Turtle Mountain
Coffin Mopah

February 17, 2011


“Look, look... come back!”, Pov exclaimed as we were going up a steep rock layered ravine. I took a few steps back to find that Pov was looking at a baby speckled rattlesnake. It was coiled under a rock ledge a few feet to the left of my previous path. It was early on a cold morning. The snake seemed to be watching us but not moving. This allow us to get good photographs. It did not rattle since baby snakes have a single button that does not rattle. This time of year is early for baby rattle snakes to appear in this area.

This trip with Pov and Martha to the Turtle Mountain Wilderness was planned to determine if we could get from the Mopah Spring Trailhead through Gary Wash and over a recently found direct route to Coffin Spring in one day. Next we would go to a dry camp in the far west of Gary Wash then over a cross country route to Vidal Wash and to Mopah Spring.

We started the first evening from the trailhead following the old jeep trail that leads to Gary Wash. As we ran out of daylight and a full moon rose we found a desert pavement campsite. We got a sunrise start the next morning. As we walked through Gary Wash we encountered several plants in bloom including a Perry’s penstemon. There was a palo verde tree overburdened with mistletoe. Over the new route to Coffin Spring there were groves of ocotillo, barrels and several big hedgehog cacti.

The weather was closing in throught the day. Light rain caused us to rush dinner and get to our shelters earlier than usual. During the night heavy rain and strong winds developed. Those of us under tarps required some moving around to avoid the shifting rain and all of us had some wet gear in the morning as light rain continued. We decided to return to the trailhead while waiting to see what capricious weather might develop. By noon we were back in Gary Wash and there was full sun long enough to dry all of our wet gear and to encourage us to continue our trip. After a trailhead night just after sunrise a big rainbow developed.

The next day had  partly cloudy skies and light winds. We traveled back a short distance in Gary Wash to get to a ravine that would lead to a pass to Mopah Wash. This route went through rock rubble and stepped rock ledges with grand cloudscape views from the pass. It was in one of these series of ledges that Pov found the speckled rattlesnake which lead to naming this dranage Rattlesnake Ravine. As we approached Mopah Wash we came to a rock dry fall that had a 20 foot drop with no easy way to get down. We found that it  was not difficult to go to the edge of the wall of the wash and then work our way down the wall. At the  entrance of this ravine into Mopah Wash there is a big Palo Verde tree which hide the slot canyon entrance from view from the wash and the ravine further uphill is not visible from the wash.  We labeled this drainage Hidden Ravine.

Mopah Spring has a rock lined pool at the base of a dense stand of about 15 California fan palms with a second group of palms about 20 yards uphill. The stark eroded volcanic cinder cone of Mopah Peak dominates the background. From the pass to Vidal Wash we could see Havasu City in Arizona in the shadows of fluffy cumulous coluds.

At the mouth of Mopah Wash we explored the WW II airstrip.  Nearby there is a rock structure that most likely was an altar and assembly site. There are rows of bare areas that suggest tent sites. This was one of General George Patton’s tank training centers.