Bow Willow Trip Report

Report courtesy of Bernie Lafreniere, N6FN

Many thanks to all the hikers that participated in the Bow Willow Canyon / Rock House trip. We had an excellent group and the trip was an interesting mix of terrific scenery, some technical route finding, boulder hopping and climbing.

Despite waking up to a rain storm on Saturday morning, we quickly decided to go ahead with the trip. On the drive over the mountains, the storm was fully evident, with rain coming down, even on the desert side. The higher elevations of the mountains were covered with snow, and it was still raining all the way down to scissors crossing. Driving south on S2, the weather got progressively better, and was clear and warm by the time we reached Bow Willow Campground.

On both Saturday and Sunday the weather was windy and a cool, which for the most part made for very pleasant hiking. Saturday evening was very windy, especially during the night. Several of us experienced "tent blowovers" during the night, due in part by tent stakes being marginally secured in sand. However, in spite of the wind, it was not particularly cold at night, perhaps only going down to about 40F.

The trip followed the posted itinerary as originally planned and camp was setup in the lower reaches of Bow Willow Canyon, adjacent to the first large grove of Palms in the canyon narrows. The route from the Bow Willow Campground was fairly easy until we got passed the first small grove of palms, then it turned into a combination of creek-bottom bolder hopping and water fall negotiation. The creek was dry, but the obstacle course was fairly strenuous to negotiate.

We camped in the draw leading to the Sombrero Peak Palm Grove, just a few hundred yards north of the main drainage. Finding suitable campsites was a bit tricky, due to the fact that the whole area is located on steep mountain sides, completely covered by a jumble of boulders. However, after scouting around we found enough places to place individual tents. Because of the rough terrain our campsites were a bit scattered -- dispersed camping!

In the afternoon several of us scrambled up the arroyo leading to the Sombrero Peak Palms. In actuality there are three different groves located in the same area along the side of the mountain. The summit looms steeply over the groves, and it was too late to attempt an ascent to Sombrero Peak.

Because of a prior engagement, Sarah didn't start from the Bow Willow campground until late in the afternoon. However, she made some serious time, and managed to get into camp just as it was getting too dark to walk. We had a bit of difficulty locating Sarah as she approached us. We were in contact via HT simplex, but just couldn't seem to spot her, even though Stan and I were on a promontory point overlooking the canyon she would need to come up. Eventually she said she could see a tent, and that was really puzzling, since we were already up on the side of the mountain. She could only see our tents if she was higher than us!

After looking up the sides of the canyon, and continued HT communications we eventually spotted her on the opposite canyon wall above us. Via excellent HT directions, from our vantage point, Stan was able to quickly guide her down to our location before darkness fell.

The following morning we re-traced our steps out of the bolder maze, and crossed over a low pass into Rockhouse Canyon. After stopping for a break at the summit of the pass, we quickly descended to the rock house line shack, and found it still standing with its roof intact. Nearby was an empty concrete water tank, with its fill pipe extending up the mountain to some remote and hidden spring. Stan -- being full of hot air-- tried to pressurize the pipe line by blowing forcefully into the end of the pipe. When someone commented that they could hear the hissing of an air leak, Stan immediately leapt into his trouble shooting mode and with Sarah's assistance found a small hacksaw cut in the pipe.

After eating lunch at the Rock House, we cut cross country towards a draw that would lead out of Rock House Canyon and back to Bow Willow Canyon wash and the trail head. Because of a lack of unique features and poorly marked trail (no established trail in this area), we were actually forced to rely on map, compass and GPS to confirm our route and arrive at the correct wash leading back to Bow Willow Canyon. We somehow managed to accomplish this without having to backtrack or make any course corrections. The final wash leading back down to Bow Willow Canyon was a bit steep and interesting to travel through. There is even a single lonely Palm in this wash, clinging to life in an otherwise barren land.

After hitting the main Bow Willow Canyon flood plane it was just a short half mile hike back to the cars. Total trip mileage was probably about 10 miles, and due to the current draught conditions, we had to carry all our own water.

I believe a good outing was had by all.

Several of the hikers will be posting pictures on the web.

Happy Trails

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