The Trip that was Not To Be
Secret Lake, July 13 and 14
Led by Robb Anderson
Reported by John Page
I guess we should have known something was wrong when almost everyone dropped out the week before the main event. That is, everyone but Gordon Lohman, Robb Anderson, and li’l ol’ me.
I met Robb at the Denny’s at the Sand Canyon exit off Highway 14 just before 9:00 AM where we had a quick breakfast and where I was fortunate to be one of the first Desert Explorers to see the bumper/frame/winch assembly that Robb had built for his Toyota FourRunner. I was impressed by his rugged design and his workmanship in tube bending and welding.
We drove on to Jawbone Ranger Station where we met Gordon. He told us that his Bronco had indicated overheating lately and he didn’t think it should attempt the long climb up to the lake.
So then there were two.
Heading towards Bishop near Big Pine, we saw dense smoke coming off the slope to the west, not far from our final destination at Coyote Flats. Not good!
In Bishop, we went right to the Ranger Station, where the Ranger told us that the fire had started a day before during a lightning storm. Coyote Flats was still open, but the fire was heading in that general direction. No one would be able to give us any warning or look out for our safety if the fire did get to Coyote Flats. She made it pretty clear that she did not think it was a great idea to go there at that time. So we decided to scrub the trip and had lunch at Izaak Walton Park in Bishop before we separated. Robb went home and I decided to climb Wildrose Peak in Death Valley, near Telescope Peak. I had hoped to hike to aptly-named Thunder and Lightning Lake on Sunday if the trip had stayed on plan.
On my way south to Lone Pine and the turnoff to Death Valley, I stopped to take some pictures of the fire and the helicopters sucking up water from a pond near 395, then carrying it to the fire line.
Driving past Panamint Springs brought back memories of Rendezvous and good times with the Desert Explorers. Also got a good view of Wildrose and Telescope Peaks near where I was heading.
Then into Death Valleyand up Wildrose Road to Mahogany Flats where I set up camp with a good view of Death Valley (which was probably pushing 130° about then). After dark, I could see the lights of Furnace Creek. At 8133-ft altitude, the night was very comfortable.
I was packed up by 8:00 AM and drove back to the Wildrose Peak trailhead at the Charcoal Kilns (6800-ft).
It is a 4.2 mile hike from the trailhead at the Charcoal Kilns (6800-ft) to Wildrose Peak (9064-ft). The book California Hiking by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown (1997, Foghorn Press, San Francisco) gives the hike a beauty rating of Great (10 out of 10) and a difficulty rating of Moderate (3 out of 5). I guess I agree with the ratings; I know that there was some fine scenery on the way and that I was really, really happy to get to the top 3 hours after I started and that I was really, really, really happy to get back to my truck a couple of hours later with just a swallow of water left in my canteens.
Then home through the Panamint Valley, Trona, and Mojave with the air conditioner working full blast.
Another superb Desert Explorers trip!