Granite Mountain #2, Palen Mountains
By: Dennis Richards
In my trip information that was sent out prior to this trip, I emphasized to the participants that road conditions for these two peaks were some of the more difficult on the list. I remembered that in 1992 ( Granite #2 ), I could not drive more than 1/2 mile on Route A into Packard Well, even in 4WD. I did both peaks from the West in the early 90's and encountered the notorious deep sand from that direction. For this reason, and because the drive for me was shorter from San Diego, I choose the eastern approach, via Blythe, CA. Participants were encouraged to have the latest version of the Riverside County AAA road map, which turned out to be very accurate for this region.
I told everyone that I would be camping on Friday night along the Arlington Mine Road, about .4 miles up the road to the Superior Gypsum Mine at the junction shown on the AAA map. Karen Boyd and I arrived there after 11:00 PM and found one other car already there. This area can accommodate several vehicles and has a small fire ring.
We got up shortly after sunrise to make breakfast and saw Patty Rambert and Ron Hudson camped next to the other car. Shortly, we were joined by Gloria Miladin and Patricia Arrendondo. We saw Phil Reher drive by on the way to our meeting place, the Route A turnoff into Packard Well.
We caravaned up to the turnoff, dropping Patty's Subaru Outback along the road rather than subject it to a rough dry wash crossing. We collected Phil and started the drive into Packard Well. We soon had to leave Gloria's Toyota RAV also as it did not have 4WD or the necessary high ground clearance. We packed everyone into my and Phil's 4WD trucks and continued on. The road had some additional rough spots but was in rather good condition overall. A 4 WD is necessary to drive it. We drove right past the Route A parking spot shown in the DPS Road & Peaks Guide, all the way to the wilderness boundary sign at Packard Well.
After introductions, we set out for the wide canyon that marks the start of the climb of Granite #2. Right after we entered it, I was not paying attention and got us started up the right fork instead of the correct left fork. This became apparent after we were high up and topped out on a ridge. We followed the ridge line on up to the left side of point 1194 meters on the map. From here we traversed over to Granite #2. It went OK but this "diversion" took an additional hour or so to get the peak. We spent a leisurely half hour or so going through the registers, eating and enjoying the views.
We left the summit and descended Route B, the steep ridge line, and followed it down to a low spot where we dropped back into the correct wash that I had missed on the way up. En route, we stopped to observe a very large tarantula. We also heard a voice and looked back up to see someone standing on the summit high above us. We suspected it to be Shane Smith who had left a message that he would be late joining us. We continued on to the trucks, packed up and started to drive out when we spotted Steve Smith waiting for Shane to get back. We gave him our camping spot location and continued the drive out, hoping to get to open country to observe the total eclipse of the moon. We dropped Gloria and Patricia off at their vehicle and continued driving out to the Palen Pass Road.
The fun started at this point. Gloria could not get her car out of the dry wash that we had crossed on the way in and she also had a flat tire. I turned my truck around facing her vehicle and pulled her up and out of the wash onto the firmer road with my long tow line. We changed her tire and got a good view of the total eclipse while doing so. It got very dark. Patty and Ron returned to Patty's Subaru and we all drove to the turn-off for Palen Mountain I stopped and got out of my truck for a look at my GPS to verify that we were at the right spot. I heard an ominous sound and discovered that Gloria's vehicle had a second flat tire!
We found a wide spot for several cars about 100 yards down the road to Palen and set up camp. We would deal with the flat tire later! We were soon joined by Steve and Shane. We set up two tables and packed them with the usual DPS hors d'oeuvres , wine, beer etc. I do not think that anyone cooked dinner after grazing over the various items that stocked the tables. We picked a spot near the tables and started a small fire. Soon everyone was sitting around it, talking, laughing and getting better aquatinted. Tall tales were told and plans were made for future trips.
Sunday morning arrived and we discovered a new guest parked nearby. It was Brian Smith who needed only Palen Mountain He had arrived late at night after our retirement. During breakfast, Phil decided to drive Gloria into Blythe to get her tires fixed. Phil needed Palen, but this sacrifice on his part freed the rest of us up to do Palen as scheduled. We saw Phil and Gloria off, packed up the vehicles and set off for Palen ahead of schedule. The road into Palen was in good condition with only a couple of dicey spots. I drove the whole way in 2 WD. We actually drove right past the 2 WD parking area as shown in the Guide to a wide parking area near the wide wash shown on the topo. We opted to go up Route C, the steep canyon. When we topped out on the ridge and turned to the summit area, we found several pieces of wire and old decayed batteries that the Army had used in their training to prepare for the invasion of North Africa during WW II. Ron was soon on the summit and was joined by the rest shortly. Steve climbed to the lower southern summit for a picture and discovered a large rattlesnake very close to where he had set his pack down. We signed in ( not a lot of people do these peaks ), enjoyed the views and took the required summit photos.
We took Route B back down, a steep rocky ridge. We passed over the southern summit and stopped on the way to admire "Steve's" rattlesnake. It was much larger than any I had ever seen on a DPS peak, with the exception of a large "Mojave Green" that Mark Adrian and I got very close to on Old Woman in the early nineties. The steep descent was tedious but it soon lessened. We eventually dropped into the canyon that carried us back to the vehicles. We unpacked left over food from the night before and had an impromptu party right there on the ground.
Reluctantly , we packed up and drove out to meet Phil and Gloria where we had left them. Gloria had gotten one tire fixed and had to buy another one for $30, so the financial damage was minimal. We said our farewells here and left for the long drive home.
Thanks to Patty Rambert for stepping in to assist on late notice to keep this trip on track. Thanks to all participants for making this a memorable, safe outing.
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