Leaders: Alan Coles, Martin Feather
Late summer brings cooler temperatures and once again we go climbing in the lower regions of the Southern Sierra. Spring is probably the best time, but fall has its charms as well. Usually the roads are in their best shape since Spring and the air is crisper. It's a good time to get out and enjoy the change of seasons.
Thirty-one people (and almost as many vehicles) met at Powers Well at the mouth of Indian Wells Canyon near Inyokern. We waited a few minutes past the 7:30AM meeting time while some late-comers showed up. Getting into as few vehicles as possible, we drove up the road as far as the "old cabin" site where I made the decision to park. I remembered that there was not much room at the trailhead - and with deer season it seemed likely other cars might be there. As it turned out, no one was there and we probably could have gotten everyone in. Nevertheless, some took the chance and drove in, while the others walked the extra mile.
We started up the trail around 9:00AM. The temperature was neither hot nor cold, but after some steep climbing we enjoyed the cool breezes that met us as we got up on the ridge. David Eisenberg and Bill Hogshead took over the lead for their 100th and 200th peaks. Congratulations! We took in the great views on top before descending around 12:40PM.
We got back to the cars around 3:30PM, a little later than expected, but no problem. Frank Goodykoontz led the diehards up Aquilla (Five Fingers) afterwards. It wasn't until 6:30PM that we all reconvened at Powers Well. Twelve had enough and went home or did other hikes on Sunday. The rest went directly to the chosen camp site near Sorrell or out to dinner at Two Sisters in Inyokern.
Those that went out to eat had a so-so buffet, but were very grateful they didn't have to sing.
Martin chose the site which was about 1/3 mile beyond the spot indicated in the Peak Guide. It was a good choice as there was plenty of space for the vehicles and there is ample flat land for tents. A cool wind blew at times during the night making pleasant sounds in the tall jeffrey pines. It was a nice change from the dry and open site of Powers Well where many of us had spent the previous night.
An 8:00AM "wake up" hike got us going in the morning. It took only a short time to reach the summit of Sorrell from the cars. The early morning was very beautiful with a cool breeze and the long shadows cast by the numerous conifers that cover the slopes of this fine peak. With views as far as Whitney to the north, San Gorgonio to the south and Pinos to the west it was hard to leave.
We wasted little time in getting back to the cars and driving off to the next peak: Piute Lookout. The roads were very dusty so we had to drive farther apart. With so many cars, it took some time for everyone to reach the next meeting point. Still, we managed to get up Piute by a little after 10:00AM. Martin climbed it twice from his car just so that he wouldn't have to climb it for a third time (he already had the others three times). The view on top was also very nice and we even found the register.
Next we drove down the road and got everyone parked neatly in the rather limited parking area for Bald Eagle. Many of us wore shorts despite the warnings in the Peak Guide which turned out to work very well. The trail was well brushed out and the heat was getting a little uncomfortable in the midday sun. Everyone enjoyed their lunch on top of the peak except me. I struggled to open a can of smoked oysters for my wife Janet with a Swiss Army knife, after a relentless effort to open it, I accidently dropped it into a crack in the rock we were sitting on. Thanks to the efforts of Laura Webb, the oysters were rescued after an almost seemingly impossible effort to recover them.
Some had enough and went home while a still large group of sixteen continued on to Lightner. Some of us got a little "carried away" and drove past the turnoff to the peak from the Bodfish-Havilah Road.
Once back together again we drove up the paved road and turned off onto the dirt road on the ridge. The road was a little too rocky for low clearance vehicles after about 3/4 mile, so we backed up to the large parking area at 1/2 mile.
Starting around 3:30PM, it took a little over 1 1/2 hours to reach the summit on a rather direct route. The black oaks were really beautiful in their Fall shades with the late afternoon sun creating vivid contrasts on the dry grassy slopes. A very nice ending to a good weekend.
Many thanks to all participants that even included Multiple List Finishers Dick Akawie, Frank Goodykoontz, Terri Sutor and Dave Welbourne, and to Martin for co-leading the trip.