Thursday, May 5, 2016

Lee Canyon / Sawmill Wiggles - 5/5/16

Lower Sawmill Wiggles Joshua Tree

Mummy's Nose from Blue Trail

Hiking Lee Canyon

Lee Canyon Trail
 Eleven hikers drove up Lee Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains NRA to the mile marker 10.5 trailhead on the left side of the road. The skies were overcast but the spirits were bright. There was a cool breeze blowing throughout the hike but the temperature was a very pleasant 58ish degrees. We had a few hikers in shorts but they were warmed by exertion early on. We dropped down into Lee Canyon while noticing a fresh, deeply washed out drainage next to the trail. Rain has been generous to the area for last month.

Lee Canyon Trail
 The trail up Lee Canyon is old but new. About three years ago, the park service volunteers rebuilt a very nice trail primarily for equestrian pursuits. However, before that, there was a very old trail leading haphazardly through the canyon.

Old Sign on Large Cairn below Lee Canyon Narrows
 The volunteers built huge cairns to mark almost every wash crossing as the trail occasionally leaves the left side of the canyon as you ascend. When you reach the Lee Canyon Narrows area, there are three large wash cairns that have been there for a long time. One of them has an old trail sign on it.

Lee Canyon Narrows Visit

Hikers that Crawled Under Obstacle Boulder
 Since there were a few hikers in our group that had not seen the narrows, we turned here to follow the wash up into the rock walls. (A canyon wren flew out of her nest 3 feet from the coordinator's face - moi - and a shriek was heard all over the mountain!) The obstacle boulder that is lodged in the narrows is very difficult to pass now. Gravel has built up underneath the passage and most of us crawled our way through to the other side. But, in the end, all the newbies agreed that it was a pretty cool place.

Climbing the Hill next to the Narrows
 We exited the narrows the way we came in, then found the little shortcut trail up to the main trail. Next came the most difficult ascent of the morning as we climbed around the canyon narrows on the trail above.

Old Packard still Rests

Old Road Trail out of Lee Canyon
Staying on the trail on the other side of the narrows, we passed the antique car museum where the old Packard still resides. We opted not to visit the old car in the wash nearby then took a short look at the car under all the dirt at the trail junction. We turned right onto the trail that would take us up the side of the canyon and onto Lee Canyon Road. After crossing the road and hiking over to Cardamine Road, we turned to the left, passed through the equestrian section of Sawmill Trailhead, then stopped for our extended break at the upper picnic area.

Jovial Snack Break at Sawmill Trailhead
 Refreshed, the hike continued on the Sawmill Yellow Trail. This trail circles around toward Macks Canyon Road then begins a gentle climb up to a ridge. Before the final climb, the trail forks. We took the left fork which put us on the Red Trail.

State of the Snow Today

Enjoying the View of the Spring Mountain Divide
 As we neared the ridge, distant views of surrounding mountains entertained us. Mummy's Nose was most prominent. At the next trail junction, we continued straight putting us on the Green Trail. (One hiker mused that this must be the Primary Colors Loop!) The Green Trail took us along the top of the Sawmill Ridge where we had several views of the Spring Mountains Divide and down to the desert playas below. Once again, we reached a trail junction and found ourselves on the Blue Trail since the Green Trail took a left turn.

Green Trail on Sawmill Ridge
 We followed the trail down the hill to the right to junction with ... oh, heck ... I don't know. Anyway, our Blue Trail turned to the left. We affectionately call this next section of trail the Sawmill Wiggles.

View Down to Lee Canyon Road from Blue Trail
 The Wiggles take hikers and horseback riders on a meandering trail through the pinion pine and juniper forest. As you reach the lower portion of the trail, joshua trees and yucca plants begin to appear.

Nearing No Mads Trail Junction

Bushwhacking from Campground to Road
The route crosses the No Mads Trail (dirt road), continues down to the wash and Blue Tree Campground, passes the No Motorized Vehicles sign, then begins a bushwhack on a gentle diagonal toward Lee Canyon Road. If you aim it right, you will cross the paved road and hit the beginning of an old forest road trail that parallels the highway. A left turn here leads you straight down the forest road trail away from the highway noise and back to the mile marker 10.5 trailhead. It was so nice to be in the mountains with the fresh air and trees.

8 miles; 1450 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Junctioning with the Forest Road Trail

Sailing down the Old Road

Nearing the Trailhead on the Forest Road Trail

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