Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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, p. 2



Continued from the previous page.


Since so much of the desert in this area is shades of brown, I soon developed a good eye while hiking for smaller things like rocks that had more visible colors, textures, or patterns:  

Nice variety of colors, including greens and purples

There are a  lot of these two-tone rocks in the LTVA and nearby desert.

Interesting pattern on the brown rock; I like all the colors in the little rocks.


The desert has a couple dozen fewer colorful rocks in it now; I added some small ones to my collection. The colors are even more intense when they are wet -- which is rare in the desert.

Many of the rocks in the desert west of the LTVA are black, have numerous perforations in them, and appear to be volcanic. There are also a lot of dark brown rocks that look like shiny leather. One hill even has a lot of small sage-colored rocks and looks green from a distance.

By February and March, more trees and shrubs had bright green leaves; there were also some subtle wildflowers and bright beavertail cactus blooms. I'll feature more of them in a subsequent entry.

Ocotillo in bloom the second week of March

Colorful beavertail cactus blooms

By mid-March, trees lining Senator Wash Reservoir had noticeably brighter green leaves.


Most days when we were riding through the LTVA in our vehicles or on our bikes, or hiking outside its boundaries, we saw small groups of wild burros. Dozens of them live in this desert area.

They came right up to our campsite when we stayed there in 2012 but they are more skittish when they see hikers, especially hikers with dogs, coming on the trails. Sometimes I used the zoom features on my cameras to get better close-ups but usually just relied on being able to crop 16- or 24-megapixel shots without using the zoom.

They look so docile and sweet!

These cuties are a little more shaggy.

Sometimes while hiking I had to look really hard to see the burros in the distance because their gray and white colors are good camouflage in the surrounding rocks.

The two guys in the next picture probably saw me moving up the trail long before I spotted them:


Ferguson Road goes out the western side of the LTVA and heads northwest from Forest Service Road #699 for eight or nine miles to Ferguson Lake through some very hilly but scenic terrain.

On my longest ride out there, 15 miles total, my GPS recorded over 3,200 feet elevation gain and loss -- all between only 173 to 474 feet in elevation! It's a real roller-coaster.

Here's my GPS track and profile from that ride. I cut off the profile at 8 miles so you can see the numbers better; the red mark I added is the turnaround point:


I took the photos in this section on five different treks out the road, four by bike and once in a neighbor's 4WD car.

The road is sand/gravel/rock and better suited to a high-clearance and/or 4WD vehicle than a 2WD vehicle. It is narrow and dusty, with a few long or steep grades. Most of it is undulating:

One of the longer hills near the beginning of the road outside the LTVA

Looking back toward the LTVA from the top of the first big hill

Continuing ahead

Blooming ocatillo cactus (red flowers) and creosote bushes (yellow) in March

Jim pedals up a short but steep hill

View from a hill at about 3 miles out

One of many scenic desert and mountain views along this road, about 5 miles past the LTVA

View NW from a long grade up to the high point on the road; I think the distinctive
peaks in the distance are in Picacho State Park or the Picacho Peak Wilderness.

Road up to a large parking area on the highest bluff along Ferguson Rd., about 6 miles from the LTVA

Folks love to ride their ATVs and Jeeps on this road:

Group of older folks on ATVs at the high bluff

It's also fun for bicycles, as long as there isn't too much motor vehicle traffic raising dust. Most people were very considerate the times I rode my bike. 

The panoramic views about six miles from the edge of the LTVA -- from a bluff high above the Colorado River, Ferguson and Martinez Lakes, the Imperial Wildlife Refuge, a Marine Corps recreation area, and the small town of Martinez Lake -- are well worth the effort to get out there by whatever mode of transportation you take:

My TriCross cyclo-cross bike leaning against a cairn on the high bluff

Expansive view to the NE from the bluff, which is about 300 feet above the Colorado River

View toward the town of Martinez Lake, with Yuma Proving Ground land
and the Castle Dome Mountain Range beyond it; all that is in Arizona.

Above and below:  view N and NW toward the Painted Desert Trail area
of the Imperial Wildlife Refuge, also on the Arizona side of the river

I usually stopped at the bluff, enjoyed the views, then turned around without going to the end of the road because it was about a 300-foot drop down to the lake. I could see how steep parts of the road are and didn't want to have to walk my bike back up.

The one time Jim rode out with me on his bike we did continue another mile down to about a hundred feet above river/lake level:

Jim rides ahead of me on his bike as we coast down toward the river.

I zoomed the camera in on this small 5th-wheel trailer parked by the water.

However, we didn't go all the way to the end of the road, where there is reportedly a private fish camp. We stopped when we got to a short but very steep hill:

No thanks; we had enough other climbing to do in another 7 miles back to the car.
The arrow marks a building at the fishing camp at the end of the road.

Near that hill we set our bikes down, walked out on a ridge with some trails, enjoyed the views from this lower perspective while we ate a snack, then headed back up the long grade to the high bluff:

Another view toward the town of Martinez Lake, AZ

Arrow marks the visitor center at the Imperial Wildlife Refuge across the river in Arizona.

I also showed Ferguson Road to one of our neighbors right after she bought a 4WD Suzuki Sidekick and was eager to take it for a spin. She enjoyed all the scenic views and driving on the roller-coaster road.

Next entrythe Painted Desert Trail and other scenes from the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil