I had just settled down to bed in the back of the jeep, parked
along Bodick Rd near SR247, when Karl pulled up in his Element. I
opened a door to greet him when he parked, after which he came
over so we could discuss plans for the next morning. Upon
returning to his car, I settled back down in my sleeping bag, only
to hear some muffled exclamations from outside. It seems he had managed
to lock his car with the keys inside. This was a problem. I got
up, put on my shoes and went out to see if I could help. The
driver's door was slightly ajar, but it was impossible to open it
further and not enough room to get a hand in to unlock it. A coat
hanger might do, but alas there was no such wire objects in my
car that I could rustle up, and sticks lying about the ground were of no
help. AAA would work, but we might have to
wait a few hours. I was imagining we were going to get less sleep
than I'd hoped, thinking we'd have to hang out in the jeep to
fight off the cold before AAA could arrive. After about five
fruitless minutes of getting nowhere, I asked the obvious question
that I expected would answered with, "Unfortunately no."
"Do you have a hide-a-key?"
His eyes lit up as he exclaimed, "Oh yeah!" and then immediately started
crawling about , not sure exactly where he'd secured
it some years earlier. It took some time, but the key was eventually
located and the crisis subsided almost as quickly as it had begun.
The door was opened, and I was free to return to my own vehicle.
Sleepy time under the desert stars...
We were up in the morning to start our day before 7a. We were
camped between Johnson and Homestead Valleys, on the southwest
side of the 29Palms Marine Base. There were three summits I had
left untrammeled from previous visits to the area and it was to
these that we headed first. All of them are within lands
shared between the OHV crowds and the Marines, something called
the Johnson Valley Shared Use Area. The area is taken over by
the Marines three times a year for three weeks each time.
I had checked
beforehand to know that we were outside the marine training dates
and probably ok, but the signage along the OHV roads leads one to
believe we were trespassing, making Karl nervous. "This is where
our advancing age comes in handy," I explained, "We can always
just tell them we got confused and were a bit lost." Nobody gets
mad at old men acting like old men. Later I found that some of our
driving did indeed cross into the No Public Access zone just east
of the shared area. Oops.
We approached this one from the southwest off Charles Rd. There
are scattered homesteads along the road, including one that has
a large, eclectic collection of . Most of it is old,
colored glass jars and porcelain tableware, the latter most likely
picked up from another hobby - garage sales. After parking against
the base of the hill, we started on on foot before
heading up cross-country over towards the summit.
is found at the eastern end of the large summit
area, reached less than 30min after starting out. Our other two
summits could be seen some miles to as other low,
rounded bumps. We signed left here by Mark Adrian in
2019 before starting back down. Our ascent route was probably the
most efficient, but we took and a small gully
just to mix things up. We spent an hour on the roundtrip effort.
We drove the jeep around the south side of Peak 3,455ft, then onto
Creole Mine Rd heading northeast into the Shared Use Area. Another
sandy dirt road heading north took us to the
southeast of Peak 3,290ft, about 3/4mi from the summit. We
followed an up the ridgeline past
and other prospects, then cross-country to
. To rises Maumee BM, a P1K
and the highpoint of the Hartwell Hills. To , across a wide
valley draining north to dry Emerson Lake, rises Hidalgo Mtn, a P1K well
within the Marine
base. There doesn't appear to be much traffic on this side of the
base, so maybe this could be a way to reach Hidalgo without
attracting attention. Barbara Lilley and Andy Smatko apparently
did this together in 1973. Under a cairn atop our summit, we
discovered a small plastic film cannister. It was brittle and
shattered when we opened it, finding had visited in
1979 - no signatures in 41yrs. I left one of my own registers to
replace the broken plastic before we headed back down the same
Peak 3,620ft is located 3-4mi NNW of Peak 3,290ft. Back in the
Jeep, we headed northeast, intending to drive to Emerson Lake
and approach the peak from the northeast. Soon after leaving
Peak 3,290ft, we passed the to enter the
Marine base, which I thought was still part of the Shared Use
Area. Others had removed flimsy roadblocks and the roads appear
well-traveled. Later I learned we could have used other roads to stay
within the Shared Area had we known about them.
The area between Means Dry Lake and Emerson Lake
are the Hartwell Hills where the yearly King of Hammers OHV event is
held. The hills have a number of challenging trails used during
the event, one of them called Aftershock that we could see in the
distance running up the valley between Maumee BM and Peak 3,620ft.
I had thought it was probably too rough for my liking, but now I
was having second thoughts. If it could be driven, it would make
the approach from the west almost trivial compared to the
northeast approach from Emerson Lake. And so we changed course and
headed west over some lesser-used roads to get us to Aftershock.
It was a fun bit of Jeep driving over some challenging terrain
and eventually we connected up with the more-traveled road. Though
more-traveled, it was hardly in good shape. I was unable
(or more likely, unwilling) to get us all the way up the road,
stopped by a very of rocky road about a mile from
the summit. We parked there and up through old
and then cross-country to to
reach the summit in about 45min. There are three points vying for the
highpoint, the highest atop a large class 3 granite
with . Mark Adrian had left a register in
a PVC tube of the rock . Not surprisingly,
ours were the only other signatures. We thought this was the most
interesting summit of the day.
Back at the Jeep by 12:30p, it was too early to call it a day as
we had finished off the three summits faster than I expected. We
drove back out to Bodick Rd to collect Karl's Element, then
south on SR247 towards Yucca Valley. Checking various sources
during the drive, I found some summits on the west side of the
highway near Pioneertown that we could do in the afternoon.
With none of the usual research ahead of time, I didn't know if
we'd be able to reach the peaks since little of the land in the
area is BLM. Luckily, much of the open area has been incorporated
into the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, open to the
public. Peak 4,395ft is located east of Pioneertown, most easily
accessed from town using Aurora Dr and Amboy Rd. High-clearance is
necessary. Since we were driving from SR247, we accessed Amboy Rd from
the north at Pipes Canyon
Rd, a more involved route to get around private property. Our
was at the east end of Amboy Rd, about half a mile
northwest of the summit. The entire region was torched in a
devastating fire in 2006 and is slowly recovering, though the
pinyon and juniper trees that once grew here do not seem to be
making a comeback. The are proving far more resilient
We entered on one
of the park roads (not open to public vehicles), passing by a
nice at an overlook, complete with a picnic table,
park bench and firepit. We then headed cross-country up to the
southeast and the large . Along with Black Hill and
Flat Top, Peak 4,395ft is part of a larger, ancient plateau that
once dominated the easternmost portion of the San Gabriel Mtns.
Carved by water over eons, they are now more isolated islands
rising over 4,000ft high above the surrounding desert. The
highpoint is found at the southeast end of the plateau with
far-reaching views and Joshua Tree. A
tattered register from a 1984 was found buried inside a
small summit cairn. No other entries until we arrived, though there
have undoubtedly been other visitors. We much the same way.
It took about 45min for the roundtrip effort.
We drove about a mile west into the Chaparrosa Wash along Amboy
Rd to access Black Hill . There is a dirt road
that runs up to the summit plateau from the northwest, but I have
no idea if one can drive it - our starting point was simply out of
convenience due to proximity to the previous peak. We headed north
, then the loose, broken slopes to
the large . The highpoint is found across the plateau
at where we found a Barbara/Gordon register
. There were a handful of , notably
by a local named Jerry. After a short break, we returned back via the same
route, finishing up shortly after 4p.
After some errands in Yucca Valley for water, gas, dinner and
other food items, Karl and I met up again off Sheldon Rd
south of SR62 where we planned to hike in the Pinto Mtns the
next day. It was too cold to sit outside as we had no firewood,
so we lounged in the Jeep for an hour or so before going to bed
early. More fun in store tomorrow...