Alvord Peak P900 DS / DPG

Feb 14, 2014
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I was alone on the last day of a 4-day desert trip. Evan had gone home, or rather went birdwatching on his way home, leaving the desert and I to ourselves. I picked Alvord Peak partly because I could do it easily in the morning, but also because Evan had already visited the summit on a previous trip. Located roughly between Barstow and Baker, north of Interstate 15, it features more than 900ft of prominence which had gotten my attention some time ago.

Camped at Alvord Well south of the mountain, I was up early for a start just after 6a, following an old jeep road north to the Alvord Mine. The predawn sky lit up in beautiful shades of yellow, orange and purple as I reached the mine around 6:20a. An old stone cabin still stands here, minus a roof, door, windows and furniture. Sunrise can about 20 minutes later as the road ended and I started cross-country out of the canyon and onto a high plateau north of the mine. New shoots of Spring greens were coming up from the seemingly lifeless desert. Halfway across the plateau I came upon the very first live desert tortoise I had ever seen in the wild. I'd run across a number of empty shells in the past, but never one with a tortoise still inside. It was a bit chilly in the morning air and it was locked up tight in its shell about 10ft outside its burrow. I'm not sure why it was caught out in the night, but I didn't pick it up to examine it, not wanting to add to its reptilian stress level. After taking a few photos of it from various angles, I continued on my way.

At the north end of the plateau I resumed climbing up to the highpoint, approaching from the southwest on one of the ridgelines. I reached the summit not long after 7:30a where I found the remains of a survey tower. The summit affords a good view of Fort Irwin in the distance to the north and a panorama of the Tiefort Mountains to the northeast (one of two P2Ks I have left to visit in the south half of the state). Various register scraps date back to 1994, left by geology students doing field studies. John Vitz had visited in 1996 and Mark Adrian left a better version of a register in 1999 with three other pages filled since that time. I found no benchmark as expected, but I did find one of the reference marks pointing to its missing location.

The ascent route I had taken had been suggested by Evan. For the descent route I followed the route given in Zdon's guide, dropping south off the summit and following a broad, easy canyon back out of the mountain. Spring flowers were out in various colors of yellow, purple and white, bringing more life to these hills. The wash narrowed before opening up to the desert floor to the south where I picked up an old road, and by 9a I was back at the van at Alvord Well.

I took a shower before heading back out on the five miles of sandy jeep road to the highway. I passed by an encampment of OHV enthusiasts who were finishing breakfast and getting ready to begin a new day of OHVing and other related activities (guns and beer come to mind, but that might just be a caricature I've got etched in my mind). For my own part, I was headed back to San Jose, about six hours away. A long drive, but fortunately plenty of Starbucks along the way...

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