Fri, Mar 22, 2013
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Having driven from San Jose through much of the night, I arrived at Sand Canyon sometime around midnight. There are few paved roads in the rural/residential area other than the main Sand Canyon Rd. Tanganada Rd is paved for several miles going east from Sand Canyon on its way to the wind turbines. I suspect the extra pavement was a concession the residents along this road got from the company to mitigate dust concerns from the trucks that ply the road. I drove the pavement to its end, then continued on the excellent dirt road to a locked gate that barred further progress. I parked in a flat section of the road off to the side and went to sleep around 1a. I was awakened around 5:30a when three utility trucks went rumbling by. The turbine workers were getting an earlier start than myself.
I was off shortly after 6a while it was still dark, but just starting to grow light. Sunrise would come around 7a. My route would follow the main dirt road running roughly northeast for 4 miles to Sweet Ridge where the wind turbine farm is located. A transmission facility is located at a lower point on the west side of the ridge, where I suspected the trucks were heading. My route would veer off from the main road after three miles, before reaching the facility. I was happy to find no more vehicles coming up the road for the hour I spent hiking along it. There is no lack of signs to indicated one is on private property and unwelcomed. It would have been hard to hide off to the side as there was not a good deal of cover to duck behind.
The road turns south at a place on the topo called Goodwater Spring. Here I turned north and headed through light forest and easy cross-country in search of an old road leading up towards Cache Peak. I had missed the start of the road by a hundred yards or so, but found it soon enough by following up the main canyon above Goodwater Spring. Feeling safe on this abandoned road I relaxed, following it higher as the fog that had covered much of the terrain all morning began to retreat some from the highest points. I caught a glimpse of Cache Peak itself and the wind turbines on Sweet Ridge as I neared Corral Spring. A dilapidated corral is found here as well as a junction with another abandoned road that forks to the north and northwest, reaching closer to the summit. As I reached the end of this second road I was momentarily treated to some sunshine. I could see the transmission facility below me to the south but it was soon swallowed up in the fog moving over the ridgeline from the north.
It was just before 8a when I reached the summit of Cache Peak. The fog precluded any views during the time I was at the summit. Rats. In addition to some old boards and wire from a survey tower, There was a tin holding a rusty Band-Aid container that probably once held a register but was now empty. Double rats. Even the benchmark was devoid of interest, just a generic disc without any identifying stamps. The sun began to do a better job of breaking up the fog as I retreated back down the same route to Corral Spring, but it wasn't until I had climbed up to a saddle on Sweet Ridge that the summit of Cache Peak was visible with the fog now in retreat for good.
The old road I had followed to the saddle was replaced with a more recent, well-graded road used to service the wind turbines along the ridge. I turned south and followed this road along the top, passing by dozens of identical turbines, each about 6-7 stories tall. A white service truck came rambling by in the opposite direction. I wasn't too worried about getting busted at this point since I knew the PCT was nearby (down on the east slope of the ridgeline). When they stopped to check on me I told them I was looking for the PCT which I knew to be around here somewhere. One of the two gentleman gave me directions for finding it up ahead and then they continued on their way. Further along the ridge I came upon the remains of a turbine that must have fallen from its lofty perch. The turbine was mangled beyond repair and was simply left on the ground where it fell, another one replaced atop the tower. Not exactly the model of environmental stewardship. About a mile and a half along the ridge I reached a gate marking the property boundary. The PCT was found just beyond this point and I would follow it for the next hour as I continued south to the other P1K.
This portion of the PCT follows along a BLM OHV trail. It's pleasant enough, passing through a dry campground among some oaks, providing views of the Cache Creek drainage. A portion of the PCT has been rerouted off the OHV trail, an improvement, but as it did not go to the highpoint I was after, I continued following the OHV route. A couple of gentlemen my age came rumbling down the trail on motorcycles, stopping to chat briefly. They had been riding for some 14 miles up from the Mojave side, exploring the network of trails. The route I followed got within half a mile of the summit before forking at a saddle on the west side and going off in opposite directions. I was a little concerned that the bushwhacking might prove difficult, but with patience and much weaving around I managed to find my way to the top with only a modest amount of trouble.
The top had the usual remains of a survey tower but nothing else. The views were somewhat limited by the broad extent of the summit area and the chest-high brush that covered it. I could see the surrounding P1Ks to the south, northwest and north, but barely. What might otherwise be a fine view of the Mojave desert to the east was hampered by blowing dust on the desert floor. I next turned my attention to Red Mtn, a nondescript bonus peak about a mile and a half to the west. I returned to the trail system, then onto the section of PCT I had bypassed earlier. Cyclists had circumvented the barriers to ride on this section of trail that I found annoying at first, but soon discovered the reason for. There is an unsigned motorcycle track running along the ridge to Red Mtn that can only be accessed by using this part of the PCT. The motorcycle track was most helpful to me as it made the mile-long traverse to Red Mtn a breeze. On the south side of the ridge, in Waterfall Canyon, can be found steep, eroding slopes of colorful green, orange and white rock and earth. In fact much of the area is here is of geologic interest, having attracted many prospectors for 150 years.
Red Mountain, really more orange than red, was about as unimpressive as expected. I found the highpoint just off the trail running just off the crest, but there was nothing to mark it as such, not so much as a piece of wire, an old board or even a small pile of rocks. By now I had traveled more than 15 miles and had planned to retrace about half of that to return to the start. But I noted the GPS showed me only 2.5 air miles from the car so I looked about for another way to return more directly. I continued southwest along the route to a saddle on that side of Red Mtn. Here I left the OHV track and dropped steeply down a gully to the northwest into Oil Canyon. The cross-country was pretty enjoyable here, challenging enough to keep it interesting without being painful. Near the bottom of the canyon I came across bits of trash and footprints and eventually a use trail with ducks and markers. This led down a dry creekbed to what I later found was the Mountain Spirit Center, a Korean Zen site located in the most unlikely of places. The architecture was impressive, with colorful hand-painted buildings and structures of ornate design. I didn't know if I was trespassing in some sort of Budhist monastary or not, but the few folks I saw working about the place didn't seem surprised or disturbed by my presence. I walked around the main buildings to the other side where I planned to hike back out of Oil Canyon to the north. Twenty minutes of steep uphill got me to a low crest where I could then drop into Cache Creek Canyon. The descent was a shorter version of the one I had taken down into Oil Canyon. There were more interesting finds, including the deteriorating remains of a case of Gelamite, a trademarked name for blasting powder used in mining. Three quarters of a mile down the canyon got me to a dirt road that I could then follow north up the main Cache Creek drainage. I crossed a first property boundary, then the barely trickling Cache Creek itself, then another property boundary before returning to my parked van around 1:15p.
Having more time, I spent about an hour exploring the dirt roads on the west side of Sand Canyon, the likely access routes to Toll BM and Sugarloaf, two additional P1Ks. Although the roads were generally good, I found access blocked by gates or signs or both. All the areas to the west appear to be private property. I would have to do more research before attempting these the next day. I drove back out to SR58 and paid a visit to the Starbucks near downtown Tehachapi. Additional perusing of the Google satellite views gave me some insights to the next day's route as I formulated an alternate plan to the original. Around sunset I drove back out towards Sand Canyon, found a secluded place near the railroad tracks for a shower, then found a quieter spot off Sand Canyon to spend the night.
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