19-Feb-2005 -- I really love hiking to these remote confluences! I had invited fellow confluencer Sam Gallucci to join me along with my brother-in-law Eric who would be making his first confluence visit. We met late Friday night 18 Feb at the trailhead inside the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. Planning for this involved a lot of Google searches, topo chart study, as well as calling and talking to a US Fish and Wildlife Ranger and people at the Yuma Proving Grounds.
It was late when we turned off US-95 onto King Valley Road. This dirt road was in fairly good condition until the 00 Junction where it begins to turn almost due south. From this point on, a high clearance vehicle with 4wd is highly recommended. The recent rains had made the road quite a challenge – from giant puddles to abrupt drop-offs into the washes where the road once easily crossed.
While the rains had played havoc with the dirt roads, they had transformed the otherwise dry and brown desert a very vibrant green! Early Saturday morning we set out. Our starting point was about a mile and a half further away than we had originally planned due to the wilderness boundary sign. The hiking over very flat terrain went relatively quickly. Our path took us down the valleys and over a small saddle before following a wash almost directly to the confluence. There was so much condensation on the vegetation that our boots got all wet.
Reports from the previous visitors were helpful. From their pictures, we had not expected to see so much green everywhere! As D. Wade reported, the confluence lies somewhere on a vertical rock massif. Zeroing out this confluence would require technical climbing equipment or a helicopter!
Picture #1 shows the tremendous view east from the Castle Dome Mountains. The sun was brilliantly backlighting the scattered clouds making for some incredible contrasts and shadows between the vibrant green of the terrain and blue of the sky.
Picture #2 is the view south and shows the slope of the terrain and colorful plant life.
Picture #3 is a view west of the rock face. From this point, you are too close to see terrain features behind the ones right in front of you – another picture (#5) is required from a long ways away to fully capture the scale of where we were on the mountain.
Picture #4 looks north. It’s a lot steeper than it looks. The diagonal feature starting at the lower left of the picture is 10-12 feet high. Eric is pointing to the general direction of the confluence.
Picture #5 looks southwest and is an overview of the confluence from a few hundred meters away. There was no way to adequately capture the entirety or scale of the confluence area from within 100 meters. Draw diagonal lines between the corners of this picture and the confluence is located somewhere up on the dark rock face above where your lines intersect.
Picture #6 shows my GPS position 71 meters away at a safe time and place to take a picture. Analysis of my track log shows that we did manage to get within 32 meters as we attempted to climb higher up the side of the mountain.
Picture #7 shows the sign at the trailhead and weather conditions at the start of our day.
Picture #8 shows a Vaisala RS80 Radiosonde we found on the hike back. From the Vaisala web site, the following explanation is provided:
Launched from the ground, radiosondes are meteorological devices that are used to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction in the upper atmosphere. A balloon filled with hydrogen or helium gas carries the radiosonde into the upper atmosphere. When the radiosonde reaches an altitude of approximately 30 km, the balloon bursts and the radiosonde falls back to Earth along with its string, spool and burst balloon.
During the radiosonde’s flight, it constantly transmits atmospheric temperature, humidity and pressure
data to automated receiving ground equipment. This equipment, called a sounding system, processes
and converts the data into meteorological weather messages that are sent to the global weather network.
Ozone and radioactivity in the upper atmosphere can also be measured.
If you find a Vaisala radiosonde, it poses no danger to you. It is also made of materials that are benign
in the natural environment.
What to do if you find a Vaisala radiosonde
If you want more information on Vaisala radiosondes, please contact: Helpdesk@vaisala.com
- If there are instructions on the radiosonde cover for returning the device, please follow them.
- If there are no instructions for returning the device and you don’t want to keep it, please dispose of
it by following your country’s guidelines for the disposal of electrical waste.
- If you want to keep the radiosonde, remove the battery and dispose of it in an approved receptacle
for used batteries.
We studied the device and admired the engineering of its various sensors and then packed it out with us.
Picture #9 shows a natural arch on the way back from the confluence.
Picture #10 shows typical scenery along the way. The desert in the spring is a very beautiful place. There were incredible greens and flowers of every color. Most had been dormant here for dozens of years until the magic effects of a very wet winter transformed this area into a wonderland. These pictures fall short of capturing the vivid colors we saw throughout the day.
For future visitors, From US-95 near mile marker 76, go east on the King Valley Road. It took us about 1:15 to drive the 24.5 miles to where the road is closed at the trailhead. Beyond this point, motorized travel is prohibited within the wilderness area. For general orientation (or conversations with the NWR Rangers), the confluence is south of Burnt Wagon Tank. The hike itself was 14.7 miles round trip and took us 8:05.
Other good sources for reference:
The Yuma Proving Grounds surround the KOFA NWR and this confluence. We could hear artillery impacts in the distance throughout the day. This area is also very popular with bighorn sheep hunters. While you will be entirely within the KOFA NWR on your way to the confluence there is some good information and briefings that will help your confluence planning. See:
Overall an excellent confluence visit and tremendous hike through the desert while it was blooming with life!