Rondy Inbound Trip to Coso Mountains
By Bob Jacoby
A group of seven of us met on Friday April 6 near Red Hill in Inyo County to begin the Rondy weekend with an inbound tour of the Coso Mountains. Our group consisted of myself, Leonard and Rebecca Friedman, Craig Baker, Bill Powell, and Ron and Barbara Midlikoski. It was a nice day and we all were anxious to kick off the Rondy weekend.
The Coso Range is situated on the east side of the Owens Valley at its southern end. The mountains are volcanic in nature with considerable geothermal activity. They are also a key source of pumice which is used as a cleaner.
Most of the range is within the boundaries of the China Lake Naval Air Station. We designed our excursion to explore the area that is not within the boundaries and is open to the public.
We headed north on 395 and turned east on a paved road about five miles north of Red Hill. After following this road east for several miles we came upon a high standard dirt road that headed north into a pumice mining area. There were some active mines nearby but we managed to find an abandoned mine at the end of a side road. Some research indicated that this site was mined in the 1960’s by Desert Materials Corporation of Los Angeles. At this site there were layers of white ash that were once shot out of a nearby volcano.
We traversed back to the well graded dirt, used by mining trucks today, and followed the road another couple of miles until we came to a much more obscure side road to the west. This scenic road took us to a beautiful Joshua Tree Forest which appears on the map as McCloud Flat. This beautiful scenery also included some wild flowers in bloom.
As we left McCloud Flat road the road continued to deteriorate and it was soon time to engage four wheel drive as we traversed a moderate sized playa. We then descended down into a steep canyon which immediately got everyone’s full attention. Everybody made it fine down the steep road where we came to a tiny cabin near the area of what on the map was called the Jack Henry Mine.
We stopped and explored the cabin and the mine remnants and really enjoyed the scenery and the great weather. After leaving the mine we continued down the canyon into an area identified as Cactus Flat. This was another Joshua Tree Forest and also quite a beautiful area.
As we continued heading west we encountered several more active pumice mines. It wasn’t long before the Haiwee Reservoir came into view in the distance. The Reservoir was
created in 1913 as a result of dam that was part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct System. Beyond the reservoir we encountered a ranch that was growing alfalfa.
It wasn’t long before we hit pavement and we eventually arrived back at 395 near Olancha. By that time we were all ready to head back to Ridgecrest to enjoy the Friday evening pot luck. We all agreed that the Rondy was off to a good start with this off the beaten path tour of the Coso Mountains. ~ Bob