Harvard Hill
Soldier Mountain P300
Peak 2,476ft P300
Peak 2,426ft
Peak 2,526ft P300
Troy BM P500

Thu, Jan 7, 2021

With: Karl Fieberling

Etymology
Harvard Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2

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Day 4 of a desert roadtrip had Karl and I moving to the south side of Interstate 15 for a collection of summits that normally get little attention. Located between I-15 and I-40, east of Barstow, these low hills are not part of any of the named desert ranges, having seen only sporadic visits by the usual suspects. We started the day camped on the south side of Harvard Hill along a powerline road.

Harvard Hill

A very easy summit with barely 200ft of prominence. There is a whole network of motorcycle and OHV tracks all over the place. Karl commented that if this was somewhere closer to civilization, it would be a lovely county park with trails, little plaques pointing out the sights, picnic and view benches. Instead it's more a free-for-all for the OHV-minded. We started up from the south side at sunrise, taking less than ten minutes to reach the summit.

Soldier Mtn

Back to our vehicles, we returned to paved Harvard Rd, driving south across the Mojave River, wide but completely dry. We turned east on the Mojave Trail, an old Indian route that became an overland route for settlers moving west. The US Army took over improving the road and set up a garrison at nearby Fort Cady (aka Camp Cady) around the time of the Civil War to keep the Paiutes from defending their ancestral homelands. Soldier Mtn was likely named for those camped at the fort sporadically from 1861-1871. There is a service road reaching to an FAA installation at a lower summit north of Soldier Mtn's highpoint. We drove to a locked gate on this road, parked, and made the 12min climb to the summit. These hills south of the Mojave River have a great deal of sand likely blown up from the riverbed by the prevailing winds, and we would find ourselves hiking many a sandy slope today. The summit has a large wooden cross embedded in the summit rocks.

Peak 2,476ft

This summit rises less than a mile southeast of Soldier Mtn. We drove back down Soldier Mtn and turned south, leaving Karl's Element at a junction while we drove the Jeep east towards Peak 2,476ft on Starlite Lane. The road sort of peters out in a wash where we parked northwest of the summit, less than half a mile away. We spent 20min scaling rock and sand slopes to the highpoint, leaving a register before returning the same way. An old buick station wagon in surprisingly good condition (no broken glass, no dents or bullet holes in the body) along Starlite Lane was the true highlight of this one.

Peak 2,426ft - Peak 2,526ft

These two summits are found a few miles southeast of the previous one. We drove back out to the N-S road (Troy Rd), collected Karl's Element and drove south to Riverside Rd. This time we left the Jeep and drove the Element east towards the hills. Where we left the Jeep is a homestead with half a dozen barking dogs that kept up a racket but did not draw out an owner. Several ran along the fence with great energy, barking all the while as we drove east. We were probably all the excitement they've had in some time. The process would be repeated upon our return, but they would show a tad less enthusiasm. Our road was crossed by a fence after about a mile. A wire gate with a No Trespassing sign stopped us briefly. We eventually concluded that the road is a public BLM one, but the left side of the roadway was private property. This area has a patchwork of such inholdings, but none of them seem to be developed, used in the past for grazing which has since ceased. We parked at the end of the road to begin a five mile loop in a clockwise direction to the two summits. Much of this was easy hiking on a golden-colored desert landscape. The sand invites lower grasses to grow, though with no rain yet this season, none of the new green has sprouted yet. We went over a shallow saddle and across an adjacent drainage with only gentle gradients until we were at the base of Peak 2,426ft. We then climbed onto the south ridge and made our way to the summit, taking about 40min from the start. After a short break, we spent another 40min making our way south to the second peak with a 300-foot drop between them. We left a second register atop Peak 2,526ft. Our return was intended to drop southwest off the summit, then follow the flatter terrain west back to our car. Somewhere enroute we turned northwest and started descending an unintended drainage. Finally realizing our error, we turned west and went around the north side of Pt. 2,387ft to rejoin our outbound route we'd used for the first summit. Good thing we had a GPSr or we might have ended up in Baker before realizing our error.

Troy BM

More driving. We took both cars south and then east on a BLM road heading into the Cady Mtns. We paused a few miles north of Troy BM, leaving both vehicles at what would become our campsite for the evening. The road has a good deal of sand and gravel with deep ruts that unnerved Karl as the Element scraped its underside in several places. With a few extra inches of clearance, the Jeep had no such trouble. Troy BM is the highest summit of the day with almost 600ft of prominence. It cannot be seen from our starting point, blocked by the lower Pt. 2,474ft northwest of the summit. We followed a pleasant route to the south and southeast around this point, then turning west to follow a sandy drainage up towards the peak. We gained the ENE Ridge and followed it to the summit, a 2.5mi effort taking us about 45min. We found the expected benchmark and a register left by Mark Adrian in 2019. We were a little disappointed not to find a Smatko register from his visit in 1978. We made the return a shorter one by going over Pt. 2,474ft, involving a short climb up from the high saddle between the two points. We finished up the day at our new camp not long after 3p. We decided to call it a day earlier than we might have otherwise, allowing us more time to enjoy the afternoon and then a campfire after the sun went down. Another fine day finished and looking forward to the next...

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