Dec. 10-12, 2011  Turtle Mountain Wilderness  

           Mopah Spring Plateaus

    We had finished the Whipple Mountain Wilderness trip with time remaining so we went to nearby Mopah Springs in Turtle Mountain Wilderness to explore routes to the top of two huge nearby plateaus. We found Mopah Spring half full of water. We removed the many palm frond stalks in the pool.  There were no mosquito larva in the spring.

    In Vidal Wash we saw a flycatcher and several small lizards. The sand and the light favored good tracks. There were tracks of many small birds, a large bird, many different insects, small mammals and lizards.

    The plateau to the south we call Kettle Plateau from the name of the peak on the USGS map. I had looked at the cliffs on the other side on a previous trip and thought that side was beyond rock scrambling in difficulty. On the west side at the south end there appears to be the only break in the top cliffs. There are two reasonable ways to approach this break, one straight to it from the southwest and another from the next ravine north making a transition into the first ravine near the cliffs.

    We attempted the north ravine. Boulders and steep rocks made the going slow. We ran out of time before we could see that we could get to the top before dark. We retreated to the wash and camped.

    The next day we attempted to ascend the north plateau. Rain showers started early and lasted all day. The break in the cliff rim from the west proved to be an easy access. We reached the top of the cliffs at the south rim. From there we could see the Whipple Mountains in the distance, the top of Kettle Plateau and the Mopah Peaks.

    On our return, Mopah Spring had more water. We camped at the trailhead, were treated to a grand sunrise the next morning, then drove to the town of Joshua Tree for breakfast at the Cross Roads Café.

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