The Outcast of Turkey Flats

Local folklore holds that in the 1920s an enterprising poultry farmer believed a turkey farm would do nicely here — thus the name Turkey Flats. Lack of water and distance from markets, however, proved otherwise.

Trek Date: November 28, 2014

It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was in the area, what better time to visit Turkey Flats? It had been on my list of places to check out, along with the Sand Dune, for quite a while and the timing was perfect, as was the weather. I pulled into the parking area at the Pinto Mountain Backcountry Board and decided to check out the information signs before heading out into the desert. Here's what I learned:

Turkey Flats isn't flat, it's actually a loose extension of Pinto Mountain, created from rock, gravel and sand that has washed down from the slopes and canyons of the mountain. Changing climatic conditions over the past 10,000 years have created the landscape we see here today. The panorama view above shows three distinct habitats, each of which supports specialized plants and animals that find it hard or impossible to survive elsewhere.

The Desert Scrub: Desert Tortoises appreciate the deep soil found here, it's easy to burrow in. They like to make their dens under the shade and protection of creosote bushes. The Sidewinder Rattlesnake hangs out here as well; luckily, I didn't meet him on this trip.

The Dune: A thin veneer of sand covers a ridge that was elevated along a fracture in the Earth. The closer I got to the "Dune," the finer the sand became. Sand-adapted grasses and wildflowers make this a great spot to visit in the Spring season. Lizards and Kangaroo Rats enjoy surfing down these sandy slopes.

The Mountain: Pinto Mountain is pretty much naked. Most of the soil which once covered it has long since washed away down onto the desert floor. But there's always a nook or cranny somewhere that contains enough soil for a barrel cactus or juniper to take root and survive.

Ok, on to more important matters. The Turkey Hunt. It was time to head out to the Sand Dune to see what I could find.

There wasn't much to see, except wide, wind-swept expanses of sandy soil, creosote bushes and bunch grass. I'm not sure if it's the wind, or flood water, or a combination of both, but the area I hiked through was pristine. I encountered this small pile of rocks which I believe marks the grave of an Unknown Turkey.

As I neared the Dune, the ground slowly began to rise and the sand became finer and finer, more like what you'd think a sand dune would be made of. The slope wasn't too steep; climbing it was fairly simple. 

I knew I wasn't alone.

As I stood on top of the Dune, I wondered if I would ever try climbing to the top of Pinto Mountain. It stands at 3,983 feet and to hike to the top would take me pretty much an entire day. This image shows numerous alluvial fans spreading out over the desert floor from every canyon coming down the mountain. I guess there is still stuff up there to wash down. An interesting fact, when two or more alluvial fans join together, it's called a Bajada (Spanish for 'slope').

Looking west along the top of the Dune.

Looking east along the top of the Dune. Eagle Mountain is out there somewhere.

After enjoying the alternating sounds of silence and the wind for a spell, it was time to head back to Old Blue. It had been an enjoyable hike and would rate "Easy" on my scale of difficulty. Definitely worth the hour or so it took. Even though I didn't see any turkeys, or hints of a turkey farm, nary a warble or a bit of desert gold. I guess I was the outcast of Turkey Flats on this trip.

A lizard's eye view.