Outlaw BM P1K
Bald BM P1K
Peak 3,700ft P900

Wed, Dec 12, 2012
Bald BM
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


I had two days left of a nine day desert road trip, and like the first two days, I was once again on my own. I had in mind a couple of P1Ks around the Twentynine Palms area, ones that few people besides myself would be interested in. The first was Outlaw BM, located in the east end of the Pinto Mountains in the northeast corner of Joshua Tree NP. The shortest access is via the north from SR62 which means you don't have to pay a fee to enjoy this slice of the park. I was parked at a trash-ladden turnout off the highway where I'd spent the night, interrupted only occasionally by passing trucks on this lonely stretch of road. I was up before 6a, starting off at 6:15a as the eastern sky was just beginning to take on lighter shades of the coming day. I had planned to rise earlier, but sleep was too delicious this morning.

The Wilderness/Park boundary is found just off the highway as I started off heading southeast. Hiking around the toe of the hills just to the west, I followed a wide wash that heads generally southwest from Clarks Pass for several miles until I was roughly north of Outlaw BM. High clouds made for a most colorful sunrise starting around 6:30a and lasting for about 20 minutes. I took a handful of pictures as the clouds changed colors from purple and pink to orange and yellow, marveling at the subtle textures found in the clouds. The sun didn't make a direct appearance, lighting up portions of the Pinto Range to the west very briefly before hiding behind the cloud layer for the rest of the morning. The wash provided open and easy walking for the most part. It was quite sandy in some places, but I could generally find firmer ground to one side or the other. The brush and other desert vegetation was sparse and never a problem.

I left the main wash where it curved towards the west, continuing southwest up a gentle gradient to the base of the range. The rocks in the wash were of particular interest with many different types and colors. I would pick one up as I walked along, examine it, toss it aside and pick up another one. There were interesting intrusions and fascinating shades of green that caught my attention. There were also the delicate sand sculptures from desert termites that had been built around the base of a desert plant, now dead, which would crumble with the lightest touch. By the time I had gone about three miles I had finally reached the north side of Outlaw BM and the beginning of the more serious climb.

The last mile goes up about 1,000ft in half a mile, taking me about half an hour. From the summit one can take in broad views looking both north to Clarks Pass and south to Pinto Basin, both large, flat expanses of desert without a road in sight. A half register left by Gordon and Barbara in 1984 had only three other parties sign in over the past 28 years. The last had been a San Diego Sierra Club party including Richard Carey and Mark Adrian, only a few weeks ago.

It was 8a before I started down, following much the same route I had already taken. There were more rocks and other things to occupy my attention, including the overhead helicopters on manuevers from the nearby Marine Base at Twentynine Palms, and tiny flowers managing to bring small hints of color to the desert at a time when most other plants are in suspended animation, waiting for the first rains of the season. I got back just before 9:30a and spent about half an hour driving back west on SR62 and then north on Amboy Rd going over Sheep Hole Pass.

Just north of the pass, near a BLM sign for the Heart of the Mojave, I found an unsigned dirt/sand road heading west that I had identified on the satellite view beforehand and loaded in the GPS. Bald BM is a P1K summit found in the southeast corner of the Bullion Mountains, not far outside marine base. The road I drove in on was not great, but I was able to navigate about half a mile from the pavement before a small washout stopped my low clearance van. I was hoping to get further as the road continues for at least another mile, but this would have to do, getting me within about five miles of the summit.

I followed the road shown on the GPS for about half a mile before coming to a road junction. The left fork was not shown on my GPS and not part of my intended route, but since it seemed to be going more directly towards Bald BM, I decided to follow it and see where it goes. It didn't go all that far as I came to find out after about half a mile. It appears to head to a small mine located in the foothills to the south, not exactly where I wanted to end up, so I started cross-country over easy terrain heading northwest and aiming for a small saddle about two miles distance. I came upon a tarantula out for its morning exercise, one of the few animals, arachnid or otherwise, that I saw during the day. Normally these shy spiders stay tucked in their burrows, but it may have been mating season to bring him out into the open like this.

Once I reached the low saddle around 11:20a, I had my first view to Bald BM about a mile and half to the southwest. I turned in that direction, first hiking down to the dry Cleghorn Lakes which lay at the base of the mountain. Tire tracks went over the soft lake bottom, stretching across their length going northwest to southeast. This is the heart of the Cleghorn Wilderness so there isn't supposed to be any vehicles here, but it was hard to tell when the tracks might last have been followed. Possibly not for a few years, but certainly not dating back to the Wilderness's creation in 1994.

Like Outlaw BM, the climbing on Bald BM comes at the end, rising about 1,300ft over the last mile. I followed a rocky canyon on the east side of the summit until I grew tired of the talus and boulders, then moved right onto a steep ridgeline which I followed up. There were occasionally medium-sized cairns found along the route, likely left by a miner back in the day to mark the territory to his claim of dubious value. Nowhere did I find anything in the way of serious mining efforts in this area. It was 12:20p when I reached the 4,000-foot summit. A generic benchmark and another Gordon/Barbara register in the familiar red cans were found there. This register had been left in 1992 and was somewhat more popular than the last, thanks to the addition of several entries from military personnel either out on a survey mission or just out for a walk. The high clouds continued to obscure the sky and make for partially washed out views. The best view was to the east where the more rugged Sheep Hole Mountains stood out in profile. In between was a lower, unnamed summit with more than 900ft of prominence that was also part of the Bullion Range. I hadn't planned on paying it a visit, but as it was still relatively early and the peak looked somewhat interesting, I decided to pay it a visit after returning to Cleghorn Lakes. It would make for a nice loop in returning to the car.

It took about 30 minutes to return to the dry lake beds which I then followed southeast towards Peak 3,700ft. I picked up about a dozen old aluminum cans that were scattered about the lake beds in my path, harking back to the pre-wilderness days when Cleghorn Lakes were on an OHV route and a semi-popular camping local. If I'd been on a eco-mission I'm sure I could have picked ten times that amount in a few hours, but I was really just picking up the ones that caught my attention in my path. In the broad valley surrounding the lake beds I found a discarded snakeskin and boundary claim marker. A glass jar lying in the sand at the base of an old wooden stake held a brittle piece of paper from 1992 laying claim to forty acres for mining purposes. There appeared to be nothing in the area however to suggest any serious digging ever took place. Maybe someone wanted to get a last claim in before the new Wilderness came into effect.

I spent about 40 minutes climbing the steep NW Ridge about 1,000ft to the highpoint. There was no register or cairn on the summit, but I had little doubt it had seen other visitors, close as it was to the OHV roads and the pavement of Amboy Rd. Aside from the nice view of Bald BM and a better view of the Sheep Hole Mtns, the summit mostly served as a nice detour on my way back. I dropped to the northeast off the summit into a small maze of narrow, sandy washes and a jumble of boulders that made it difficult to discern the various drainages that collided in the piles of rock. There was an unusual variety of yucca growing in places that had flexible, friendly leaves, most unlike the more common stiff and stabby version. It was 3p by the time I was on the desert floor again with about another mile and a half to go. The sun was lower in the sky now and popping through the clouds which were no longer a continuous blanket over the land. This made for some pretty scenery and I took the opportunity to photograph the surrounding hills in various settings of sunshine and shade.

After returning to the van, I showered, changed into some fresh clothes and spent the next several hours driving to Apple Valley, getting me partway back to San Jose. I would have another half day to devote to more peakbagging before heading home, and had picked out a summit called Feldspar BM on the northeast side of town. I parked at the end of a lonely stretch of pavement at the foot of the mountain on its west side. Here I spent the evening, enjoying dinner, a movie, a few beers and sleep, roughly in that order. Not a bad way to finish the day...


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