Excelsior Mine Peak RS
Jupiter Mine Peak P900 RS
Pahrump Valley Wilderness HP
Mesquite BM P500
Kingcru Peak P1K

Fri, Nov 6, 2015
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2

I was planning another trip to the Trinity Alps when I got delayed by a few days for one reason or another. The delay turned out to be a good thing because the forecasted 'slight chance of rain' had become a more definite 'rain and snow likely' shortly before I was ready to out. I scrambled to find a more pleasant alternative, eventually settling on a desert trip since no rain was forecast there and temps would be lower than usual, making for very nice hiking weather. My primary goals were P1Ks along with some Wilderness and range highpoints, mostly along the Interstate 15 Front Ranges close to the Nevada border. Today's hike would be about 13mi in a loop around the Pahrump Valley Wilderness. I had driven in from San Jose the night before, sleeping off Excelsior Mine Rd just far enough from I-15 to avoid the traffic noise. In the morning I drove the paved road north about 25mi to the backside of the Kingston Range to the start of the hike around 7:30a.

The Excelsior Mine for which the road and peak are named lies on the south side of the mountain, my first stop. I followed an old road to the abandoned mine, then cross-country up a rib on that side to the summit in about 45min. With barely 300ft of prominence, this was merely a bonus summit on the way to bigger game. Nevertheless, Gordon MacLeod had left a register here in 1984. Courtney Purcell was the next visitor 25yrs later (and the source of the peak's name in his book, Rambles and Scrambles.... I managed to squeeze my own name at the very bottom to keep the register to a single page over a span of 31yrs. A half mile to the northeast, across a connecting saddle, is Jupiter Mine Peak with over 900ft of prominence. It took less than 30min to cross the gap between the two. It's summit is home to a handful of graduate research projects in the form of intrumentation antennae and solar cells to power them. Various geology reseach groups from USD, MIT, Harvard and elsewhere are found in a second MacLeod register at the highest point. I had thought it odd that such equipment would be found in a Wilderness area, but upon further inquiry one finds the boundary running just to the north, leaving this summit on the outside.

The next summit I planned to visit was Mesquite BM, more than four miles further north. I mistakenly thought it was the highpoint of the Pahrump Valley Wilderness and it was only upon my return to San Jose that I discovered this wasn't the case. In fact, the highpoint is less than a quarter mile northwest of Jupiter Mine Peak, just inside the southern boundary of the Wilderness. As sometimes happens I got lucky, passing directly over this point on my way to Mesquite BM. While I could have saved 8mi of hiking knowing this information beforehand, I would have missed out on what was otherwise a very pleasant hike. I spent two hours following the crest of this low ridge in the Kingston Range to the north, dropping down and through several shallow drainages before climbing back up about 800ft to Mesquite BM. The cross-country travel was very enjoyable. Yet another MacLeod register had been left atop Mesquite BM about six months after the previous two in 1984, this time accompanied by his usual partner in crime, Barbara Lilley. The paper in the attached notebook had become very dry and brittle, rendering it of little use. John Vitz had left a paper scrap in 2002 with an additional entry by the San Diego trio of Adrian, Carey and Hanna in 2004. Less than five miles from the Nevada border, Mequite BM is a nice perch overlooking Mequite Valley to the east and Pahrump Valley to the north, Mt. Charleston and the Spring Mtns rising up behind them.

From the summit I headed west and southwest dropping out of the hills to a wash which I could then follow back to Excelsior Rd. The shallow drainage was once used for ranching as evidenced by a number of water troughs, a holding pen and several miles of irrigation pipes and roads all fallen into disuse. I spent almost 3hrs getting from Mesquite BM back to the van parked along the roadway, leaving me still with about three hours before sunset. I used all the available daylight and then some for a second outing to an officially unnamed P1K to the west. I drove about 3mi to Tecopa Pass at 4,700ft where a road junction is found. I'd hoped to drive a few miles north on Mesquite Valley Rd to get closer to the peak before setting out on foot but found the road a little too rough for the van. Parking at Tecopa Pass would mean almost 5mi one-way to Kingcru Peak which I guessed would take me something like 4hrs roundtrip - more effort and time than I wanted to give at this late hour. Some hasty map work on the GPSr found another option that looked to be little more than half the distance of the primary option, though it would be all cross-country, without the old roads that I could have used on the Mesquite Valley Rd option. Rather than quit early and camp in the vicinity, I decided to go for this last summit.

I drove another 1.5mi west to the road's highpoint at 5,100ft, just above a sometimes active mine, before the road drops down to Becks Spring and eventually out to Tecopa and SR127. Parking here, I headed north up to a NW-SE ridgeline and followed this to the northwest. Behind me was a fine scene of higher elevations around Kingston Peak, with a dusting of snow adding to the contrast with the lower, drier ridge I followed along. When I first glimpsed Kingcru from this ridge I was still an hour away, the going not as fast as I might have liked, but enjoyable all the same. The peak lies on a second, shorter ridgeline parallel to the one I traveled, requiring me to drop a few hundred feet to a saddle between the two. It was 3:50p by the time I reached the summit, an hour and a half from the start - it was pretty clear I wouldn't get back before sunset at this pace. The summit held another MacLeod register from 1984, but this one was more interesting. Most of the summit visitors had been here before Gordon & party, with the first recorded ascent in 1960. Andy Smatko and Bill Schuler had led a party to the top in 1975 that included two of their children who must have been young at the time, judging from the penmanship. Other early visitors included students from the UC Davis geology field camps. Andy's party had bestowed the odd name of 'Kingcru', picked up by Gordon but not used again until my attempt to revive it here - time will tell if it has any sticking power.

The return hike turned out to be more enjoyable despite a small time pressure. The setting sun had cast a more yellowish glow during the 'magic hour' over the landscape, rendering it in a more inviting light. The cactus and other plants looked more colorful and the far scenes more serene. I managed to get back to the van by 5p without needing to use a headlamp and more importantly, not stabbing myself on one of the spiney flora samples because I didn't. Though I had been tentative to start this second hike so late in the day I was happy to have done so, since now I could drive back out to Interstate 15 this evening, doing much of the driving to position myself for the next day's adventure. As I approached I-15 I noted the heavy traffic, typical of the LA to Las Vegas pilgrimage on Friday night. I decided to spend a second night camped at the start of Excelsior Mine Rd rather than get in the traffic and and lose a bit of my Wilderness "high". I would sleep quite comfortably on this lonely stretch of road before getting on the Interstate the next morning...

Continued...


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