Liebre Twins ex-HPS
Peak 6,803ft P1K ex-HPS / PD
Covington Mountain P1K PD

Sun, Mar 24, 2013
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Day 3 of my road trip had me in the desert southwest of Mojave, near the eastern escarpment of the Tehachapi Mountains in the Cottonwood Creek drainage. I had driven to this remote location on the edge of a huge wind turbine farm in search of the PCT and other roads that I believed would give me access to a handful of peaks in the area. Peak 6,803ft and Covington were P1Ks while Liebre Twins was a delisted HPS summit. All three lie on private lands, part of various ranching concerns and hunting clubs that had successfully fought to keep the PCT out a 25-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest along which it would most naturally want to follow. Instead, the trail was routed to the desert floor in a most ignoble manner where it has to make use of a mish-mash of roads to cover the long stretch across the Antelope Valley. Nowhere else on the entire stretch of the trail across three states is it rendered so poorly. The wind farm concern that has built new roads recently to service the turbines has not helped make it any easier. I saw no signs indicating where I might find the trail on my way in. They might certainly exist, but they were by no means obvious.

My plan was to break this into two days, each which would require more than 20 miles of hiking, tackling Liebre Twins and Peak 6,803ft the first day and Covington the second. I ended up combining these all in one very long day, more than 32 miles in length and some 8,000ft of gain in a span of 12 hours. It was the hardest day of the road trip, hands down. I didn't start the morning with this combined effort in mind - it was something that I first considered on my way to Liebre Twins, and committed to only after completing the initial 18 miles.

The locked gate I started at turned out to be one of those mult-user contraptions, with half a dozen different padlocks, any one of which could open the gate. That meant that the access road beyond was not controlled by a single entity and the chances of my really pissing off someone by being found there were at least lower. A mile up the road is the fork for the Broken Arrow Ranch. This seems to be the primary user of the access road as I noted several vehicles leaving in the late afternoon on my way back. Further west up the drainage was more ranch lands, but I saw no signs of other humans in the drainage before climbing higher into the hills. The route I followed went for the most part under a set of high voltage transmission lines that run westward over the Tehachapis. The good dirt roads I used were primarily for servicing the towers. On the left could be seen a pair of closely-spaced summits that I mistook for Liebre Twins. These were in fact located further to the west at a point I thought was 6,803ft. I'm sort of glad I had made this mistake as the realization of just how far away Peak 6,803ft was at this point might have been demoralizing. The closer peaks turned out to be what has been described as the old HPS Liebre Twins. More on those later. To the right rose the rounded summit of Covington Peak with it's miles-long SW Ridge in profile. It did not look all that interesting, even from a distance.

I spent several hours climbing out of the desert and making my way higher into the Tehachapis. After the first hour, the desert scrub gave way to the brighter green slopes of ranch country with rich grass to make for happy cows. I spotted only a smattering of cattle where I thought the land would have allowed many more to graze. It seems probable the spring season is short-lived here and that more cattle might have a much harder time finding forage as the summer progresses. I left the dirt road where it makes a seemingly unnecessary diversion across the dry creekbed heading downhill, only to re-emerge higher up after some circuitous wandering. I headed uphill at this point over what was easy cross-country to begin with, but eventually proving to have some nastier scrub up ahead. Rather than push my way through this stuff, I back-tracked and found a better route through a miniature forest that required much hunching and ducking and even some crawling to get myself through. I eventually landed back on the powerline road as I was now in more forested country. Large oaks dominate the landscape here as they do for much of the range in the mid elevations.

The powerlines and road crest over a hill and then drop a disheartening 400ft back into the Cottonwood Creek drainage, an unexpected and naturally unwelcome surprise. As I was starting down this section, I was surprised to see a jeep climbing a steep hill to the west. I hid in the shadows and watched it as it climbed steadily up the slope, stopping periodically to allow the passenger to get out, walk out of view under the trees, only to return a minute later. I could not guess their purpose, supposing erroneously that they were attending to a fence or other ranch-related items. Once they had reached the upper ridgeline and gone out of view, I resumed my walk down the road, expecting that to be the last I saw of them. After completing my descent, the GPS showed my route to take the side road I had seen the jeep ascend. Had I been here 15 minutes earlier, it would have been impossible to avoid an encounter. Though steep, I was at last heading directly towards Liebre Twins, still about three miles further and another 1,500ft higher. Somewhere around here I realized my mistake in identifying Liebre Twins from the desert. This was going to take some work. I had passed by a large marble rock sitting out of place on the side of the road and had traveled perhaps half the remaining distance to Liebre Twins when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a vehicle approaching from above. The terrain I was in was more miniature forest, really just 15-foot scrub trees that haven't burned in the last few decades. Most of the understory is dead and decaying matter. It was not hard to scramble into the thickets, but it was not easy to really get out of view. I hoped that by getting 20-30ft off the roadway it would be enough to avoid the attention of the driver who I assumed would be watching the road. I was lying down among the duff when the vehicle came by, slowed, and then stopped. I heard the driver say something to his companion, "What's that on the ground?" Then in a louder voice, apparently figuring me out, he said, "Why are you trying to hide?" Needless to say, I felt very foolish.

I got up and brushed myself off as I walked over to the jeep. "Are you one of the landowners around here?" he asked, having not figured me out completely, it would seem. "No," I responded, "and to answer your question, I was trying to avoid unnecessary stress for those landowners." It turns out the two were pig hunting. The passenger held a large-bore rifle in his lap. The terrain I was trying to hide in is ideal pig country - easy for low-slung mammals to make tracks through, but more difficult for larger animals like deer and humans. The driver had been looking for pigs in the underbrush which is why he was eyeing the side of the road more carefully than the road ahead. I didn't stand a chance with my nearly-white outfit standing out so boldly with the darker browns of my surrounding. I fessed up that I was merely hiking some local summits and the two didn't seem to care a hoot. They didn't own the land and didn't care that I was there. They did warn me to watch out for hunters that were "all over the place." I said I would be careful, but they were the only hunters I saw all day.

I was fifteen minutes further up the road when I came across a drove of about a dozen pigs foraging on either side of the road. They spooked at my presence and dashed off the east side of the road into the thicket. Several on the west side of the road had to dash across it in plain sight to join the others into the thicket. These porkers were darn lucky they hadn't wandered into the area a few minutes earlier. Timing is everything. It was not long after this that I reached the summit of Liebre Twins, a benchmark confirming the position I had marked in my GPS. The summit was open to views in all directions, north, east, south and west. A register found here dated back only four years but had ten pages filled. Though no longer an HPS summit, it appears to be popular with the KRVHC (Kern River Valley Hiking Club). There was a note on the inside cover that the old HPS summit was located to the east. I had already gone past this point on my way here, but it seemed it might be worth a visit on my way back. I would love to find an old HPS register similar to the one I had found on delisted Eagle Peak a few years back.

Though separated by only a mile, it took nearly an hour to reach the higher Peak, 6,803ft to the southwest. About half the distance was a continuation of the ranch road, but as the road turns west I left it for the half mile section of cross-country to the summit. Most of this cross-country was fairly easy, through semi-open low forest, more of the porcine haunts. In fact I spotted another posse of the grunters in here, unhappy to be disturbed but not staying around to defend their territory. Where the forest gave way to chaparral on the northwest side of the summit, I'd thought the going would get easier, but the opposite proved true. Waist high buckthorn and other nastiness made the going tougher. I had to take a very meandering route around that side of the mountain in order to make something work without undo bleeding. The summit proved somewhat disappointing. The highpoint was a 5-foot block half-buried in the thickets growing (or possibly all dead - it was hard to tell) at the top. The summit did afford a decent view looking northwest through east, but the views south and west were partially blocked. There was no register or survey tower remains, just a metal plate with a scratched inscription from 1955 (this was a pretty cool find), possibly a Basque sheepherder.

I beat a retreat back through the chaparral and forest to return to the road I'd come up on. Near the old HPS Liebre Twins I paused to consider the effort it might take to reach it. I had thought the road came closer to the summit, but it turned away almost half a mile from the highpoint. The brush looked even uglier than that on Peak 6,803ft, going well over head level. Was it possible? I was still feeling pretty good, but I considered that a difficult effort here might be the undoing of my continuing to Covington. Was it worth it? Probably not, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I left the road at the saddle to the northwest, following first over the easy ground that served to lure me further into the adventure where I'd be less likely to change my mind.

Soon the easy grass slopes gave way to modest brush which then became more dense, as feared. Pondering my chances further, I scanned the slopes ahead for signs of weakness - open patches and easier sections that might be linked together. I caught sight of a tiny piece of orange flagging tied to a tree branch more than a hundred yards up the slope. This suggested to me that not only was I on the right track, but it looks like someone may have flagged a route. I had to fight my way through some ugliness for a short distance before stumbling upon what at first looked like an animal trail, but proved to be the use trail I was looking for. The flagging was irregular and often widely spaced, but it looked like someone had done some grooming as recently as in the past six months. Much of the route went through dense trees/chaparral well over head level. Other sections were harder to follow and I made several wrong turns that ended in brushy cul-de-sacs before backtracking and finding the correct route. The flags gave out altogether with about 100 yards to the summit, but it was possible to find a reasonable way through the trees that were taller and easier to navigate. Just before the summit the trees gave way to open slopes with only modest, knee-high brush that proved no impediment. The summit rocks thus provided good views, but there was no register, new or old, that I could find. An old tin left from a bygone camping trip was all I could find in the way of mementos.

Returning once again to the road, even easier once I had the trimmed route dialed in, I followed the ridgeline all the way back down to Cottonwood Creek, having decided on continuing to Covington. I picked up some water at the creek here to supplement the remaining 30oz of PowerAid I had with me. I estimated that I had another 3,000ft to gain and perhaps another five hours of hiking. As it was but 1:30pm when I refilled my water at the creek, I figured I had plenty of time before sunset. The hike to Covington was about six miles in length from the creek, mostly a steady climb. The lower portion followed a good road that leads to the Twin Lakes hunting lodges on the sunny south side of Covington's SW Ridge. Presumeably that's where the two gentlemen I had seen were staying, but I didn't find out, not so eager to introduce myself in camp. My route followed one of the steeper, less-used roads off the main road before reaching the resort, so my only view of the place was from above. I could see more than a dozen buildings, some old, some new, a few abandoned, along with a small lake and a pretty setting among the oaks and grass. A property boundary along the ridge marked the edge of the hunting area. Another road begins just on the other side of the fence and becomes part of a larger network of roads, mostly older, that are found higher up the mountain. There is a fine view of Cummings Mtn to the west and Double Mtn to the northwest, two summits most easily climbed from the north in the vicinity of the town of Tehachapi. I passed through several more property boundaries in following the ridge. Pine trees began to make their appearance about halfway up the mountain and eventually became the dominate flora. I came across an abandoned cabin about the size and construction of a single-wide mobile home. Someone had decided to build a mountain retreat/getaway, but had given it up before finishing it. The doors and windows were all locked, the items inside strewn about in haphazard fashion.

Around 3:45p I neared the summit. A tall tower, bent and twisted in its effort to return to earth was found in a large clearing about a quarter mile from the highpoint. The highpoint was found in a dense patch of forest with absolutely no views. The GPS was most helpful in finding the location, both for lat/long and to verify the elevation as the highest around. There was nothing to mark the highpoint, just a large fallen log amongst the trees. Pretty much a bust, as summits go, despite the 1,000ft of prominence.

My route off the summit went generally southeast, following more roads that zigzag across the mountain. Probably once used for logging purposes, these seem now to support various hunting and ranching enterprises. Solar panels, modern plastic water tanks, ponds for water fowl, and hunting lodges can be found at various locales. Fire must have swept over portions of the east side of Covington in the past ten years. Some of the dead snags have fallen, blocking roads and keeping clean up efforts busy. My route took me down into colorful Tylerhorse Canyon, crossing it in its upper reaches and traversing southwest where a hunting cabin is located next to a pond. I had originally planned to utilize the PCT to return to the desert floor, but that would have taken me further east than I needed and added a few unnecessary miles. Instead, I made use of the GPS and visual scouting while descending Covington to pick out a route on the ridge to the west of Tylerhorse Canyon. From the cabin, a road leads up a small rise before descending along this ridge. It peters out just before 6,000ft with another road visible about 500ft down the ridgeline. This left a short section of steep class 2-3 descent to connect the two roads, after which the going became significantly easier.

The trees ended with the cross-country section, once more returning to joshua trees (some torched) and other more familiar Mojave flora. After some semi-steep descents down motorcycle tracks, I landed on a plateau just above the desert floor, the barren site of the White Oak Lodge Landing Strip. I didn't see anything resembling a a plane or runway, but there was a lively wind sock along the road I followed. A white pickup truck came rumbling down the road past me, a woman at the helm. I was pretty sure I was still on private property here, but she didn't stop to ask questions and I didn't mind. The route passed through the western edge of the wind turbine complex. These mammoth towers stand something like 12 stories tall with huge blades spanning a similar height. Unless the local ranchers are making a mint on renting these on their lands, I can't imagine they are much liked or appreciated. The machines are quite advanced though - I could see that as the wind died down the individual blades automatically rotated (or feathered) to a resting position allowing the blades to come to a stop. Despite their size, they were much quieter than the smaller turbines I had hiked amongst a few days earlier. All that could be heard was the slow whump-whump-whump as the large blades cut through the air.

With a few miles remaining, I left the road to avoid walking directly past a large ranch spread ahead. I followed an easy ridgeline that threaded between this spread to the east and the Broken Arrow Ranch to the west. The Broken Arrow Ranch was located lower in a canyon with several folks going about locking up the place for the day and heading out in their own trucks. I wasn't exactly invisible along my route, but it was far enough away to attract little attention. The ridge led nicely down to the main Cottonwood Canyon where I picked up the original road I had started on and followed it for the last half mile back to the car. I managed the whole 32 miles in eleven and a half hours, not a bad day's work. I was fairly beat though, and happy to get my boots off.

I took a shower amongst the joshua trees and the setting sun before leaving my cozy spot in Cottonwood Canyon. I even spotted an old PCT sign where it crossed the road I was traveling. I would spend the next several hours driving out to SR14 and along SR138 heading east to the outskirts of Victorville where I spent the night. Along the way I stopped for some tacos and Starbucks, though not exactly in that order. Decaf this time, although I might have slept just fine even with the caffeine...


Anonymous comments on 05/27/14:
Please remove your trip report post about your illegal activities trespassing on everyone elses land, posting pics of all the places you've trespassed, gps points, topo maps. Just shows your rogue mentality removing comments and ignoring the request. Now that you have it all documented, a copy of these will go to law enforcement. That we didn't SEE YOU doesn't mean this isn't proof you admit what you're doing and what you did.
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