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Martinez Mountain, Sheep Mountain, Asbestos Mountain

1 February 1992

By: Alan Coles

Leaders: Alan Coles, Frank Goodykoontz

My trips sometimes start with unusual beginnings and this one was certainly that. A bus carrying a group of girls to a religious retreat in the San Jacinto Mtns went over the edge of the Palms to Pines Hwy (74) just east of our meeting spot at Pinyon Flats CG. As a result, those arriving by way of Palm Desert could not get through until the road reopened around 3 am. Those that came from the west found a very quiet highway and a deserted campground.

Still a large contingent of 16 showed up at 6:30 am in front of the campground for the hike, many of them just arriving after spending the night in their cars down where the road was blocked off. I had called the Idyllwild Ranger Office two days prior to find out the latest in conditions. They informed me that there was a new trail and that they were constructing a new trailhead nearby (although it was not clear where it would be built). We drove the short distance down Hwy 74 just next to the Sugarloaf Cafe in front of the gate on 7S01. No sign of a new trailhead, so we walked along this road for 1/2 mi to where the dirt road comes down from the Elks Lodge (standard route starting location). There was a new gate under construction to keep people from illegally driving onto 7S01 and down to the mine (it has been illegal to drive down there for many years but ardent 4WD'ers have breached the dirt barricade designed to keep them out). The new trail starts here and is marked by an obvious sign. It goes east following an old jeep trail then drops down into a small gully before reaching the old Dolomite mine, a definite savings from the old trail.

We had already lost one participant, Janet, who was not feeling well. The rest of the group proceeded through the mine and finally onto the Cactus Spring Trail, the only maintained trail in the Santa Rosa Wilderness. Permits are still not required so we were allowed to take any number of participants although as it turned out we would have been within the standard size of 15 anyway.

It was a nice day, some high clouds and a welcoming breeze as we followed this interesting trail as it winds over diverse geography of pinyon flats and cool riparian streams dotted with cottonwood trees and desert willows. Frank and I had never climbed Martinez by way of the west ridge so we decided to continue up the trail to the west saddle and then follow the ridge from there. This worked out fairly well although some people had problems with the rocks. We reached the summit around 12:30, a little later than usual but if I had been a little more familiar with the route we probably would have been within the usual time. There was a cold breeze on top and a few patches of snow were around in the shady spots.

One participant, Judy Carson, was having problems with her acrophobia while crossing over the rocks, so in the interest of safety I took her back down the same way (avoiding the rocks by staying to the south) and on back to the trailhead. Frank took over as leader for the group and descended the traditional gully. He led the group over to Sheep and back out without any additional problems.

When Judy and I returned back to the campground, we ran into Don Tidwell and Cynthia Conant who had missed us that morning due to the road closure. We went over to the Sugarloaf Cafe and had a nice dinner. Several hours later, Frank and his group arrived a half hour before the closing time of 8:00 pm. Afterwards, some went home that evening while the rest of the group had a good night's sleep in the campground.

Only 6 of the original participants showed up to do Asbestos. With Don and Cynthia and the 2 leaders our group of 10 drove over to the standard starting location. Robert Baldwin's truck got stuck in the sand and it took an hour to get him out (thanks to the dirt road driving skills of Don). It took less than that to finally climb the peak on a partly cloudy and cooler day. We enjoyed the fine views before returning the same way.

Thanks to all participants for making it a fine weekend. Joy McKinney, Erik Siering, David Michels, Ruth Armentrout, Suzanne Charlston, Jennifer Lambelet, Judy Carson, Dan Skaglund, Robert Baldwin, Janet Phun, Walia Ringeler, Carol Smetana, Frank Atkin, Diane Dunbar, Don Tidwell and Cynthia Conant. And the usual thanks to Frank.

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