Ominous Splendor

Why are the hills red?

This view from Dutchman Trail was taken on the red line trail (below) between Black Top Mesa (out of view, on left) and Bluff Springs Mountain (right), on the approach to White Rock Spring and LaBarge canyon (the large canyon at the north end (left) of the red line.

Looking Northwest, in the distance is Malapais Mountain behind Red Hills. Volcanic rock and Cholla cactus in foreground followed by Prickly Pear and Saguaro cactus. “Malapais” means “bad country,” an apt description for this terrain where the skull of Adolf Ruth was discovered near the Red Hills. Three fourth of a mile away, the rest of him was discovered on the slope of Black Top Mesa by a search party, January 8, 1932. Ruth walked this same trail, passing this very spot.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Desert Color

Wildflowers on Dutchman Trail

Those cliffs above the Dutchman Trail (in red from the push pin “Dutchman Terrapin Trail Junction”) climb 670 feet in 0.2 mile. Fifteen minutes after starting I stopped to photograph a group of wildflowers.

The bright yellow flowers on right are a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family named Wright’s Deervetch (Acmispon wrightii) I am able to pick it out from many similar flowers due to the characteristic narrow leaves with small hairs. These start out yellow, turning to red with age eventually forming brown seed pods. Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) to the right.

The small white flowers are Chickweed (Minuartia macrantha) of the family Carnation (Caryophyllaceae).

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bluff Spring Mountain Canyon

A Meeting of Expedition Members and Trails

Here is the topographic map with Terrapin Trail (yellow) meeting Dutchman Trail (orange) to the right of Upper Black Top Mesa Pass, bottom center

The beetling cliffs off Bluff Spring Mountain loom over where Terrapin and Dutchman trails meet. Patches of yellow are Mexican Poppies blooming on the talus slope. Terrapin Trail climbs the ridge, to right. Here is where I caught up with mounted expedition members, the spotted rump of an Appaloosa figures prominently next to the signpost.

Terrapin Trail almost immediately starts a climb up to an eponymous pass between Bluff Springs Mountain and Weavers Needle. From here, it is the best way into the mountain. The trail name is a misnomer, as terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) turtle habitat is near the ocean. There is a desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) you might encounter during the rainy season as they are otherwise inactive.

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Al at Terrapin and Dutchman trails. His Appaloosa is enjoying fresh grass.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bluff Spring Mountain

A Storied Place

As we descended Upper Black Top Mesa Pass into Bluff Spring Mountain canyon we found, foreground, Palo Verde and brittle bush, and, midground, Saguaro. The presence of Palo Verde reveals water flows through this area intermittently though not enough to sustain a large tree. Palo Verde is in the pea family (Fabaceae), as evidenced by production of seeds in pods.

Calling it “Buff Mountain” some say the mountain is named for these buff-colored cliffs. Others, calling it “Bluff Spring Mountain” name it for the cliffs and the spring within a canyon on top.

Closer to the junction with Terrapin Trail this Bluff Spring Mountain ridge rose above us. A fine specimen of mature Saguaro cactus is in midground.

Click Me for another posting from Black Top Mesa

A climb up this ridge rewards a person with fine camping within a canyon on top of this mountain. This joy was reserved for a later trip I have yet to enjoy. Bluff Spring Mountain features prominently in the literature and stories of the Dutchman Mine and lost treasure.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved