Peak 3,842ft P300
Peak 3,271ft P300
The Buttes

Fri, Feb 5, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2

This was supposed to be a 4-5 day desert roadtrip, but ended up much shorter, only two half days before I returned home. Today I was picking up some stragglers around the Grass Valley Wilderness, roughly between Barstow and Ridgecrest. I had been in this area on numerous occasions in the past, most recently in 2019 when I was touring through with Karl.

Peak 3,842ft

This summit lies in the Grass Valley Wilderness. The closest approach is from the west, starting from a spur road that skirts the southern boundary of the defunct Cuddleback Lake Air Force Range. Though no longer used, the area is fenced and closed to the public, likely due to concerns of unexploded ordnances. There are fences on both side of the spur road (the southern fence may be for a planned extension of the Wilderness area), leading to a dead end two miles from Peak 3,842ft. There is an opening in the fence to allow foot and horse traffic as it leads east into the Wilderness. The hike is mostly across easy desert terrain, leading to the base of the formation with a short but steep climb to the summit. There are many class 2 options to the top, most of them steep as were both my ascent and descent routes. From the summit, the Wilderness HP can be seen a few miles to the east, Fremont Peak about 8mi to the southwest, Almond Mtn roughly the same distance to the northeast. Roundtrip time was about an hour and a half.

Peak 3,271ft

I spent the next hour and change driving OHV roads, notably Hoffman Road which connects Cuddleback and Harper Dry Lakes. Peak 3,271ft is a dark volcanic summit adjacent to Black Mtn, separated by Black Canyon. The road up Black Canyon provides the best access to the summit, getting one within half a mile of the top. I didn't know this at the time, approaching from the southwest. I was stopped on two different OHV roads by a fence enclosing a property owned by Wildlands. Near as I can tell, this is a for-profit land bank company offering mitigation services. They buy up properties that have some critical habitat, in this case the Mojave ground squirrel and the desert tortoise, then sell credits to developers to offset a housing project in Apple Valley or Barstow. It strikes me as a bit sketchy, like trading carbon offsets, but maybe I'm not a fan because they don't want the public accessing the properties. I ended up hiking from the fenceline, making a 4.5mi effort out of something that should have been less than a mile. Most of the hiking was on the old OHV road and then the BLM roads after I crossed the northern fenceline a mile after starting out. The peak is class 2 from any direction, so I chose a fairly direct route up from the southwest. I came across a kangaroo rat, oddly active in broad daylight, and I wondered if there was something wrong with it. It did a poor job of trying to hide from me, eventually finding one of its holes to disappear into. I reached the summit in an hour's time, finding a Smatko register from 1977. There was another entry from 1979, then nothing. It was a nice little find that made my afternoon. My return went back the same way with only minor deviations.

The Buttes

Back at the Jeep, I spent about half an hour driving west, chasing sunset to reach The Buttes before it went down. Most of the driving was on good dirt roads that most vehicles could negotiate, save for the last half mile on a lesser road needing high-clearance that got me within 1/5mi of the summit on its east side. The Buttes are a small collection of granite rock piles, more reminiscent of Joshua Tree than this part of the Mojave. It took only a few minutes of scrambling to find my way to the summit (there are two points, the western one appears slightly higher) just as the sun was setting. I stayed long enough to watch it disappear over the western horizon, then returned P21>back down to the Jeep. Finishing up before 5:30p, I showered before driving myself back to SR58 and on to Barstow. I had some trouble finding a route past Harper Lake where a huge solar installation has cut off access to some of the old OHV roads. I ended up on a brushy levee at the western edge of the installation as it grew dark, eventually finding my way back to Hoffman Rd, pavement and then the highway.


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