Signal Peak, Kofa Wildlife Refuge
By: Andy Zdon
Following the Desert Peaks Section Guide, 2nd Edition, we drove out to Quartzite, Arizona, and headed south on HWY 95. The turn-off for KOFA was exactly 19 miles from Quartzite (not 18 miles as mentioned in the guide). From there, we followed the decent dirt roads, winding through wildflowers and ocotillo in full bloom, to the mouth of Kofa Queen Canyon, where we continued up the wash to the junction of Kofa Queen and Ten Ewe Canyons. We set up camp and watched the red cliffs and desert sky change colors until the sun finally set. We started hiking at 6:35 am, walking up the canyon to the junction of three main drainages. To the left (due south) is Ten Ewe Canyon straight ahead is an unnamed canyon which leads to the saddle due west of Ten Ewe Mountain. To the right is a drainage which is Indian Canyon. This canyon appeared to end in cliffs, however this was our desired route. In addition, an inviting canyon takes off to the far right (due west), however this is not to be taken. We followed the steep slopes up Indian Canyon, at times walking in shallow, boulder-strewn drainages and up open slabs on the north side of the canyon. It was in one of the shallow drainages that Wynne encountered a large rattlesnake about three feet from her boots. Ifs hiss and rattle sent her flying up the boulders, and out of harm's way.
At the head of the canyon, we approached a sheer wall where we found that the route veered to the right, up three distinct sections of class 3 rock. The first is about a ten foot exposed section, where the cliffs below are visible. From this section, we entered a small chute choked with very loose, big rocks. This required some very delicate scrambling even though not exposed. The final section was a twenty-five foot, palm-sweating face, with very good hand-holds and excellent views of the sheer cliffs below! At the top of this section, the terrain opened up to a broad saddle where the Four Palms Canyon route joins the ridge. We turned south and contoured to the right of the hill to a shallow saddle marked by a duck We avoided some rocky sections along the ridge by dropping south, from the saddle about 100 feet. We walked west, to the summit, which we reached at 9:40am.
We spent about an hour on the summit where we sighted two bighorns, a ram and a ewe. The peak is in need of a new register - the current register is a Spice Islands White Cloves jar with a few pieces of paper stapled together for the register. We hiked back and were relieved when we reached the car without incident, at exactly 1pm.
April 3rd was the eve of our first wedding anniversary, so Andy booked us at the Shiloh Inn in Yuma-a top floor suite with a beautiful view of little Picacho and Castle Dome. There was actually a phone in the bathroom and a blow dryer on the wall. We had a wonderful dinner at the hotel restaurant with baked halibut steak, lamb and a seafood cocktail to die for! The following morning, we did some sightseeing in Yuma - the historic Yuma Territorial Prison and Yuma Crossing, at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. We drove I-8 to Ocotillo, and took the scenic route through Anza-Borrego, Julian and Temecula. We arrived back in T.J. (Tujunga that is), rested and happy, having explored yet another desert region and climbed another Desert Peak.
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