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
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.
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.
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
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.
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