Day 3

April 16, 2017

Esplanade to Cowboy Camp and Cork Spring


Click on photos to see larger image.

Today's route stats: 

    Distance:  2.5 miles (estimate) to Steck's Cowboy Camp, Plus Hike to Cork Spring

    Elevation Gain:  300 feet

    Elevation Loss:  300 feet

We were expecting today to be very short, so we got a pretty late start.  It was tedious hiking around the remaining head of Paradise Canyon, but the views were spectacular.  And the hiking around the north-east arms of Cork Spring Canyon was also tedious, taking much longer that you would expect from just looking at the map.

Evening Light on the Esplanade. Mount Sinyella in Evening Light. Hiking Towards Steck's Cowboy Camp.


As we hiked, we kept a lookout for an overhang in the distance that might be Steck's Cowboy Camp.  We spotted it far in the distance.  The overhang wasn't as large as I was expecting, and the rock art on the ceiling, which at one time must have been spectacular, was slowly spalling away.  We set up camp nearby and headed out to find Cork Spring and haul water back to camp.

Steck's Cowboy/Pictograph Camp. Cowboy "Stuff" Under Overhang. Ancient Rock Art on Ceiling of Overhang.


We decided to drop into Cork Spring Canyon via the side canyon west of the Cowboy Camp.  Steck's map says to bypass pouroffs to the west.  We probably began dropping into this canyon too early -- maybe we should have started farther up at it's head.  The route in was convoluted and confusing.  And we did bypass a pouroff by going to the west, but it involved a lot of thrashing through thick vegetation.  Eventually we got down past the pouroff and made it to the junction of this side canyon and the main Cork Spring canyon.  There was no water there, so we hiked up the main Cork Spring canyon, and in a couple of hundred yards we came to the spring.  It was a beautiful sight -- small but with abundant good water.  After filling our water bottles, we decided to head up the main canyon rather than fighting the thick vegetation.  Farther up, the canyon split, and we took the left branch.  I'm not sure why, probably because it looked a little easier, but it turned out to be somewhat of a mistake (at least I think so, not having seen the other branch).  We ended up on the Esplanade a long way from camp. 


Approaching Cork Spring. Cork Spring. Cork Spring (A Rob Jones Photo).


Cork Spring Canyon Above Spring. Labyrinth of Canyons to Negotiate. Speckled Rattlesnake Eating a Chuckwalla.


Once back onto the Esplanade, we had a complex labyrinth of canyons to head on our return to camp.  After negotiating the canyons at the head of the west arm, we soon came over a rise and were dumbfounded as we looked over an even larger labyrinth of side canyons.  It took us several hours to get to the spring and back, making this spring a bit out of the way to be of great benefit (unless you're out of water, of course). 

On the hike back to camp, we came upon a Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake with a Chuckwalla stuck in it's mouth.  He rattled like crazy, but he was definitely in no condition to bite anyone.  The Chuckwalla had inflated itself (a common behavior for these lizards), and it looked like the snake was having trouble swallowing it. 


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