Sat, Jan 30, 2021
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This road trip would mostly be spent in the western part of the Mojave National Preserve. I had visited the area on multiple occasions, tagging P1Ks, DPS and other listed summits, this time coming back for a mop up operation for a bunch of mostly unnamed summits. I would visit peaks in the Cowhole Mtns, Old Dad Mtns, and the Cinder Cone Lava Beds before calling it a day.
From its summit, I surveyed the terrain looking northeast and east for the remaining summits, noting only two of them. My second summit, Peak 4,015ft was 3.5mi away according to the GPSr, blocked by intervening terrain. I would have to head off in the correct direction, trusting I would find it at the end of an hour's walking. After dropping off the north side of Peak 3,464ft, I began the long march which I was enjoying a great deal. There was a short stretch of crappy lava rock to cross about 2/3 of the way between peaks, but it lasted little more than a quarter mile. Most of it was just easy hiking. When Peak 4,015ft came into view, I was pleased to find it, too, wasn't a cinder cone, but a mix of more solid lava at the top and broken rock slopes below. A short class 3 scramble got me through the middle of the volcanic cliff band at the top, taking a little over an hour and a half between the 1st and 2nd peak.
There was a small plastic box holding a weathered register, the bottom half brittle and unreadable. I recognized the writing as Smatko's, naming it as Burro Mtn. I had seen ample evidence of the burros' presence over the past hour and heard one braying from the summit though I could not located it. The naming certainly seemed appropriate as the burros have been favoring this part of the preserve for at least 50yrs. The register was dated 1974, the container a precursor, before Smatko settled on the small metal film cannisters and plastic pill bottles. I left one of my registers here, enclosing what was left of the original paper in the metal tin.
The third summit, Peak 4,160ft, lay a mile and a quarter to the southeast, a true cinder cone, though the slopes were not as steep as most. There was some snow on the north side that I ascended, affording me an opportunity to refill my gatorade bottle which had begun to look inadequate for the large loop. This did quite nicely, the snow fresh and clean. The summit was rounded, rocky, and colored a reddish brown. One gets the feeling of being lost in the Wilderness here, a landscape immense and stark. What little vegetation grows here is brown, or nearly brown, in want of more drink to bring it alive. Perhaps what fell a few days ago will suffice - it may start to green more in the next few weeks. Smatko had been to this summit the same day as the previous one, but I found no evidence of a register.
The fourth summit, Peak 4,078ft, is another two miles to the south. Unlike the first three summits which looked almost pristine, Peak 4,078ft caught the attention of miners with bulldozers, creating roads to the summit, scraping slopes in search of valuables, grinding up cinder stones for sale as gravel, sand and other low-value materials. When I reached the edge of the lava flows on Peak 4,078ft's north side, I picked up an old mining road, long in disuse but still useful for foot and hoof travel, and followed it up and around the three summits of the peak to just below the highpoint. A short cross-country stint up the cinder slopes got me to the highpoint shortly after 3:30p. It was clear now that I would be able to get back before sunset, making the loop an easier effort than I'd guessed. Smatko had recorded an ascent of this peak in 1971, three years before his visit to the previous summits. Again, no register was found, and I left the last one I was carrying with me. I descended the summit to the west, picking up another old road in that direction which I could follow all the way back to the Jeep in another hour. The road mostly follows along the southern edge of the lava field, in and out of a wash that I sometimes followed since it was more interesting than the road. There were a few desert flowers in bloom, though these looked like late season ones, not those of an early spring. I was back to the Jeep shortly before 5p, well-exercised and ready for a warm shower and cold beer...
This page last updated: Wed Feb 3 18:04:36 2021
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