Warm Springs Wilderness

Dani and I headed out today to pick up where I left off in my exploration of the Warm Springs Wilderness area. Once again, things did not go as expected. What looked to be a short day trip around Black Mesa turned into several longer jaunts into the interior. Wilderness often means a very different thing here in Arizona than I’m used to: instead of locked gates and big red signs standing guard over the perimeter, we were greeted by friendly brown signs reminding us to stay on existing roads when driving inside the wilderness area. Wait, driving inside?

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We stopped off at the old corral again so I could spend some time re-shooting the same subject, and better learn how the filters work with the camera. The tank was now half-filled with water, courtesy of a tap that had been left running. The morning sun revealed a water line headed up the hill I hadn’t seen before, no doubt this is where my creek had disappeared. I’m guessing it’s almost time to round-up the cattle, which hopefully means we’ll be seeing filet mignon at the butcher soon (deep-frozen Omaha just doesn’t compare with straight-off-the-cow fresh).

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A larger pack of burros was out enjoying the morning too, and they were feisty. In the picture below they aren’t running from us, but playing. They were so busy running in circles kicking and shoving each other they scarcely took notice of our presence.

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Swinging through the town of Yucca we crossed the tracks and headed up Sacramento Wash to find a road leading into the wilderness that I spotted several months back. This is where the power of the “period” comes in: one little dot. It is the difference between a 1.5 mile stroll and a 15 mile hike. We were after the latter, and all trace of the little dot had long ago vanished from the ancient sign. Within minutes we arrived at Caliche Spring—little more than a big metal pipe sticking out of the ground. It does have a great view of the valley, a quaint little campsite, and the decaying ruins of another large corral.

Rather than cross the tracks and hop on the interstate, we opted to continue down the rail service road and around the eastern edge of the wilderness. Along the way we passed several mine sites, but none were accessible by vehicle, and none looked large enough to prove worthy of such a long hike.

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Somewhere between the interstate exits for Santa Fe Ranch and Franconia roads, we came upon one of the coolest “rail fanning” spots I’ve found. There aren’t as many tracks as some of the spots in the Cajon Pass, but I can’t think of anywhere you can comfortably get closer to (and above) the trains. I plan to return here when it warms up for some sunset/night/sunrise photos.

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At the southernmost point of the wilderness we came to Franconia Road and turned north to enter Warm Springs Wilderness. The official map I have (which I acquired from the BLM) shows nothing but a whole lot of nothing for the 13-mile drive to Warm Springs, which we were attempting to make before sunset. Overland Navigator, to which I really must start paying more attention, had a different story to tell. Not even half-way in the road breaks into a maze of different mine sites. With the sun going down and far more ground to cover than I originally anticipated, we decided to spend our remaining light exploring the first mine and return later to explore the rest of the wilderness area.

The mine was a talc mine, a huge pile of white sitting atop a bright red mountain. Between this and the burning amber sunset, the colors were amazing—I’ll let the pictures show the rest…

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