At the start of another desert trip, I left San Jose around 6a so that I could
do some afternoon peakbagging. Patrick planned to join me, but with a later
than expected start from Southern California, he would be an hour or so behind
me. While driving through Barstow, I found an unnamed summit near Ludlow
that I could do before Patrick arrived. After meeting up in
Ludlow, we headed east to the Kelbaker exit off Interstate 40.
This summit is located just outside the northern border of the sprawling 29
Palms Marine Corp base. A series of BLM roads starting on the south side of the
Ludlow exit got me to within a mile of the peak on its northeast side where a
fenced utility yard is located.
A convenient tunnel under the railroad
provides access to the south side of the busy rail line that runs along the
Interstate. The peak is a rather plain-looking brown lump. After
crossing easy desert flats and a gravel wash at the base of the hill,
one climbs dark volcanic rock to the summit, about 30min from
the parking spot. Views overlook the military base (though there are no
structures to be seen on this side) to the south, as well as the train
tracks and Interstate to the north - not a Wilderness experience,
this one. I found no register and left none.
After meeting with Patrick to pay $7/gal to top off in Ludlow, we drove east
to Kelbaker Rd and left the Jeep there, carpooling in his Grand Cherokee to
the Middle Hills. They are an exceedingly small group of low
hills sandwiched between the
Marble Mtns to the south, Van Winkle Mtn and I-40 to the north. A good utility
road goes east from Kelbaker Rd across the north side of
the Marble Mtns, then a poorer, sandier road goes north to
get one with 3/4mi of Middle Hills. In all,
about seven miles of driving from the pavement. The hike to the summit
took only 25min, a very easy effort as the highpoint has less than 160ft of
prominence. Richard Carey left a nice register here in 2008 with pals
Adrian and Hanna. They found Smatko's original register from 1969 in a
crushed film cannister, still readable. Barbara and Gordon visited
in 2011, then Patrick and I 11yrs later. Neat find.
We drove back to Kelbaker Rd and north of the Interstate for this last summit
within Mojave National Preserve, just east of Kelbaker Rd. We parked off the
pavement and hiked a little over a mile to the southeast to find the
highpoint behind some lower hills. This was a more involved effort across
small drainages and up rocky, granite slopes to reach the summit in a
little under an hour's time. A Smatko party had left a register
in 1980. A few other
parties of unfamiliar names visited in 1983 and 1986, then nothing for
almost 34yrs. Another cool fine. The sun set shortly before we
finished up just after 7p.
The easy summits made for a nice warm-up. We would get to the more involved
efforts starting the following day. After returning to pick up my Jeep, we
drove a short distance back into Mojave NP where we camped for the night on
the west side of Kelbaker Rd, south of the Granite Mtns where we planned to
hike in the morning...