Eastern Sierra Canyons
By Bob Jacoby
I have taken dozens of trips through the years on Highway 395 traversing the Indian Wells Valley. On all these trips I noticed several canyons in the distance to the west in the Eastern Sierra. For a long time I wanted to visit these canyons and since the Rondy was in Ridgecrest this year, an exploratory trip to this area was most appropriate.
Our large group met at the Ridgecrest Fairgrounds on Saturday morning (4/7) of the Rondy weekend. The group consisted of the following individuals: Ellen Miller, Barbara and Ken Midlikoski, Bill Powell, Terry and Eileen Ogden, Leonard and Rebecca Freidman, Joan and Ted Berger, Jim Watson, Dave Burdick, Larry Boerio, Peter and Janet Austin, David and Lois Hess, Ken and Jill Eltritch, Frederick Raab, Bill and Julie Smith, Marian and Neal Johns , Steven and Sally Falstitch plus Yours Truly and the incredible Bill Powell. (If I left anyone out, my apologies.) Even though this was a large group everything worked out well as we were able to carpool to reduce the number of vehicles. It was a cool morning and the weather to the west looked threatening, but we intrepidly headed west toward the Sierras.
Our initial destination appeared on the map as Cow Heaven Canyon. The farther west we went into this beautiful canyon the worse the road became, but it was all very doable. As we progressed up the canyon, we noted Kiavah Wilderness signs of both sides of the road. This area was designated as wilderness as part of the California Desert Protection Act passed in 1994. This canyon is an area where the the Pinon Pines of the Sierras. All in all, it was very picturesque. We soon hit the end of the road at another wilderness boundary. We were forced to do a turn around and headed back down canyon to the north/south dirt road at the base of the Sierras. This road would take us to the turnoff to Sage Canyon which was next on our list.
The first thing we noticed as we started up the fairly rugged Sage Canyon Road was considerable greenery including the sudden appearance of willows. This is a pretty good indicator that there is water near the surface. The farther west we went on this road, the steeper it got. The more difficult it became and the worse the weather became as it began to rain. The rain soon became a downpour and we made the decision to turn around and head back before the mud would make things very difficult. It wasn't easy doing a turnaround with this many cars, but we accomplished the task with little problem and headed back down Sage Canyon. At the mouth of Sage Canyon we visited an old stone cabin which we missed on the way up.
Because of the continuation of threatening weather, we decided not to visit the next canyon south (Horse Canyon) and determined the best decision was to head back to Ridgecrest. Nevertheless this was a fun and interesting outing as far as we got and even though the weather forced us to cut the trip short, it actually added to the overall experience.
Our fun group then headed back on desert dirt roads toward Ridgecrest and the BBQ catered dinner that awaited us. We may do a Desert Explorer trip again to this area when the weather forecast is right. ~ Bob
Photos: Julie Smith, Bob Jacoby & Barbara Midlikowski