From Clark Dry Lake
A Hiker's Choice Custom Hike
Mars Bonfire leading
Laura Joseph following [mostly]
By Mars [with parenthetical comments from Laura]
Let's cut right to the chase: I'll never do this route again as long
as I live nor during any reincarnation. How's that for an endorsement?"
From an article in the May-June 1999 Lookout,
written by Mars Bonfire after a March hike with Hugh Blanchard from Clark Dry
Lake to Rabbit Peak #2.
Fast forward two years: The heart-thumping, perspiration inducing reality of this 14 mile RT, 6200' gain hike began at 6:30 on a December morning and ended 14 hours later [Mars asserts we were moving "briskly"]. What made me break my resolution never to do this hike again? What happened to my resolve? Laura wanted to do the Big Bunny sans backpack! [Mars, it should be noted, is a saint.]
The standard disclaimer certainly applies to this challenging route: "Warning! Mountaineering is inherently dangerous and could result in genital shrinkage [or the female equivalent], hair loss and impotence; not to mention mutilation and untimely death!" If you foolishly decide to try this route in spite of warnings, read on for an account of what's in store.
[This part is technical; skip it to get to the exciting part.] Find the Rockhouse Truck Trail on the north side of S22 about .5 miles east of the intersection where S22 goes south and Henderson Cyn Road goes west. Follow Rockhouse as it goes northeast and then northwest, bypassing [confusing] spurs to pit mines and RV parking; cross the western margin of the dry lake and continue until you are near knoll 688 on the shoulder of Coyote Mtn in section 24 of the Clark Lake topo [I thought Mars was traveling by instinct; now I learn his secret]. From there, at a bearing of about 50°, you will see two triangular cliffs in the distance [I would describe these as scars, but Mars is the expert]. Head towards the gully just beyond the second and higher cliff [scar] for about a mile of flat boring terrain.
Beyond this point, everything requires 100% attention [from at least one member of the party] 100% of the time. On the northeast side of the aforementioned gully is a ridge with a lot of dark rock. Gain this ridge one way or another and either:
a) Keep slightly to the right, staying on the ridge line -- the route we descended and found to be relatively free of rock problems [I call these challenges] and brush; or
b) Go slightly to the left, sidehill into the drainage -- which has some brush and rock -- and continue on up until you come to the ridge line. This is what we did on the outgoing trip.
Both (a) and (b) are marked by ducks, adding to the difficulty of making a sensible choice. Proceeding on, we arrived at a narrow saddle at the base of the high northeast to low southwest ridge coming off the Villager to Rabbit ridge. [This is all very arcane. Mars would say, "head for that that saddle"; and head we did. This part of the trip, leading up to the aforementioned ridge, seemed to go on forever: up and over, up and over around and back. When the ridge is at last before us, the excitement about killed me.]
A couple of hundred feet up the ridge is a rock problem -- the crux of this adventure. [I must interrupt here. Mars persists in referring to the fun part of hikes as "rock problems." I long ago gave up on persuading him that these "rock problems" are great adventures and began trying to achieve a compromise on "challenges." He won't be convinced.]
We went through an intimidating [challenging] chute on the left of the rock problem [adventure], but it might be safer [less fun] to go far right [now he's getting political] and zig-zag through the rocks. [Wimpy.] After a lot of huffing and puffing [this is one of those vertical ridges we love so well], we reached the Villager-Rabbit ridge at a couple of large ducks. [Have you noticed that ducks are only located at those points where only a ninny would need them?] At this point, we went left or northish and the adventure turns into a simple hike to the summit.
The Descent by Laura
On the return down, Mars was determined to discover a way of circumventing the fun part (a.k.a. the "rock problem"). He first attempted descending to the left of where we had come up (which would have been the right when we were ascending) but changed his mind after I loosened a few rocks that did, in fact, become problems as they tumbled down, demonstrating the principle of "angle of repose." Mars decided that the route more to the right (or left during the ascent) would be safer but took the precaution of preceding me and taking cover before I advanced.
Beyond this, the descent was uneventful as Mars focused on finding a "better way" of doing this redoubtable peak. The way he found -- while to his liking -- was, in my view, lacking in challenges beyond avoiding confrontations with chollas of which there was an overabundance. Thanks to the cholla and little rocks strewn about with no rhyme or reason, one is forced to proceed with caution which, as we all know, is really boring.
It was dark by the time we were within 3 miles of the vehicle. Do you know Mars can see in the dark? He can.
Trying to solve the mystery of Mars' decision to accompany me on a hike he swore he would never repeat, I discovered a passage in John Robinson's book on San Bernardino trails:
"[Rabbit] seems to hold a strange attraction to climbers, and there are those who return to this dry, unspectacular mount time and again."