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

Mary’s Peak

Last Saturday night, I was sitting in a friends house chatting around the kitchen table about all the awesome things that we need to do this summer. I mentioned we should head up Marys Peak to watch the sunrise later in the summer. Marys Peak is the highpoint of the Central Oregon Coast Range and the highpoint for Benton County.

Marys peak

As it turned out, neither of them had ever been up Marys Peak at all (even though one had lived nearby his whole life) and they were excited to go. In fact, they were so excited that within twenty minutes we were in the car with sleeping bags and some warm clothing. Sprocket happily hopped in the back of the car and away we went.

Arriving at the end of the long twisty road that takes you nearly to the top of the peak, I pitched a tent for Sprocket and I just outside the car. We promptly fell asleep after setting my alarm for 5am. (Sprocket, as usual, was an awesome tent cuddler. His nose immediately found its way into my sleeping bag.)

Marys peak sunrise

Waking in the dawn twilight, I realized that it was sort of cloudy so we wouldn’t get the full sunrise effect from the mountain: when it’s really clear all the Cascade peaks from Rainier to Shasta are silhouetted by the light and the furthest peaks disappear the moment the sun rises over Mount Jefferson. Since we’d driven all the way to the mountain we hiked the 0.7 miles to the top despite the clouds and watched the sun rise over the valley, picking out I-5, the Willamette River, Eugene, Corvallis, and other small towns.

Marys Peak

Starting the day on a mountaintop is never a bad plan

Big Island: Pololu Valley Sunrise

Having looked out over Waipio Valley and the tour bussed we decided against hiking down, instead we headed for the northern end of the Kohala Reserve. We spent the night in Waimea, woke early and arrived at the trailhead very early. As the sky started to lighten we began our descent into the beautiful valley.

Poulou Valley
Poulou Bay at first light

With the sun not peaking over the horizon it was still a little bit brisk so we decided to spend some time exploring the valley. There were a bunch of cool little trails through the jungle-like vegetation. It appears that plenty of people spend time down in this valley: lots of fire pits and other fun signs of human presence.

Jungle trails
Jungle trails
Mr. Snuffleupagus' cousin
Mr. Snuffleupagus’ cousin
Looking up the (wet) valley
Looking up the (wet) valley
Enjoying the driftwood rope swing
Enjoying the driftwood rope swing

After our explorations, we returned to the beach to watch the sun come up over the water. We were the only people on the beach for the beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise
Sunrise
Reminds me a little of Northern California. (Except for the black sand, of course.)
Reminds me a little of Northern California. (Except for the black sand, of course.)

Forrest even had a bit of fun on the way back up the hill:

Beware of falling rocks.
Beware of falling rocks.