South of Ludlow and Interstate 40 are a couple of old mining towns,
Ragtown and Stedman. The latter is home to the Bagdad Chase Mine, at one
time the largest producer of gold and copper in San Bernardino County.
But this was a different age and all mining stopped some decades ago. I
was after four peaks west of Stedman, in the northern part of the Bullion
Mtns. The westernmost, Peak 3,446ft, is actually on the 29 Palms Marine
Base, but there are no signs or fences separating BLM land from the
military reservation that I found. I did these four peaks in a 7mi loop,
taking up my morning. The other four summits were all individual
outings, the longest about 3mi roundtrip. I was busy from sunrise to
sunset, but that's not saying too
much at this time of year when
the days are so short.
Peak 3,446ft - Peak 3,500ft - Peak 3,500ft - Reef BM
I had started the morning camped west of Barstow, so in the morning I had
some driving to do, along with a stop in Barstow for gas and coffee. Once
in Ludlow, I followed an unsigned road to the railroad undercrossing,
then found the BLM road heading south. In Stedman, I followed old roads
through various washes to a gate before the largest of the mines found
in the area. The gate had a drive-around, allowing me to drive perhaps
another half mile up the wash before I stopped just before a dryfall. Though I had gotten up by 6a, it
wasn't until after 8a that I was ready to head out. I spent a little over
four hours making a loop to visit the four summits, an enjoyable romp,
all class 2. The hills in the area are quite colorful, making it easy to
see how it attracted prospectors and led to the development of the
mining district. There are lots of old mineshafts, claim markers, survey
markers and other stuff from those bygone decades. On my way to the
first summit, Peak 3,446ft, I found several items of military hardware
but no unexploded ordinance. Plenty of empty large calibre shells, too.
There are two summits listed on LoJ as Peak 3,500ft which I visited next,
in turn. The first one had a large solar array powering a small
instrument setup and antenna. The second, to the north connected by a
saddle with a 300-foot drop, is higher than the first, but not by more
than 10-20ft. The highest peak in the area is Reef BM, my last stop,
with more than 700ft of prominence. The peak is pretty steep on all
sides, but still class 2. I left a register after finding only the
remnants of an older one, possibly left by Andy Smatko.
After descending the south side, I had about
a mile and a quarter hiking across the grain over a number of low hills
between various washes.
This is an exceedingly easy peak just off the west side of the main BLM
road. It's even easier with high-clearance that allows you to drive to
the base on the southeast side. The summit is riddled with small mining
holes and prospects.
About 3mi south of Ludlow, a well-graded NW-SE pipeline road crosses the
N-S BLM road I had traveled on. There are actually two parallel
pipelines, each with its own road, but the one I favored is better than
the other. There are occasional connector roads between the two pipeline
roads. I used these pipeline roads for the last three summits. I was able
to drive within about 1.5mi of Peak 2,740ft. The hike to reach it crossed
over a handful of washes and ridges, eventually finding a wash that
reaches up to the SW Slopes, all class 2. This is the highest point
between the pipeline roads to the southwest and I-40 to the northeast,
with more than 500ft of prominence. I left a register here before
returning via a less direct route that avoided some elevation loss, but
overall no faster than the ascent route.
A spur road off the pipeline roads gets one within about 1/2mi of the
summit on the west side. The direct route I used on the ascent drops into
a shallow wash before the summit while the longer route I used for the
return follows the various ridgelines. The direct route is certainly
This last summit is found about 1.2mi south of the interstate, southwest
of Ludlow. The same pipeline roads I used for the previous summits extend
to the northwest, passing within 1/2mi of the summit. The rougher track
going over the SW shoulder of the peak gets even closer, within 1/3mi,
and it was this one I used for a quick dash up to the summit just before
sunset. A somewhat steep, but standard class 2 climb via the SW Ridge.
There is a good view of Ludlow to the northeast from the top.
After returning to Ludlow, I showered at the train undercrossing before
driving east to Kelbaker Rd where I would spend the night. I saw only
one other person the whole day while I was south of the railroad tracks -
a friendly gas employee drove by on the pipeline road while I was
parked there. He got out to take some quick pictures, waved, and
continued down the road.