Rabbit Peak, Villager Peak
6-Feb-96 (Private trip)
By: John McCully
The best desert "urban tale" I have heard involves a guy who used to be quite active in peakbagging stuff. I haven't seen the colorful character in almost 10 years and as the story I'm about to relate is probably fourth or fifth hand I'm going to leave our hero unamed. Perhaps 30 years ago he was backpacking Villager/Rabbit alone and felt a serious nature call in the middle of the night. After taking care of his business he couldn't find his way back to the tent and he was still unable to locate the tent after the sun came up. Dressed only in his boots he walked down to the road and hitched a ride back to LA on the back of a motorcycle. After an unsuccessful hiking attempt to find his tent the next weekend he finally located it two weeks after losing it by using a friends airplane. The airplane part of the story rings true, ever noticed how guys that own planes are always looking for any excuse to take the thing out and fly it. Anyway, I had reason to recall this story when Rich Henke and I did Rabbit.
Villager/Rabbit is often done by the HPS by walking five miles up a ridge from the South, a 20 mile r.t. This route can be shortened to 14 miles r.t. with 7000' of gain by going straight up the side of Villager from Clark Well, running the ridge over to Rabbit and using route B in the Peaks Guide to get back to the car, thus making a fairly interesting loop of Rabbit/Villager. As a day hike it takes 12 or 13 hours and I've usually preferred this way of doing Rabbit as Villager gets included in about the same amount of time that it takes do Rabbit from the Salton Sea side. Rich was interested in trying this as a backpack and so we started walking after 1 PM, gaining about 4,000 feet before dark.
In the middle of the night I felt a major call of nature so I pulled on my boots and wandered down the side of the ridge, and sure enough I couldn't find my way back to camp. At this point I remembered the guy 30 years ago standing by the road dressed as I was. Rather than keep looking and perhaps getting out of Rich's hearing I shouted his name a couple of time, waking him and thus finding my way back to camp. He was in a direction that I wasn't expecting. Good thing I wasn't alone. But then I suppose if I'd been alone I wouldn't have gone so far from camp to do my business.
We didn't get started the next morning until almost 7, not hearing the tiny alarm on the watch, and after bagging Villager topped out on Rabbit about 10:30. On the way down we tried to find the airplane that is on one of the ridges south of Rabbit. I haven't seen this airplane for over ten years, but it used to be relatively unpicked over. Steve Smith has seen this plane several times and has heard that it disappeared during WWII and wasn't discovered until 1957. We got back to the car just before 4, where we found a $39 ticket on the windshield! I talked on the phone to the ranger who wrote the ticket and he said that the road through Clark Lake has been closed since 1988. There were quite a few signs on each side of the road saying that the area was closed to vehicles, but none in the middle of the road such as one usually sees them when an area is closed. The ranger explained that they can't put the signs in the middle of the road because of the fella that lives about a quarter of a mile from Clark Well. The ranger said he couldn't prevent someone from striking a deal to park on this fellas property, but didn't express an opinion as to whether the guy would be amiable to such a suggestion. Based on the number of private property signs surrounding the guys I reckon he might be suspicious of someone who offered him ten bucks to park on his land. Unless a deal can be struck with the private property owner it appears that Route B in the peaks guide is no longer viable unless one is willing to absorb the $39 ticket as part of the cost of the hike.
The road going over to Rockhouse Canyon continues to be open, and perhaps it would be safer to avoid getting ticketed by doing Rabbit and/or Villager from that road. Wes Shulberg wrote up doing Rabbit from this road in the November 1995 SAGE, page 22. Wes's route should probably become Route B in the peaks guide.
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