White Mountains Traverse
August 23-24, 2008
By Nan Savage
We set out from downtown Benton Saturday with a forecast for possible thundershowers in Nevada, where we were headed, but had no trouble,we were together and watcbful of the conditions. The original town of Benton is the location of the hot springs where the early Native Americans stopped. The hot springs do not contain sulphur; hence, they are especially clean and refreshing. Joining us for the journey were Ron Lipari, Mike Vollmert, Dick Brazier, George Gilster, Graham "Coop" Cooper, Bob Younger, Bob Jacoby and Nan Savage.
We headed north up Highway 6 for a few miles before turning onto dirt. Our first stops were two mining sites, Albert Mine and Spor Mine at approximately 8,000 feet The cabins there were pretty much intact. One was built of stone with good craftsmanship - tight placement of the stones under a solid wood shingle roof.
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The miners bad built an outhouse with a charming wooden cupola, quite decorative and functional .in that the second roof was not only attractive, but also kept out the inclement weather and provided welcome .fresh air - an ingenious design. From here we could see the mountain we would be ascending via its winding, extensive switchback trial . But on the way through the thick brush in Queen Canyon where trees hug and overhang the road, some wayward branches made mincemeat of my antennae. The group gleefully announced that from then on they could say anything about me and I wouldn't know! However, I responded that I would have my revenge in the trip report! We proceeded up .toward Boundary Peak where the views at the crest cannot be adequately described for their remarkable elegance; they are magnificent. We could see range after range stretching across the Great Basin of Nevada on one side and the entire stretch of the Owens Valley ofC a Ii f o r n i a capped by the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the other. Wewere indeed on the border of two states and two regions, hence, the name Boundary Peak. We could see the distinctive geography usually in front of us, as if from arial photograph; seeing enormous distances Jn both directions, we stood at top of the world Two vehicles were parked at the crest when we arrived, but we saw no one, andsurmised they were making the hike tothe top of Boundary Peak Prom here wedescended the mountain on the otherside. Author Boger Mitchell warns it is asteep descent rated at Class IV out of VI.We thought it looked like a Class III , but just in case, one of the members suggested: we take a moment to see if ourwills were intact. The descent was indeedchallenging, but very doable. At the bottomone member remarked, "That definitelywas worth the price of admission."At the bottom we were greeted by asurprise small lake fed by a local spring,a hidden oasis Jn the dryness of Nevada. Coop's dog, Toby, immediately lunged in,cooling us off with bis shaking spray ashe retrieved stick aft.er stick with hisbeaming ''I-am-a-happy-dog" and "thisis-why-I-4-wheel drive" smile. At the lakewe ran into a family who had come up tofish in two-wheel drive Pontiac, so weknew the rest of the way would be mucheasier; we figured we could dispense with 4-wheel low. We stopped at the B &B Mine site, a once quite extensivecinnabar, the main ore for mercury operationbeginning in the late 1920's. Whilethe men admired the abandoned mining equipment, I soaked in more of the view. From the B & B Mine we descended the White Mountains. Home again in Benton, some of us relaxed, soaked in the local hot tubs, and anticipated dinner at the only facility in Benton, a combination general store, café , gas station, and post office, where the special of the day was tacos made with Indian fry bread. We had a very good dinner as the group got to know each other better and shared travel stories. Those of us who stayed at the bed and breakfast at Benton Hot Springs enjoyed the company of two little kittens who pranced Jn and out of our rooms, disappearing behind furniture and reappearing on top of dressers. They stayed in each room for only a minute, because they found a newer-ending array of adventures at the inn. The facility is very nice, decorated with rustic antiques and charming overhanging plants. We were treated to an excellent break. fast the following morning and were ready to begin the day. Caravanning to the old Montgomery Pass casino, we found it long ago boarded up and abandoned. However, in its earlier days the long row of now dilapidated bungalows had a purpose they posted red lamps at their doors. A pinon pine forest took us up again to a location with spectacular views again on all sides. We learned that there are wild horses in the area and we saw evidence of them. Then we traveled up a side road up to a transmitting tower generated by solar electricity located at over 10,000 feet Bob Younger spotted an antenna attached to the giant transmitter and suggested that I use it for my CB, but then we thought better of it. We returned to the .main road to continue the ascent to Mustang Point, where Toby dug up every rock in sight and several scrub bushes to boot After Mustang Point we headed for Goldhit Mine, but found that the road disintegrated into reeds and overgrown brush in Pinchot Creek. We decided to go back and take the other road to the mine, but it, too, was poor, proving to get rougher as we went along. Bob Jacoby and Dick Brazier scouted ahead on foot and said the road improved, but we were not sure if it actually would take us out It would be a gamble. A group vote was taken to tum back or continue. The group decided to proceed. The road required close attention, but dropped ns out at a well-appointed cabin stocked with supplies and a good roof. It was a deer-hunting cabin, a good sign that the exit road would be passable. People had stayed over in the cabin just a few weeks earlier. In the welcome cool of the cabin, we enjoyed lunch, feeling a bond from having been in a -semi-unexplored area ans having come out of it well as a team.
From here it was an easy yet continuously scenic journey back to the main road. We all said our good~byes at the highway near Basalt Junction and thanked Bob Jacoby for such a fine trip which he researched with diligence and precision. Well done!