Harquahala Mountain: La Paz County Highpoint

My original plan, after visiting Mt. Lemmon and Rice Peak was go head down and climb Mt. Wrightson, the Santa Cruz county highpoint, but for reasons I can’t really explain, I just wasn’t feeling like it. I drove up through the mountains to the east and then circled back around to the west. And then, I just kept driving west.

During the winters I spent in Arizona, especially around the Quartzsite area, I’d really been wanting to hike or drive up Harquahala Mountain, the La Paz county highpoint. I’d heard that although 4 wheel drive is recommended that it doesn’t require high clearance. Sounds just perfect for an XJ! As I reached Gila Bend, I was pretty sure Harquahala was my destination. Darkness fell about the time I reached Buckeye but that didn’t stop us from tackling the approximately ten miles to the summit in the dark. Ruth handled everything masterfully (honestly the road was not that difficult and we did 90+% in two wheel drive and reached just one switchback where 4wd became necessary). Atop the summit, I had my sixth Arizona county highpoint!

Ruth on Harquahala Mountain

At the summit, I realized the battery on my DSLR was dead. I’m super disappointed because the moon was SO BRIGHT that I kind of wanted to play around with some long exposures. Since that didn’t happen, I bundled up (although the breeze was warm) and Sprocket and I enjoyed the twinkling lights of the small towns to our west and of the I-10 corridor.

Sunrise

It was cozy cuddled with Sprocket in the back of the Jeep but as the sun started to rise, I crawled out of bed to take it all in. Absolutely incredible.

Vista

Sunrise vista

Sunrise Vista

After wandering around a bit, we headed down hill, the sun still putting on a spectacular show (and illuminating the beautiful scenery we’d missed driving up in the dark).

View back to Harquahala Mountain

Harquahala Mountain

Harquahala Mountain

This was an amazing drive! It wasn’t technical but the desert mountain views were incredible! It was such an amazing day to wake up and start the day.

Harquahala Mountain Backcountry Byway

Canyon Hike Near Slickrock, Colorado

Two weeks ago, F, Sprocket, and I set out for some adventuring with our new friend Karen. We met Karen in Ridgway when she was passing through on her DRZ (just like F’s). The next thing we knew, the jeep was loaded up and Sprocket and I were playing sag wagon for three days as F and Karen made their way to Moab the long way.

Our first meetup was planned for Slickrock, Colorado. We all pulled out of Ridgway mid-morning and Sprocket and I headed directly for Slickrock. The skies over the mountains were looking questionable and we were hoping to stay west of the storms. Since I’m not really familiar with the area and realized that Slickrock is the “dead zone” between many of the Trails Illustrated and Latitude 40 maps, I stopped at the ranger station in Norwood to see if they had any additional information. The very helpful volunteer helped me pick out a couple of BLM maps for the area. ($4 each! With topo lines!)

When Sprocket and I arrived in Slickrock, we picked a narrow canyon and headed out for a hike. To get a better view of the area, we passed the entrance to the canyon and hiked along the road to a viewpoint above the river:

Dolores River

Dolores River

When we backtracked into the canyon, Sprocket was very pleased to discover that the recent rain had left all the potholes full of muddy water. I was really pleased to discover that this little canyon without a name was pleasantly narrow and really pretty.

Pothole swimming.

Sprocket pothole swimming

Sprocket just jumped from puddle to puddle and ripped around the slickrock.

Sprocket hiking

Sprocket with pothole

Sprocket

Trickle of water in canyon

Pothole swimming

Sprocket rolling in mud

Muddy Sprocket

Canyon views

Waterfalls

Eventually, we reached a waterfall and I was afraid that our hike would be over. As we walked back downstream, I looked for a way that I could get myself and Sprocket around the obstacle. It took a little bit of searching but we managed to find a way. Unfortunately, rain clouds were starting to appear to the southeast and the last place I wanted to be was a tight little canyon so we headed uphill. As I climbed through the piƱon and junipers, passing deer sign, I couldn’t help but think that this is where the Big Kitties live. Fortunately, we did not encounter any.

Terminal waterfall in canyon

Rather than backtrack through the canyon since rain and our appointed meeting time with Karen and F was approaching, Sprocket and I walked back along the ridge separating our canyon from Highway 141. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance but no more than a couple drops of rain ever fell on us.

Views to the north

Back at the car, we headed for our meeting place. It was about 3:30 and F had told me to expect them between 3 and 5pm. So Sprocket and I waited. And we waited some more. I’d been told not to worry until about 8 or so, so we sat tight. At about 7, I drove up Slickrock hill to try and find some cell reception. At 8, I headed a couple miles up a gravel road, knocked on a door, and asked if I could use the phone. No answer and no messages on my phone. At 9:30, admittedly getting a little worried, I returned to the house and asked if I could use the phone one more time… and F answered!

Moonrise

Turns out, they’d been within 10 miles of me for hours. Driven further south than they’d planned by the storm I’d been watching, they tried to find their way back north off-road from Dove Creek. My timing on calling the last time had been perfect, they were in Dove Creek again and were just trying to decide whether they should “slab” it up (dirt biker talk for riding pavement) to me or sit tight until I called them.

The decision was quickly made that I should drive down to meet them. They were soaked through and a hotel room to shower in and get things dry sounded like just the ticket. The day was a lot longer than any of us had planned but it turned out just fine.

McKenzie Butte

After work on Sunday, Sprocket and I took a detour on the way home. We took County Road 1A instead of County Road 1 and found it to be a bumpy road without much purpose. We did get to check out this sweet canyon though (and let’s be honest, I love wandering a dirt road to no purpose whatsoever, especially with Sprocket and/or F).

County Road 1A

County Road 1A

County Road 1A

The whole point of taking 1A was to tap into 1B which puts you into a nice chunk of BLM up on the mesa. The public land is crowned by McKenzie Butte (8,017′) and that was our summit goal for the day. It’s not far from a small parking area off this road to the summit of the Butte, but that was just fine for Sprocket and I.

BLM on Log Hill

Views from McKenzie Butte

Horsefly Peak

Views

San Juans from McKenzie Butte