By: Bob Michael
Some of the finest country in our desert is the highlands between the Mid Hills and the McCullough Range with the New Yorks at the center, with its Joshua forests and groves of yucca and juniper. Far enough from both LA and Vegas to still have a nice outback vibe. Here in the Castle Mountains on the furthest eastern borderland of California rises a dramatic, steep turret of a peak which -is rather reminiscent of Mopah, both visually and geologically. Andy Zdon in Desert Summits (p. 301) says of Hart Peak: "This sharp, volcanic peak is one of the more interesting in appearance within the region. Only sparse information is available on this peak."
Intrigued by this hint of terra incognita, Vegas George Quinn and I checked this butte out after a night of trainspotting at the Nipton Hotel. From the Nipton Road, we took the Ivanpah Road over the pass east of New York Mountain into the Lanfair Valley. Just south of the pass summit, the excellent, graded Hart Mine Road turns off to the east. The roads have been completely redone since the 7.5' "Hart Peak" topo was compiled; just stay on the "main drag" past the Hart Mine and soon the unmistakable triangular crag of Hart Peak looms ahead to the east. We pulled off the road onto a poor, marginal 4WD road at about 4430' (1350m). One could drive this road further in, but it's really not necessary in the desert. It dates back half a century and has the names of most of the pioneers of Desert Peaking -- Andy Smatko, Tom and Trudie Hunt, Bill and Marge Henderson, Ed Lane, Arkel Erb, Graham Stephenson, etc. Ours was the first entry in over three years. At least one other geologist made it to the top; one of the register pages is a beautifully drawn, detailed geologic cross section through the peak (a rhyolitic intrusive plug) and its surroundings.
On our descent, we short-cut by heading down a broad chute on the SW flank marked by a big yellow exposure of volcanic tuff. We left the area via the eastern extension of the Hart Mine Road, which passes the Walking Box Ranch (Clara Bow's one-time hideout) and joins Nevada Highway 68 a few miles east of the pass between Searchlight and Nipton at the south end of the McCulloughs. Cold Pilsner Urquells on the front patio of the Nipton Hotel capped another perfect day in our arid Paradise.
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