west border of the wilderness over an easy pass to Trampas Wash then through the wash to Lake Havasu on the west border. We would visit the spring, BGG, and petroglyph site that we had located on a previous trip that is near the wash. We would look for Wildcat Spring, Whimpy Spring, and evaluate the access to Lake Havasu.

On crossing the bajada we saw WWII tank tracks and several 50 caliber machinegun shell casings as we had seen on previous trips. These were stamped L. C. 43.* This headstamp code indicates that this shell was made at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri in 1943.

There were orchards of teddybear cholla with mine fields of cholla pups anticipating the opportunity to snag a foot and hitch a ride to a suitable place to make a new mine field. Most everyone got hooked up in this process. Brittlebush was in bloom.* We saw a few beautiful desert globmallow flowers.* There was a giant ocotillo.*

The several panels of petroglyphs at the BGG site appeared to span large spaces of time including a few that were very ancient and nearly faded away. There was one iconic big horn image.

At a concrete dam at the spring site there is a BLM marker that indicates this is a BLM project from 1976. There is a small puddle of water in the sand behind the dam.* Both BGG tanks were full. A large truck muffler was buried in the sand at the BGG site.* Could this have been used for a water filter?

Burro dropping were everywhere. We saw six well fed burrows in three different groups. There was a mare and colt. They all stayed in place on the hillside and watched us pass by.* Esperanza particularly enjoyed seeing the burros.

At our first camp it appeared some or all of us might need to return from there. Andy had developed a foot-to-boot incompatibility. Multiple remedies were suggested like band aids, moleskin pads, a hole in the boot, and more. The next morning Andy ignored all of this and tried a thinner sock on an early morning walk and found the trouble resolved.

The phainopepla, fay-no-PEHP-lah, is a unique desert bird. We saw several of them on this trip. They have a distinctive call that gives notice that they are nearby. They are flycatchers with a long trim form. The males are black with a sheen like a raven. The females and juveniles are grey. They have a thin crest. In flight they have large white patches on their wings that make them easy to identify.

They are particularly notable for an enigmatic pattern of breeding twice each year, in two different habitats. In the desert, they are territorial, actively defending nesting and foraging sites, while in the woodlands they are colonial, with several nesting pairs sharing one large tree.

They prefer to eat desert mistletoe berries but they will eat other berries and insects. They digest the berries so that the skins of the berries become a sticky blob when excreted with the seeds. The seed blobs attach to their perch that is usually a branch of desert tree where the seed germinates to grow into another mistletoe bush. On this trip we saw several examples of trees burdened with mistletoe under a perch that was covered with mistletoe seed blobs.*

The rock transitions from granite to red volcanic on the approach to the lake. From a distance the red rock over grey granite was evident.* Nearer the lake large boulders had grey bottoms and red tops.* Then the wash was a level field of grey gravel while the rock walls were red lava rock.*

There were multiple recent truck and motorcycle tracks in Trampas Wash.* Truck tracks were for most of the distance to the lake. The motorcycle tracks went to the brush thicket at the edge of the lake. The road was passable for vehicles to near the edge of the lake where 30 feet of brush obstruct all but burros.

We needed to search for a way to get around the brush at the edge of the lake. There were burro paths that went through the brush which were too small for us to follow. There were high walls on both sides of the wash. When we reached the right side and found no access Pov climbed to the to top of the ridge and could see thick brush all the way to the other side where there was an opening leading to the waters edge. On returning to north edge of the wash Burk found a trail leading over a small bare hill to the edge of a lagoon.

The water of the lagoon was clear. There were abundant fresh water clams at the water edge. The large lagoons at the mouth of the wash were more that half choked with reeds.*

On the way back we did not see anything to suggest springs at the Wildcat Spring and the Whimpy Spring locations. On returning Pov investigated side ravines near the spring locations and found both nearly dry locations. There were in narrow steep ravines on the south side of the wash. Whimpy was a pocket of wet sand about 40 yards up the ravine. Wildcat was a series of small natural rock tanks about 6o yards from the wash. There were a few inches of water in one of the tanks. There was no evidence of a spring near there.