I needed to get out of the rainy weather in Medford, Oregon so I headed south with the intention of hiking several desert peaks and to work on my tan.
I drove down on Friday January 20th, 2006 staying on I-5 until I get near Bakerfield and then took Hwy 58 to Barstow and I-15. It was dark already, but I knew I could stop in another hour or so. I drove up I-15 to Baker, found Hwy 127 and headed north. The turnoff for Old Mormon Spring was readily apparent as I drove past it, so I turned around and found a way off the road and through the drainage ditch. It became a rough road heading west and I figured this was the road I wanted.
In 4.5 miles I could see I was at the mountains and the road forked left and right. I pulled over, found a flat spot, and car camped for the night. I was tired from driving about 788 miles today.
Saturday morning dawned clear and cold in the desert. It was only 35 degrees. I bundled up, oriented myself, and started driving up the left fork of this road into a canyon. The roadbed was right at the bottom of the canyon in a dry wash. This road is crooked and it was climbing steadily up the canyon. In a little over a mile I hit a spot where my left rear tire was spinning on slick bedrock. I shifted in Lo Range 4WD and the tire was still spinning. OK, I guess this is what the rear differential lock is designed for, so I engaged that feature. Cool! I popped right out of that little hole and was on my way again.
I left it in Lo Range and slowly made my way further into the mountains. I finally got to the head of the canyon. The road took a right hand turn and headed up to a saddle above. The road now was red dirt and I’m sure it would be very slick if it was wet. I pushed on the gas because the road was pretty steep and I didn’t want to have to back down if I lost momentum. A few hundred yards up this road I could see there were a couple of washouts that extended from the middle of the road and off to the right. I didn’t slow down. My right side wheels bounced down into the washouts and back up. There was a drop of about a foot as each wheel went through each hole and it jarred me pretty good. Thank God it wasn’t wet or I would have slipped right off the embankment.
I knew I would have a worse problem on my way down, but I might as well continue on and do the hike. I soon reached the solar powered communications station and continued past it down the ridge. The road wasn’t very good, but I was going slow and was determined to stop if I saw any danger ahead of me. I soon reached another point on the ridge where there was parking, so I parked.
Now for the hike! I saddled up and headed down the road to where I could see it ended. When I arrived at that spot the road continued, but it descended rather steeply into the next valley. I knew I didn’t want to go that way, so I turned left and climbed up to the little saddle above me. I was following the DPS directions, and I was doing well so far. Here the directions said to drop down a little and climb the next ridge to the west. That next ridge was a monstrous white bluff with cliffs! This can’t be right.
I turned right and descended to a wash. I followed it down a few hundred yards until I determined that my GPS was not defective and I had to actually climb those white cliffs. I picked out a route and slowly made my way up between the cliffs without any real difficulty. It felt good to finally get on the highpoint of that white bluff.
From here my GPS pointed my northwest and I started following the ridgeline. Up and down intermediate highpoints I went, always wondering if the ridge would end before I got to the highpoint. Which one of the cones is the actual summit? DPS does good work so I will have faith in their directions and continue hiking northwest. Soon there weren’t many cones left and my GPS kept pointing to one light colored one without any vegetation.
To my relief when I got to the summit of this last cone there was a register and a Benchmark. I made the summit. It still wasn’t very warm at 33 degrees and the wind I clocked at 27 mph. I rested, ate a snack and just generally tried to keep from freezing to death. I couldn’t take it for very long before I headed southeast, back down the ridgeline I had just climbed up.
The hike back to my car was uneventful and coming down from the white bluff was not too difficult. The total hike took me about 4.7 hours, was 6.7 miles, and had about a 2,800 elevation gain with my brief excursion the wrong way from the saddle.
The difficult part laid ahead in the washouts of the road. As I returned to the washouts, I hugged the road bank on the right and put the Tacoma in Lo Range 4WD and locked the rear differential. I was going fairly slow, but as I banged through the first one, the rear end slid down hill a couple feet before I could get back out of the hole and stopped between the two washouts. I was canted about 30 degrees from straight with no room to maneuver in front or back. I determined the only thing I could do is try to continue straight through the next washout. Somehow, I banged through the second one without going over the embankment or rolling the Tacoma. The rest of the drive out to Hwy 127 was a piece of cake. Onward to the next hike.
I think your drive out was one of those that we keep our fingers crossed on. Kinda reminded me of our exit from So. Tent Mtn in Utah when we hit that slick mud that could've put us over the edge. Nice report.