Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Geology Hearts The Sea

I woke to a cold and blustery morning and waited until I saw Josh moving around in his truck before I started to get dressed. We were both tired and reeeeaaalllyyy needed a cup a coffee! We packed up and headed back into town where we had a super crappy breakfast with plentiful cups of coffee at a diner.

After breakfast we decided to drive back toward ocotillo on the S-2 and stopped to check out more trails on the way.  Josh and I have been talking about climbing Whale Peak and drove up Pinyon Mountain Road until we reached "the squeeze" which is a narrow opening in the rocks that many 4x4 aficionados squeeze themselves through. It was the first time we'd ever seen it and I have to say, I'm impressed! I had a hard time hiking down it, I can't imagine driving it!

Continuing on, we came to the Box Canyon Monument. I had noticed the day before that there were structures on the opposite side of the street from the monument and wanted to see what they were. It turns out they were a couple of really neat bathrooms! Josh and I traded memories of the interesting bathrooms we found on the PCT before heading back out on the road.

I have passed the turn off for the Coyote Mountains several times and always wanted to check it out. I took this opportunity with the security of two vehicles to explore and we headed down the rutted road toward...wherever.

Eventually we made it to the end of the road and followed a steep trail up the side of a mountain. Eventually it turned toward two narrow canyons in opposite directions, both with rock cairns.

We opted to head north-ish in a boulder strew canyon and followed it up to a small saddle.

We poked around in the rocks and Josh spotted a well preserved owl pellet complete with mouse skeleton.

The rocks in this area are unlike anything I've ever seen before. Some rocks shined like diamond in the sun and when I took a closer look they had pieces of a material that felt like cellophane and pulled off in super thin sheets that were completely translucent.  

We traversed the saddle and followed the ridgeline to the top of a hill. We narrowed down our cross country route and headed back down. On the way I narrowly missed stepping on a massive black bug with bright red wings. I was so scared of it I didn't get a picture but later identified it as a desert blister beetle.

We ended up walking down a razor's edge ridgeline on top of mountains that were soft and squishy under foot. As the grade got steeper I found footprints of other travelers to step in for traction.

At the bottom of of the hill I started to notice white debris mixed into the strangely texture dirt. I sat down and sorted through it and eventually realized they were perfect shaped sea shells!




This area was once part of the Sea of Cortez. I've found sea shells in the desert before but not quite like this. You could literally stick your hand into the side of a mountain tall enough to walk on and pull out fossils! I love it here!

The day was getting away from us so we jumped back into the trucks and headed out. A plant was poking out of the dirt that caught my eye on our way and I stopped to check out. I've never seen a lily in the desert before! What a strange and beautiful flower!

For such a short hike it was big on interesting stuff and I am looking forward to coming back and exploring the area further.

We made our way to Hwy 8 and explored some sections of abandoned Hwy 80.

As we continued west toward home, we stopped at the Desert View Tower where we talked with a very nice volunteer. The road in to the Tower always freaks me out with the Alien memorabilia. This van in particular is super creepy!

It was a great 3 days in the desert. I'm looking forward to my next trip!


  1. Loving all these trip reports, Mandie. They remind me of all the trips my family spent poking around in the local deserts.

    1. Thanks Brewella! I've been having a lot of fun out there!

  2. Those seashells! The knife edge trails! That weird flower! I absolutely love this.

    1. It's just so neat out there! I'm not ready for it to be summer yet, I'm not done exploring!