Barbara Guerin's going to finish the list one of the days. So am I,
so are many of you, but Barbara's going to do it a bit sooner than
most of us. She's getting very very close, and Black Mountain #6 was
one of the peaks on her short list. So last Sunday, a warm and windy
day, several of us joined her and Mars Bonfire to make that short list
a peak shorter. In addition to Barbara and Mars, Winnette Butler, Mei
Kwan, Ingeborg Prochazka, Joanne Griego, and Karen Leverich met at the
Mojave McDonald's, reorganized into two 4WD high clearance vehicles,
and were off to explore some interesting locales in the region where
the Mojave and the Sierra intersect. The original goal had been a
simple one: Black Mountain #6. But Ingeborg had done some research,
discovered that Red Mountain was often paired with Black Mountain, and
sold Mars on leading us there, too. As long as we were (kind of sort of)
in the neighborhood...
I can be stubborn (ask anyone who knows me!), so when Mars told me
it was OK to pull over and stop whenever I felt uncomfortable on the
dirt road into Black Mountain, and we'd hike from there, I of course
simply held onto the steering wheel with white knuckles and followed
his dust cloud until he decided to stop. Wherever he could take that
nifty Mercedes SUV of his, surely I could take the Jeep. I hoped.
When Sandy Sperling and I climbed Fox Mountain #1
the previous day, I
had thought it a bit hot and unpleasant. Black Mountain should have
been worse -- it was hotter, and there's not a scrap of shade to be
found. The good news is that the wind is usually blowing, and as long
as it's not too strong (I suspect it's often too strong), that helps.
We went through a lot of water, but hiking at a slow careful pace got
us up across the interesting terrain -- it's a sage desert over which
black lava (the reason the mountain is called Black?) flowed in some
past century. It reminded me of some of the bleaker parts of eastern
Oregon, with a similar austere beauty. Definitely unlike any HPS peak
I have yet to visit!
But ... did Mars take us to the correct peak? Yes, there was a register
there, and yes, it claimed to be the register for Black Mountain #6. But
why a benchmark labeled El Paso? I'm not sure we should let Barbara off
the hook yet for Black Mountain #6!
Barbara already had Red Mountain, and because she was intending to do another
hike the next day, she headed back to the city. The rest of us trekked
across the desert towards the town of Red Mountain (with me muttering
a bit about how fast that Mercedes I was following was going on the
occasional straight stretch -- had its driver never heard of speed limits,
aieeeee!), where we jounced our way up another one of those obscure
desert dirt roads, parking next to an abandoned bullet-ridden vehicle
of indeterminate make and model. The last hikers to attempt this peak?
We didn't know, but were glad when Winnette (who already had Red) opted
to stay behind and guard the vehicles.
On a previous trip, Mars had found a really good way up, avoiding most of
the rock, and had ducked it carefully. In the meantime, someone has
been through and removed most or all of those ducks, so up we went, not
avoiding most of the rock. Oh well, it builds character or something,
This is one of those peaks with some intermediate summits (it seems somehow
judgemental to call them "false") along the way. One of the early ones
had a very nice pole on it, and the idea was floated that it made a much
nicer summit, and that someone should hike over, get the register, and
move it to this nifty new locale. I don't remember why we didn't do
this, persevering instead along the ridge, through a windy saddle, and
up to a rather bizarre summit. Why bizarre? Well, this summit is decorated
with turn of the century graffiti, abandoned gas tanks, and other unusual
debris. Apparently surveyors used to light a beacon here, and use it
for sightings, or whatever it is surveyors do.
It was getting late in the day, and there was some concern we'd not make
it back to the cars before dark. So we selected our own more modern
beacon, a tower with blinking lights behind the town of Red Mountain,
knowing that if we aimed for it as we came off the hill, we'd be on
target for the cars. I took more positive action, digging to the bottom
of my pack for my headlamp and shifting it to where it'd be easy to
find in a hurry, a sort of "reverse solar psychology" -- if I was headlamp
ready, I'd surely not need it, we'd surely be out before dark!
And it worked. It was only getting a bit dusky when we got back to
the cars, guided in part by a wonderful duck (Winnette atop a boulder)
on the final approach. Although after we told her the fate of all the
other ducks, she apparently decided this wasn't the career opportunity
for her. In any case, she scrambled back down and joined us as we
headed off in the gathering gloom across the desert back towards
Mojave. Another day, another peak. Or (for many of us) two...