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Elephant Benchmark Messages in this topic - RSS

tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354


11/30/2022
tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354
You might have noticed Elephant Benchmark (3392') if you have been to the Split Mountains in the southern part of the park. It was named after the rare elephant trees that grow nearby. Elephant trees are mostly found in Baja, Mexico. The trailhead was the Elephant Trees Discovery trail, a one mile loop that has a couple living trees along the trail. And a couple of dead ones. "Hardcore" Henry Chen joined me on this trip. We passed a couple of elephant trees before reaching the major gully north of Elephant. We followed that to Starfish Cove, a confluence of five drainages. From there, we took the ridge. Rocks on the ridge were solid, cactus and agave were abundant, and nothing exceeded class 2.





This was the first elephant tree we found






Henry on the ridge, Starfish Cove below

A small boulder marked the summit and we found a register dating from 1980. Elephant gets an average of 2 visits per year. The last one was in March, 2022. We signed in and read the entires of the adventurers from last 42 years. Views were great in all directions. It had taken us longer to reach the summit than we expected and we decided to take one of the ridge lines down. We picked a ridge south of the ascent gully, but were confident it was unbroken. We scrambled down the class 2+ ridge slowly, dodging cactus. When we reached the top of the final ridge section, we decided to drop into the major eastern gully. That section was sketchy and loose. By our lights, most of the eastern ridge lines will go, and more efficiently than going up from Starfish Cove. When we got back to the trail, we took the other part of the loop, finding the largest and healthiest elephant tree of the day. A fine day in the desert.



Split Mountains (near), Fish Creek Mountains (far)

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Summit








Biggest, healthy elephant tree on the Discovery Trail


edited by tekewin on 11/30/2022
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Brian
Brian
Posts: 210


11/30/2022
Brian
Brian
Posts: 210
I went to the Elephant Tree Area over 10 years ago. It was when I was still driving a Sentra. Going over a rocky section in the road, the suspension bounced and put a good sized dent in a plate under the fuel tank. It was one of many incidents that convinced me I needed a different car if I was going to keep doing the desert thing.

Always meant to go back at some point and visit Starfish Cove since it's in Schad's book, but never got around to it.

Great trip report! Looks like a fun exploration of a seldom visited place.
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Rocko1
Rocko1
Posts: 585


12/6/2022
Rocko1
Rocko1
Posts: 585
Very cool hike. Killer views from up there. The weather has been super the last couple of weeks.
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tommy750
tommy750
Posts: 1036


12/11/2022
tommy750
tommy750
Posts: 1036
Nice TR. I made it to the bump in the upper left of your second pic a year ago and found cement filled boots in a shelter. There were quite a few healthy looking elephant trees on that side of Alma. As I recall, all the trees seemed about the same size and I didn't seen any "baby" ones which was concerning. Always nice to see the familiar Fish Creek area from a new perspective. Looks like your decent ridge was pretty bouldery.
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Buford
Buford
Posts: 448


12/11/2022
Buford
Buford
Posts: 448
Cool trip report. That area is unique. Starfish cove looks interesting, never been there. Any sign of the rest of the bighorn skeleton, or was it just a lower leg?

We found the biggest elephant tree in a side canyon coming down off Elephant BM.

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Links to my photos: ABDSP photos, Bighorn sheep photos, ABDSP time lapse video, Wildlife photos (mainly birds)
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tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354


12/12/2022
tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354
tommy750 wrote:
Nice TR. I made it to the bump in the upper left of your second pic a year ago and found cement filled boots in a shelter. There were quite a few healthy looking elephant trees on that side of Alma. As I recall, all the trees seemed about the same size and I didn't seen any "baby" ones which was concerning. Always nice to see the familiar Fish Creek area from a new perspective. Looks like your decent ridge was pretty bouldery.



We didn't see any baby trees either. All the ridges were pretty bouldery, but not overly difficult. I regretted bailing into the wash too soon on the way back. I think it was slower in the wash.
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tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354


12/12/2022
tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354
Buford wrote:
Cool trip report. That area is unique. Starfish cove looks interesting, never been there. Any sign of the rest of the bighorn skeleton, or was it just a lower leg?

We found the biggest elephant tree in a side canyon coming down off Elephant BM.



Having read the Schad description, we looked for more skeleton parts, but only found a few scattered bones. Nothing resembling a full bighorn. I imagined Starfish as a wide, flat, sandy area. But it was kind of rough, with boulders, vegetation and mud walls ranging from 5' to 25'. Also much bigger than I expected.
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2599


12/13/2022
dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2599
My son and I backpacked to Starfish Cove back in 2011, there was a BHS lamb skeleton in the wash. Starfish is a drainage, it can be bouldery and hard to navigate or open depending on the season. In another year my son and a couple of other friends backpacked from Little Blair over Whale Peak and down into Starfish via Hapaha, it was a tough 2 day trip that required water stashing prior. I would totally do it again.





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edited by dsefcik on 12/13/2022

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dsefcik
dsefcik
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12/13/2022
dsefcik
dsefcik
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On the Blair-Alma backpack we found what we believe was a mtn lion BHS kill stash in a wash, it was descending into starfish.







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Brian
Brian
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12/13/2022
Brian
Brian
Posts: 210
That area sure seems to be a mountain lion hot spot. I remember seeing a sign warning about them in Hapaha Flat. Where would they get water around there? The closest thing I can think of would be the guzzlers by Big Horn Canyon.
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tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354


12/14/2022
tekewin
tekewin
Posts: 354
dsefcik wrote:
My son and I backpacked to Starfish Cove back in 2011, there was a BHS lamb skeleton in the wash. Starfish is a drainage, it can be bouldery and hard to navigate or open depending on the season. In another year my son and a couple of other friends backpacked from Little Blair over Whale Peak and down into Starfish via Hapaha, it was a tough 2 day trip that required water stashing prior. I would totally do it again.
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edited by dsefcik on 12/13/2022



That's an amazing find!
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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12/14/2022
dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2599
Brian wrote:
That area sure seems to be a mountain lion hot spot. I remember seeing a sign warning about them in Hapaha Flat. Where would they get water around there? The closest thing I can think of would be the guzzlers by Big Horn Canyon.


Yes, they drink from the guzzlers as at least one source.





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Brian
Brian
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12/14/2022
Brian
Brian
Posts: 210
I didn't remember until after I posted that there's a guzzler at the head of June Wash on the hill above Hapaha Flat. That would be the obvious choice for that neighborhood. Funny that I forgot that one as it's the only one I've hiked to.
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