Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lee Canyon & Sawmill Wiggles Loop - 5/25/14

Mummy's Nose from Sawmill Wiggle Route

Shout out to the Pre-Hikers! Thanks!

The Trail Leading Down into Lee Canyon

Right Turn onto Lee Canyon Trail
 Ten and a half miles up Lee Canyon Road from Hwy 95, there is a chain link fence on the left side of the highway that surrounds solar panels and other paraphernalia. Just behind this array, there is a newly installed trail down into Lee Canyon and two routes beyond. Today, thirteen hikers dove into the canyon that runs alongside the highway using this trail. Very soon, the trail junctioned perpendicularly. We turned to the right and began our hike up the deep canyon that seemed to be a world unto itself. The junction area is seen in the photo to the left.

Newly Installed Trail up Lee Canyon

Scenery on East Side of Lee Canyon
 For around 3/4 of a mile, the newly installed trail was very nice and included huge rock cairns that marked the wash crossings. After this, we had to follow red or orange flags that marked where the trail would eventually go. As we neared the narrows, the flags disappeared and we followed an old established trail. At one point, we lost the trail and had to trudge up the gravel wash. (The map below indicates where the trail exists and not what we did today.) Anyway, when the trail is completed, the hike up through the canyon will not involve route finding!

"Mark's Piece of Cake" Sign Found just below Lee Canyon Narrows

Hiking Steep Up and Around the Narrows
 When we reached the cairns in the photo above, we knew we were just below the narrows. We crossed the canyon and began our first steep climb of the morning on the trail that leads up and around the slot. On the other side of the hill, we soon found ourselves at the antique wrecked cars. The first one was a Packard (1940ish). Someone has recently turned this one over onto its top. The second one was over on the side of the wash to our left. And, the third one is almost buried underneath the trail that would take us up and out of the canyon.

Antique Wrecked Cars in Lee Canyon above Narrows
 We visited each of the cars and marveled at the chrome bumper of the last one. A "real bumper!"

May Flowers Found Somewhere Along the Route
 As we wandered around in the canyon and hiked up to Sawmill Ridge later, we saw several flowers that are unusual to catch in bloom. If anyone knows what the white/yellow flower is above, please write a comment!

Hiking the Trail Out of Lee Canyon

Breaking at the Sawmill Trailhead Picnic Area
 So, we climbed the trail up out of the canyon to the right, connected with the Cardamine Road that leads into the Sawmill Trailhead picnic area, picked out a couple of tables and sat down for our break. (It was nice to have restrooms at our break spot!) We were only 3.25 miles into an 8 mile hike but there were only 200 feet of elevation gain left before we reached the high point of the day. The remaining mileage would be basically downhill.

Hiking Through the Trees on Sawmill Trail
 We finished our break and headed out on the regular Sawmill Trail found near the upper restrooms and picnic tables. The first part of this trail is very wooded and shaded. It winds around for a distance then we took the Red Trail fork to the left and started a steeper climb up to the ridge.

The Trail Breaks Through the Trees to the Ridge
 Views of the surrounding landscape were plentiful up there. Mummy's Nose, the Spring Mountain Divide, Mack's Peak, McFarland Peak, Bonanza Peak and Willow Peak all were present and accounted for. The ridge gifted us with a cool breeze for which we were thankful!

Mummy's Nose, Chin and Forehead from Sawmill Trail

The Spring Mountain Divide
 As we topped the ridge and began hiking down the gentle slope on the other side, we could see the desert playa far below. On this section of the hike, we passed another hiking group, three horse and riders and a small group of people that pierced the air with their singing! Not sure what that was all about but it was clear that many people were in the Spring Mountains celebrating the Memorial Day holiday. Needless to say, we didn't see any wildlife all morning. They were probably running for the hills!

Hiking Down off the Ridge

Playa Far Below
  We circled around to our right and began a somewhat steep descent. Just before we reached the part of the trail that is really steep, we found our Blue Trail junction to the left. This is the beginning of the "Sawmill Wiggles." It is a beautiful trail lined with old growth juniper and pinion pine. The route switchbacks here and there as we made our way gently down a ridge then the following slope. Near the bottom, we crossed a dirt road onto a smaller trail and continued to drop until we were in the road/wash area near Blue Tree Campground.

Wiggle Route Blue Trail Sign

Maria and Blooming Cliffrose
 At around 3/4 of a mile up from the cars, the hiker has a choice of routes. It is slightly shorter to go ahead and bushwhack over to the highway and take the old Lee Canyon dirt road down to the trailhead. However, a more pleasant route is to hike down the road or the wash and begin bushwhacking later. We chose the wash, then were left with a slightly longer bushwhack over gentle terrain to the cars. We all enjoyed our 8 miles and will likely be repeating this hike in the fall.

Large Joshua Trees Lined the Lower Wiggle Route
 8 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Hiking the Small Wash to the West of the Highway

Bushwhacking Out to the Road and Trailhead

1 comment:

Jason Alexander said...

The white flower is death camas, Zigadenus paniculatus, in the lily family.