A Walk Up Surprise Canyon, 2000

Historic Chris Wicht Camp as it was in the year 2000. It has since burned down. The trailhead begins here.

Four-wheelers began their trip up from Chris Wicht Camp along a road that was actually the stream bed, through tall Fremont cottonwoods (Populus fremonti).

The stream-road wound through the lower canyon through riparian thickets of Arroyo willows (Salix lasiolepis). One day we looked up and saw a herd of Desert bighorn sheep running up the cliff to the top. Tracks and sign indicated they had been feeding on the green herbs of the riparian zone before we walked up.

The off-roaders crossed the stream in many places.

In places the 4x4 enthusiasts built up rocks and boards to get over tough spots in the canyon.

Driving along the streambed caused chronic disturbance and scraping.

The stream is home to Pacific tree frogs (Hyla regilla), which lay eggs in pools of the stream. Tadpoles can often be seen in little pools in spring and summer.

Off-roaders drove over willows and other vegetation annuallyn ot allowing regrowth and recovery.

Up the canyon a hiker enters the most amazing part of the canyon: a narrow gorge made of white marble full of waterfalls.

Driving upstream to the waterfall.

Then comes the hard part-- Jeeps negotiating the gorge and waterfalls.

Winching up the falls.

Driving through the gorge.

Extreme 4x4.

The marble gorge.

Winching up the falls.

Winch cable on rod inserted into hole drilled in the cliff wall.

Spray-painted marker made by 4x4 drivers on bedrock.

The gorge is tough to hike, let alone drive.

Looking down the marble gorge from the top.

Above the gorge the canyon opens out into a wider valley with a tall willow forest and plenty of Desert wild grapes (Vitis girdiana).

An old piece of mining junk, a motorized mucker that tranported rock in the 1980s, lies at the top of the gorge. Remember this photo when you look at the flood page.

The road continues, cutting through the willow riparian and in the stream.

Limekiln Spring at 4,000 feet up-canyon. Pure springwater pours out of a crevive at the top cliff, flowing down and creating a garden of graps, maidenhairferns, and moss, feeding the stream. The type locality of the rare Panamint alligator lizard.

A profusion of wil grapes grows at Limekiln Springs, sprawling over talus.

A dripping wall of springwater with Maidenhair ferns and moss.

Wild grapes form curtains along the trail.

The canyon around Limekiln Spring. Bighorn sheep scamble down the cliffs to drink and dine on greenery. A few wild burros also dwell here. Lazuli buntings sing on the riparian thickets.

The canyon continues up through moist willow groves.

The road goes through another streamside thicket at Brewery Springs, elevation4,800 feet.

Upper Canyon

Higher elevations get drier in the canyon.

Green ephedra (Ephedra viridis) blooming yellow.

The old road with flowering bush lupines (Lupinus excubita) long it.

Panamint City.