Signal Peak

Dec 1954

By: Parker Severson



Your Chairmen took himself off for a week in the crisp (and how) clean air of the desert over the Christmas holidays. I horned in on Desert Steve's Christmas Eve party for the population of Desert Center, while passing through that mid-desert metropolis. A gaily lighted mesquite tree served as a Christmas tree, with mountains of presents under it. After a hike into the Grand Canyon, zero temperatures and a bitter, cutting wind forced me to retreat south to the Kofa Mountains northeast of Yuma. I had intended to go up into the Navajo country, but old Boreas changed that.

During my two day camp in the Kofas, I climbed Kofa Peak (elev. 4680 ft.) in beautiful weather and deposited my calling card in the old earthenware jar which serves as the register. Wonder why the Geologic Survey boys have to leave all those old batteries scattered around on mountain tops. I kept warm cleaning up several bushels of their old batteries.

There have been changes in the Kofa Mountains since my last visit several years ago. They are not very pleasant ones. A new high gear road has been bulldozed across the desert from the highway to the mouth of Palm Canyon. The end of the road looks like a village dump, with tin cans and picnic litter scattered all over the landscape. This used to be a nice place to camp in the days when you had to got in the hard way, over a rough trail that no one but a true outdoor lover would care to travel. one questions the wisdom of building good roads into unsupervised areas of natural beauty. A good access road is, theoretically, a fine thing for the public who likes to see and enjoy these places, but the sad truth is that it also brings in the litterbug legions, with their inevitable deluge of rubbish. This rubbish never finds its way out again but stays there, growing in volume and scattered by the winds. We note that the villainous beer can has now been joined by a new partner in crime -- the soft drink throw-away container, You ain't seen nothin' yet!

It's easy to find the little stand of native palms high in a deep cleft of the canyon wall. No ducks or signs necessary -- just follow the beer cans. I took a hike up the canyon one afternoon to have another look at this uniquely situated little group of some 40 or 50 native desert palms -- one of the rare stands of the Washingtonia palm in Arizona. The sight that met my eyes was one of complete desolation. A fire had left nothing but black, charred trunks. So intense was the heat from the accumulation of dry fronds in the rocks, that huge boulders had been fractured. What once was a lovely little clump of palms in a unique natural setting is today a sorry looking sight. Perhaps they will survive the ordeal. Evidently some moron who had no business being there had touched off the conflagration. Just build a good road into a wilderness area and Mother Nature takes a bad beating -- also nature lovers. Perhaps we ought to change the name Kofa Mountains, and, like the old-time prospectors, simply call 'em the S. H. Mountains.

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