Harquahala Wilderness

Sunday saw my first visit to Harquahala Wilderness, featuring the highest peak in La Paz County and in southwestern Arizona.  The name, Harquahala bestowed by the Mohave people or their progenitors, means “Waterhigh up”. Harquahala Peak does get snow, every so often, though Sunday was dry and mild. I lived in nearby Salome, for a year, in the 1999-2000 Academic Year, and have passed by the entrance to this trail countless times, often wondering what the upper levels were like. I got there later than I had first planned, as an important gathering took up much of my Sunday morning. Still, the overall experience, over six hours, rivaled the best of  other wilderness experiences I’ve had in the Southwest. The first two miles of the trail are standard Sonoran Desert fare, but don’t be jaded or lulled into boredom.  There are some challenges ahead.  This experience reminded me quite a bit of the Superstition Wilderness.

SAM_8019   SAM_8020   SAM_8023

The full trail is 5.4 miles, one way.  Once through the boulder fields, the switchbacks, and fun, begin. SAM_8025


Looking down into the canyon is an exhilarating experience.   SAM_8056   SAM_8059

The cathedral spire-like quality of Chimney Rock is  a motivation to keep on, with new vigour.   SAM_8060

Two-thirds of the way to the summit, some gold prospectors tried their luck, in the 1900’s.  It didn’t work out too well.  The remains of their camp are preserved here.   SAM_8070

The remnants of another Harquahala institution, an Observatory, built by the Smithsonian, and operated from 1921-1925, are found at the summit of Harquahala Peak, and are visible from the place where I chose to turn around.


The summit itself was another 35-40 minutes away, and once there, the sights are worth an hour or so of exploration.  Owing to the fading daylight, and not wanting to depend on my flashlight to navigate the eastern rim’s switchbacks, I began my descent around 5 P.M.


There were abundant heart-shaped rocks here, so I felt fully-blessed.


As I reached the last of the eastern switchbacks, the Sun bid farewell.


A night hike of ninety minutes, with my trusty flashlight, brought me back to the car.  As I reached my vehicle, the coyotes began yipping and yowling, about a mile to the east.  I will be back here someday, critters, and will get to the top, with plenty of time to do it justice.

(You probably guessed it.  The Daily Bruin didn’t take, so I am back to writing less “me-centered” fare.)

6 thoughts on “Harquahala Wilderness

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