Day 7 of the desert road trip found me camped off a sandy dirt road east
of Silver Lake, about 10mi north of Baker. I had driven to within a mile
of Cairned Ridge Peak and spent the night sleeping quite nicely away from
the highway. Today was a fairly easy day combined with several hours
driving south to 29 Palms.
This was the most enjoyable hike of the day with some modest scrambling
fun and a nice jaunt along a high ridgeline in a semi-circle fashion to
the highpoint. The peak is located in the western corner of the Hollow
Hills Wilderness, overlooking the Silver Lake basin.
I found only one cairn along the ridge before reaching
the summit where there are several more - not really sure how Purcell
came up with the name for this in his guidebook,
Rambles & Scrambles, but there you have it. Having started
before sunrise, I was greeted by the new day just before reaching the
top. With the sun low in the sky, the summit made for a cool shadow off to
the west. Richard Carey had left a register here a few years
earlier. Skipping breakfast beforehand, I had something to eat afterwards as
I drove back out to SR127 and then south through Baker onto Kelbaker Rd.
Mojave Preserve Cinder Cones
The Cinder Cone Lava Beds covers about 50sq miles within the Mojave
Preserve, south of I-40 and east of Kelbaker Rd. Two of the summits
within this area are listed in Purcell's guidebook. They are the easiest
of half a dozen ranked summits, all of them cinder cones that rise above
the desert floor with coarse lava flows surrounding them. A sandy road
runs east from Kelbaker Rd that I managed to drive the van on, to within
half a mile of the first summit. Finding myself close to getting stuck,
I parked before getting myself into sand trouble again. I made a
10mi loop by adding three other summits to the two described by Purcell,
taking about 5hrs to tag them all. The cinder cones themselves make for
terrible climbs and even worse descents, with horribly loose pumice-like
rock sprinkled generously over everything. All of the cones have roads
going up to, or near their summits, making things easier, but I didn't
find most of these helpful since they weren't on the sides I was climbing.
The views overlooking the preserve were nice and I spent about 10min on
each summit to give myself a rest before tackling the awkward descents that
usually involved half-controlled slides with regular spills, my leather
gloves proving key to keeping my hands from getting shredded. The traverses
between the cones were a mix of old road plowed through cinder, rough lava
(awful) and sandy washes (the best). No good scrambling to be found
anywhere in this area. I continued south on Kelbaker Rd, stopping at the
Mojave Preserve Vistor Center at Kelso Station. I had driven
by here many times and never stopped, so figured this was a good time to check
it out. Turns out its closed on Wednesdays. Darn.
This easy peak at the southeast end of the Bristol Mtns lies just
northwest of the junction of Kelbaker Rd and US66, a few miles east of
Amboy. There is an active mining operation north of the summit
extracting some sort of very white rock - best not to use their access road
to reach the peak. I parked east of the peak off the Kelbaker Rd pavement,
but one could as easily access it from the south using a BLM road. In
fact there is a cool old mining trail that starts from the BLM road
southeast of the summit, winding its way up and over a high saddle just
east of the highpoint. I found this on the way down and followed it most
of the way back. The cross-country travel is easy too, a mix of limestone
and volcanic rock that has good footing. The summit isn't very
impressive, though it has a nice view overlooking the broad, dry
Bristol Lake that forms at the junction of Fenner and Cadiz Valleys.
I spent about 45min covering less than a mile and half on the roundtrip effort.
After showering, I drove about an hour south to 29 Palms where I got
gas and then went to the McDonalds for WiFi and things got weird. There
were several police cars with lights flashing outside, folks being
questioned, a police dog sniffing about the premises. No idea what that
was about. Inside, there were half a dozen employees in the customer
area wearing special "McTeacher Day" aprons and acting as servers and
helpers to the customers. Whether the event had already finished or they
simply had too many extra employees on hand, I couldn't tell, but they
tried to busy themselves cleaning tables for customers, getting refills,
and all manner of assistance that isn't really needed. There were several
tables of jarheads from the nearby marine base, chowing down on dinner.
They had the expected haircuts but several seemed a bit flabby for the
marine stereotype of men cut from steel. Maybe they were fresh recruits?
Their conversations were about mundane things like housing, married spouse
privleges and the like. Next to me was a single mother with a very
precocious little girl, just adorable. She made the mistake of using the
men's room instead of the ladies, to which her mother corrected her.
But mom didn't stop there, she felt it necessary to tell every patron in
the place what had happened, ad nauseum. While she was pointing to the
figures on the bathrooms to explain the difference to her daughter, she
commented, "See, this is a picture of a lady." Her daughter quipped
without hesitation, "But I've never seen YOU in a dress." Other tables
had elder locals who suddenly discovered they knew each other going back
to high school at 29 Palms. This isn't a big town by any stretch. I think
one or more may have been somewhat unhinged. With all this crazy going
on around me in a very short while, suddenly the power went out and
things went dark until the emergency lights kicked on. Seems all of 29
Palms was plunged into darkness. The only lights outside were the traffic
lights. The patrons all left one by one and I was the final one out when
they kicked me out "for safety reasons". No dinner in town for me
tonight as the power never came back on until after I had gone to bed
somewhere on the edge of town. Funny place, this one...