Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lee Canyon / Sawmill Wiggles - 5/14/17

Sawmill Ridge to Three Lakes Valley

Above Lee Canyon Narrows

Mummy Mountain and Lee Peak (R)

Descending into Lee Canyon
It was an absolutely delightful day up in the lower elevations of Lee Canyon in the Spring Mountains NRA. The air was perfectly cool and a light breeze blew off the sun's heat throughout the hike. The sky was blue and the snow-capped mountains reminded us that the lower elevations were where it was "goin' on!" Eight hikers drove up Lee Canyon Road to mile marker 10.5 for a favorite hike that the club first did in May of 2014. Since that time, the trail that leads up the bottom of Lee Canyon has been worn sufficiently and the route has earned its kudos.

Starting up Lee Canyon Trail
The trailhead is located on the left side of the road as you drive upward. There is an old paved part of a previous road that provides good parking.

Wash Crossings marked with Large Cairns
This trailhead is used often by horse riders and, today, we noticed bicycle tracks along the first mile. We dropped down over the edge on a nice diagonally placed trail.

Lee Canyon Trail in Good Condition

Ducking through the Wash to the Narrows
Once in the canyon, we followed the trail to the right until it crossed the wash, marked by a very large cairn. The volunteers that made this trail used these large cairns at every wash crossing. Perhaps a flood in the canyon will not wash them away ... but would probably wash away the trail. We followed the very nice trail but still missed one turn, as this writer always does. Anywho, it matters not. (Just go up canyon.) In due time, we reached the large cairn with the old wooden sign leaning on it. What does it say? Mark's Piece of Cake? Hmmm.

Entering Lee Canyon Narrows
Here, we took the side trip into the Lee Canyon Narrows. This is an interesting slot that the occasionally strong water flow has created.

Exiting Lee Canyon Narrows
There were no birds roosting in the walls this time but there were plenty of rat nest remains. The abundance of 2017 snow probably choked the life out of the narrows temporarily.

Shortcut back up to Trail

Tree Shadows on Trail
We returned to the trail by climbing up the side of the hill on the shortcut. After hiking up and around the narrows, the trail drops back down and heads into a grove of trees. Here, we passed the old car that is, thankfully, still there. A little further up and we passed the buried car with the chrome bumper. From there, the trail turns to go up a ramp to the road above. We crossed the Lee Canyon Road and connected with Cardamine Road, a dirt road that runs parallel with Lee Canyon. A turn to the left on the dirt road soon connected us with Sawmill Trailhead and Picnic Area.

Passing the Antique Car
We hiked to the top end of the picnic area and chose a couple of picnic tables for our break near the restrooms.

Climbing the Ramp up to Road
The canyon had shielded us from the cool wind, but the remaining part of the hike would be exposed. Harsh wind was expected later in the afternoon but was not bad at this time.

Sawmill Picnic Area

Break Time
So, we finished our break and started up the Yellow Trail that leads toward the ridge. At a fork, we chose the Red Trail meaning that our last escape from possible wind would be behind us. It turned out to be the right choice. When we hiked along the ridge later, the wind was not a constant and the views were worth it. Perhaps we were now following the Green Trail passing by a couple of trail junctions that headed off into the desert. Our trail dropped down the hill and started out the Blue Trail (Sawmill Wiggles).

Sawmill Trail to Ridge
The Blue Trail is a pleasant trail that gradually descends using a few switchbacks along the way. It began by dropping over a small ridge away from the paved road.

Mack, McFarland, Bonanza, Willow & Wheeler
Eventually, the trail passes back over the ridges and we could see Lee Canyon Road not far away. Finally, we followed the trail across a dirt road hill and dropped down into the Blue Tree Campground.

Down the Blue Trail

Toe, Nose, Forehead, Charleston, Lee
On our way, we picked up a large shiny piece of a fireman's blanket in the brush. We thought we should give it back to a fire station. Then ... we passed by a large group of firefighters training(?) in the campground. "Do you want this?" we asked. Yep. They took it! Then, we bushwhacked our way up to the highway and crossed over right about where a very old dirt road forks off of the pavement. This old dirt road led us all the way back down to our cars. We picked up some trash on our way. Lovely morning! Happy Mother's Day!

8 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Wiggles Trail (Refuge in Distance)

Bushwhacking across to Other Side of Road

Old Lee Canyon Dirt Road

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