Ring BM P750 RS
Old Spanish Mountain P300 RS
Salt Spring Hills PP P750
Salt BM P500 RS
Athel Hill P300 RS
Salt Spring Hills HP P300

Tue, Jan 16, 2018

With: Iris Ma
Karl Fieberling

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 Profiles: 1 2 3

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When we awoke in the morning from our campsite on the south side of Shoshone, outside Death Valley, Tom announced he was going to skip hiking today in order to get back home for a work meeting after lunch. That left Karl, Iris and myself to tool around some low elevation desert summits along SR127 between Shoshone and Baker. Most of these are found in Courtney Purcell's guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles, none of them particularly difficult.

Ring BM

This summit with 890ft of prominence is found in the southern part of the Resting Springs Range, east of Shoshone. SR178, called the Charles Brown Hwy between Shoshone and Pahrump, conveniently cuts across the range just north of Ring BM. The Charles Brown referred to here is not the famous cartoon character by Charles Shulz, but rather the founder of Shoshone and member of the state legislature in the early part of the last century. There is a rough road that goes partway up the mountain to a prospect on the east side of the range, but it falls withing the Nopah Range Wilderness and cannot be driven. Not knowing ahead of time about this road which can be nicely used for foot traffic, we started from the pass about a mile north of the summit. The rock is primarily limestone and makes for good scrambling, a pleasant enough hike along the class 2 North Ridge. Having started at sunrise around 7a, we took about 45min to reach the highpoint under partially overcast skies. We found the benchmark as expected, but no register. Iris used all of her newly acquired cairn-building skills to make a suitable home for the new register we left before heading back down. The old road we used on the way down proved quicker, but perhaps not as scenic as the ridge route.

Old Spanish Mtn

This summit, located in the southern part of the Nopah Range, was unofficially named for the Old Spanish Hwy that cuts across Chicago Valley and the Nopah range on its way from Tecopa to Pahrump through California Valley. From where we parked about a mile and a half south of the summit where the road goes over a pass, the Old Spanish Trail cuts across the range just to the north. One can still follow this old trail which has markers placed periodically along it. A high-clearance vehicle can drive the portion of spur road we followed from the pavement a little higher to the Wilderness boundary. From there it is a cross-country route along the connecting ridgeline across the Old Spanish Trail and up the Southeast side of Old Spanish Mtn. As with most of the Resting Springs and Nopah ranges, the rock is primarily limestone and makes for decent scrambling. We spent almost two hours on the venture. For some odd reason, I didn't take any pictures after we passed by the Old Spanish Trail marker.

Salt Spring Hills

This small collection of hills lies among the Dumont Dunes along SR127, acting as the dividing line between Death Valley and Silurian Valley. There are four summits, all of which I hoped to visit. Karl would join us for just the northernmost of these, an unnamed point with more than 750ft of prominence. We drove together in his Honda Element onto the the Little Dumont Dunes found on the west side of the range. Across the suprisingly stable dunes, he was able to drive us to within half a mile of the summit which rose above us to the northeast. A very steep road continues up from there but it would take a far beefier vehicle to manage that part. Instead, we parked the car and hiked up the road to its end, then on a use trail of sorts to the crest, and finally along the ridgeline to the highpoint in about 30 minutes' time. After spending a short time at the summit we walked back along the crest and bade goodbye to Karl as he headed down to his car. Iris and I would continue along the crest to tag the next two summits before returning to our cars where they were parked along the highway near Athel Hill.

We spent about an hour on the 1.5mi stretch between the north summit and Salt BM, most of the route an easy stroll along the low ridgeline with a final steep ascent up to the top. There was a register left in 2014 by a CSU Chico geology class, with subsequent entries by other classes from 2015 and 2016. In the midst of all these geology field studies was an entry from Mark McCormick, the only peakbagger to sign it until we arrived. We spent a second hour traversing southwest to Athel Hill, the lowest of the bunch, then dropped down the south side to meet up with a BLM interpretive trail where it crosses Salt Creek at a seasonal spring. There are tall, dry reeds growing here and some large trees (for the desert, anyway) with a couple of picnic benches underneath. The trail led us back to the BLM parking lot just off the road where our cars were parked.

By now it was 3:15p and time for Iris to be heading home. There was still the range highpoint on the other side of the road to climb which I was somewhat ambivalent about doing today, now that I was gettig tired. With Iris's encouragement, I resolved to finish it off, first driving about a mile south on the road before starting up. I was glad I did because it was a very pleasant time of day to be out with the sun low in the sky and the colors of the hills more acccentuated. I reached the top in under an hour, finding a register left by Mark Adrian and Gail Hanna in 1997. Rather than return along the North Ridge I had ascended, I dropped west into a wide wash on that side that would make for an easier return in the failing light. Finishing up by 5:15p, it made for a long but enjoyable day. I had thought I would drive into Baker for dinner that night but noticed there was another peak in the area still 10mi north of Baker that I was interested in for the next day. So I instead drove the van south only as far as Silver Lake before turning east on a sandy BLM road which I drove for a mile and a half. I had soup and other food that I had been carrying around in the car for a week but had so far gone unused. Mmmmm. More hot chocolate with the remaining irish cream, too. Slept like a baby in the back of the van far from the truck noise back on the highway. A delightful sleep in the desert, indeed...

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