Walking Cottonwood Creek to Sam Nail Ranch and Bushwhacking from Grapevine Hills to the Road

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We had two main goals defined for this trip: a walk down Cottonwood Creek from the road to Sam Nail Ranch and a bushwhack from the edge of Grapevine Hills to the pavement, also following a creekbed. With our 7-1/2 minute maps and GPS units, plus some good old-fashioned common sense, we were ready!
  The walk down Cottonwood Creek was a real treat because Dad dropped us off and met us at the Ranch. The trek started out hot and dry, but pretty soon, water was trickling up from undergound. What a surprise! At times, the water was deep enough to get your whole foot wet, and we certainly enjoyed trying to identify the wildlife tracks we could see in the mud. Birds sang as we made our way down the creekbed, and the little creek teased us by disappearing underground and re-emerging hundreds of feet later.

The brush was very thick along the banks as we got close to Sam Nail Ranch and, try as we might, we could not break through it. We saw the windmill and so we knew it was time to get out of the creekbed, but it was just too overgrown. Instead, we continued a bit further downstream to where the creek crosses the road, and we hiked back to the Ranch from there. It was a very fun, easy, interesting outing.

  For our Grapevine Hills hike, we marked waypoints on the pavement where Dad would try to meet us with the Suburban, then drove to the Grapevine Hills parking lot. Happily, we didn't have any flat tires this time! After scrambling around the rocks for a time, we said good-bye to Tom and his family and set out over the desert, headed east.

We enjoyed the changing scenery as we descended from the height of the Hills area. There were some cairns that helped show the way, but we still managed to end up in choked gullies, too thick to push through. It took a while, but we persisted and eventually broke out of the brush and into the main creek bed. I tracked our progress toward the waypoints we'd marked using my GPS and Ronna kept an eye on our location with her 7-1/2 minute map. We had a few uncertain conferences, but we generally moved in the right direction.

We could not have known the wonders that awaited us in that creekbed! The walls were lined with quartz crystals of all sizes and shapes. They sparkled in the sunlight, looking like diamonds. We spent a long time exploring the deep, long quartz cracks in the desert floor, and found many interesting rocks. It was an amazing experience seeing all those crystals in their native habitat: embedded in a wall of sand and rock. We dubbed it "Crystal Canyon".

We marked GPS waypoints where the canyon is the neatest, but aren't publishing them to this site. We worry that rock collectors and crystal merchants will plunder the area, and the rocks are so neat in situ. I'd hate to see the canyon disturbed. In places, they just litter the ground and it seems like the trail is paved with diamonds.

We had a little bit of trouble locating Dad in the Suburban, but Mark's walkie-talkies saved the day! Thanks, Mark!!

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