From Bishop, the long train of vehicles traversed easterly, slowly climbing the narrow dirt road up Silver Canyon, stopping several times for foto opportunities of the gorgeous valley view beneath. Miguel had forgotten to put the transfer case in four wheel drive so his transmission overheated on the crawl up the mountainside. He and Phyllis caught up with the group at the top where we had meandered again, in awe of the spectacular view before us.
We toured the University of California's Barcroft Facility of the White Mountain Research Station and lunched in the parking lot while waiting for David Romspert to trek White Mountain Peak. Many were surprised to see bags of potato chips inflated to their bursting point as a result of the 12,470 feet altitude. (Under certain circumstances, Part 91.211 of the Federal Aviation Regulations requires supplemental oxygen to be provided to crew members while an aircraft is operating above 12,500 feet. Thirty more feet and our Trip Leader would have had to give us CPR!)
Our next stop was Crooked Creek Station at 10,150 feet where we were impressed, less with the beauty of the area, and more with the gold-plated toilet handles in the rest rooms. Vic Antonivich left the group to continue his journey home.
The rest of us went on to Cottonwood Creek, a lovely grassy valley consisting of three foot high grass and weeds which were rather well soaked with moisture. This condition forced us to crowd our portable dinner tables dead center in the middle of the narrow dirt road. Our sumptuous potluck dinner and conversation sprinkled with much laughter was interrupted by a truck demanding to pass despite our obvious temporary claim to the road.
As we huddled around the camp fire that evening, each of us returned to our vehicles periodically to don additional layering of wools under our winter coats and whatever other clothing we could muster up. My, it was getting cold! Ken announced he wasn’t shy and asked if anyone had extra blankets to spare to cover his sleeping bag. Several were generously volunteered. It was one of the more frigid evenings the Desert Explorers have spent in the wild. There was talk it got down to just over 20 degrees that night.
Despite a brisk Sunday morning, several of us took a delightful side trip to visit a couple of abandoned but habitable-if-you’re-in-a-pinch cabins in the near area.
Leaving Cottonwood Creek, we came upon a particularly difficult and banked sharp right turn in the road. Having turned over in her vehicle fairly recently in Anza Borrego, Reda stopped cold for several minutes. Ken, three time USA Camel Trophy participant (the Olympics of four wheeling), encouraged and instructed Reda on precisely where to place her wheels while making the turn. She was then able to move smoothly through the maneuver. John, unfortunately, wasn’t as lucky, and nearly went over the embankment.
We stopped for Matt Westlake to pump up a tire that had gotten low from a loose valve core leak. Later, Homer Meek and family, with Bill Ott as backup, left the group to seek mechanical help in freeing Homer’s GMC from being locked in four wheel low range.
The remaining vehicles proceeded to Patriarch Grove. Bob Meador and Nonie DeSurra climbed a ridge and had lunch while everyone else proceeded to Schulman Grove. We ended the trip by visiting a wonderful display of Ansel Adams’ black and white photographs of the area at the Museum in Independence, disbanding there to dream about seeing our friends at the next Desert Explorers adventure.