In perusing maps I noted that something like 20% of Los Angeles
County is taken up by the Mojave Desert north of the San Andreas Fault and the
mountains separating it from the LA metropolitan areas. The LA population
spills out into the desert in the sprawling communities of Palmdale and
Lancaster found along SR14. It would seem that back in the 1960s when the
townships were first laid out, it was expected that much of the Antelope Valley
would be developed along the lines of the San Fernando Valley. Running east to
west, Avenue A starts at the northern county boundary, with Avenue B and
subsequent roads to the south at 1mi increments. Avenue Y is found against the
San Gabriel Mtns some 24mi to the south. Roads running north to south start with
260th St East at the east county boundary, going to 300th St West at the far
west end of Antelope Valley, with 1mi between each increment of 10 - that's
something like 1000sq miles of planned development. While things didn't quite
work out that way (at least yet) and most of the roads are rough dirt roads
leading to often squalid homesteads, Lancaster and Palmdale have steadily grown
over the decades and continue to consume desert real estate.
To the east of these cities, in the NE corner of
the county, are more than a dozen small buttes that rise modestly above the
surrounding sea of desert sands. The highest of these is Saddlebag Butte, an
LPC summit I had visited more than 4yrs earlier. On my own for the first three
days of a desert roadtrip, it seemed a good opportunity to tag a bunch of these
for the fun of it. The area is pockmarked with isolated homesteads and the
sparsely developed Lake Los Angeles (the lake was a dry lakebed artificially
filled by developers in the 1960s to entice investments, then allowed to dry up
again once the
developers had divested most of their interests in the community). With a few
pockets of BLM land, much of the open terrain seems to be publicly used for
OHV travel, dumping grounds, and the ubiquitous personal shooting ranges found
at the end of every spur dirt road. This is not your more remote desert
Wilderness experience and despite what the Bundys and their pals will have you
believe, local control of lands does not generally mean good stewardship.
This was the
on my tour. Paved Avenue J runs to within a mile of
the summit on the south side and dirt 250th St E gets one even closer. I
slept the night parked off the road here and spent about an hour on the
roundtrip hike first thing in the morning. Though no homes are found in the
immediate area along the route, someone has seen fit to use a small plot as
a dumping ground for old , about 10 all told - not the sort of
thing one expects to see in the desert. A 1929 can be found
at the along with that has page after
page of by a Bret
Mercer. I would find his name on a number of the day's summits, handily
outnumbering every other entry in the registers - this is one busy local hiker.
Blue Rock BM
My starting point was l
of Avenue J and 170th St E, at the NW corner
of Saddlebag Butte State Park. The shell of a rock-walled
stands just to the north on the way to the summit. About 40min was spent on the
roundtrip hike. The Blue Rock benchmark has been and probably
sits in a dusty box in someone's attic. Just to at a lower
elevation are situated a microwave relay tower and a water tank. Saddlebag
Butte rises prominently to the southeast with the San Gabriel Mtns in the
distance to across
the Antelope Valley.
With 600ft of prominence, this summit lies at the center of a rectangular patch
of BLM land, to keep out motorized traffic. The CA State Parks'
Antelope Valley Indian Museum
located on the flanks of the butte's south side, but not open during the weekday
when I drove by. It would make for the closest starting point on the weekends
when it's open, a $3 tour of the museum making a nice accompaniment. I started
from 150th St E where a spur
runs most of the way to the summit from . The summit features
a class 3 granite summit block with ,
the most difficult of the day's peaks.
Less than a mile and half southwest of Piute Butte,
can also be easily accessed from 150th St E. Less than 10min to reach
, the easiest of this bunch.
An easy summit that can be reached from via dirt 136th St E.
A few homesteads line , none of them particularly
. Some dogs barking
at the start had me a little nervous but they kept close to the property and
didn't come after me. The short but steep hike took all of ten minutes to reach
the summit where a Gordon/Barbara can be found filled with
more Bret Mercer . South of Avenue O is the
of the LA Parks and Rec Dept. It looks exactly like the surrounding desert, one
of a dozen or so small plots found around the area that have been similarly
set aside. No
fences actually keep out vehicles. The adjacent Big Rock Wash Wildlife Sanctuary
has ample tire tracks running right down the wash for which it is named.
The Lake Los Angeles community is partially built around the base of
on the east, north and south sides. Paved 145th St E provides easy access to
the highpoint from .
One of several motorcycle tracks can be used to reach .
Other tracks reach it from the east. Someone parked a fiberglass
high in the buttes - as good a place as any, I
suppose. Southwest of the buttes at the corner of 145th St E and Avenue Q is
This 50's era motoring stop no longer provides rooms, but
survives as a movie set. A production company was onsite when I drove by.
About three miles inside the county's eastern boundary lies the volcanic
Good dirt roads off the paved E Palmdale Blvd allow any vehicle to drive
fairly close to one of several informal shooting ranges found at the base. Not
a particular pleasant climb but the rocks that litter the slopes are
more solidly set than other such cones I've visited. Gordon left a register
here , soon discovered whose entries fill
several pages. The summit has a good view of Three Sisters to
In descending order of height, the North, Middle and South Sisters are a closely
spaced group of three bumps rising from the desert floor. I spent 40min on the
roundtrip effort to visit all three. North Sister has another
. On my way up I heard
shots coming from the other side
of the summit. On the way down to the saddle with Middle Sister I noted someone
walking around the range setting up various targets between rounds. From a
distance it looked like they were wearing a black trenchcoat, but upon
it looked more like a full-length, quilted parka with fur around
the collar. I have no idea how gun fans choose their wardrobe, but it appears
to be only slightly more fashionable than the average peakbagger's.
I moved east across the border to San Bernardino County for the last five
is the closest to the border, north of Avenue P which becomes
El Mirage Rd in San Bernardino Co. I parked to the west of the peak on the dirt
road that runs along the county line. Depending on what you reference, this road
is called 260th St E, Old El Mirage Rd or County Line Rd. A group of homes with
private driveways are found at the
base of the hill on the west side, but I found a
route just north of these homes through unoccupied lands. A few annoyingly loud
dogs watched me on the way up and back down, thankfully from inside a fenced
yard. A wooden white cross has been erected at ,
otherwise not very
noteworthy. At one time, someone spent some time constructing an informal trail
which I came across on the descent.
consisted primarily of lining sections with rock. Someone was really bored.
This volcanic plug rises almost 500ft above the desert just south of El Mirage
Rd. A dirt road gets one to the base of the hill on the north side. I followed
to the summit and took a more direct descent off the north side.
Of note is a large
just to the northeast, the most modern piece of
development I saw all day.
Gray Mtn is located a few miles west of El Mirage Field, a private airstrip
leased by General Atomics. Among other businesses, they are the manufacturer
of the famed Predator drones used extensively in the nation's campaigns in Iraq
and Afghanistan. was flying while I was visiting Gray Mtn,
making repetitive loops around the airport, landing and taking off with each
circuit. A small private plane followed lazily above and behind it all the
while. There was no variation in the pattern which grew quite boring after
the novelty wore off. I figured they were either training new drone pilots or
making a series of tests on the drone. The summit itself was not of much
interest. My starting point off Gray Mtn Rd passed through a
, one of
found on this side of the mountains. OHV tracks can get you
to the summit ridge followed by a short jaunt to the
in about 15min.
Futher east, just west of SR395 and five miles north of Adelanto is a
diminutive collection of bumps called the Shadow Hills. They are overshadowed
by the much larger Shadow Mountains to the northwest, which themselves are one
of the smaller ranges in the state with the lofty title of "Mountains". A dirt
road off US395 gets one pretty close to the hills, a 4WD vehicle could nearly
drive to .
Still only a short hike even with my van. Just to the
west of the hills has been laid out a series of roads intended for a small
suburban community. Not a single structure was ever built and none of the roads
ever paved - another victim of the over-hyped housing market before the 2008
Just northwest of Victorville, along the old Route 66 coming from Barstow, can
be found what is left of a formation called Sugarloaf. This is a common
placename of old, given to lumpy mountains that fancifully resembled the lumped
cakes that sugar was sold in. The hill has been extensively transformed by
excavation and bulldozing, at various times a gravel/sand pit, now a
for half-forgotten building materials. An unmarked dirt road leads from
the highway up to the excavation site, signed for No Entry
allowing me to drive up and out of view of the busier roadway. Good place to
take a shower at the end of the day, but good luck locating an actual summit.