Chuckwalla Mountains, Black Butte, Eagle Mountains #1
By: Dale van Dalsem
26 assembled at 6:30 at the junction of the Chuckwalla Springs Rd, 5.8 mi S of pavement on the Graham Pass Rd. We drove another 10.2 mi (16.0 total from pavement) through Graham Pass to a r3ghtturn marked by a barrel. This point is .3 mi short of the C081/SP3OI Junction shown as 'BM 1649'on the Chuckwalla Spring 1953 15' topo. We drove NW on a faint dirt road & parked at the 1880' closed contour midway between 2103 & 2136, 1.7 mi off the main road. All cars can make it this far. We walked up the last few hundred feet of dirt road, ascended the SW gully, then the S ridge to summit about an hour from the cars, the tail end 1 hour later. Windy but clear and not cold. 25 people, 3hrs r.t., 1600 gain, 23 mi r.t.
Back to the Graham Pass Rd & west on the Bradshaw Rd, not shown on the Auto Club Riverside City or Imperial City Maps, probably because it skirts the northern boundary of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range - or maybe because of the sand trap, the crux of the trip: Starting at 5.5 mi from the junction at 'BM 1649', there's a .3 mi stretch of soft sand, O.K. if one keeps momentum and RPM's up. Our 8th vehicle of 11 lost momentum, got stuck, so the 9th & 10th did too. No problem, one car made it with a push, Bob Watson's 4WD towed one van and Dale's 4WD towed a pickup & we were out.
The turnoff to Black Butte is difficult to find; its shown as a 4WD track to 'Gulliday Well' on the Chuckwalla Mountains 1963 15' topo. It is about 8.5 mi past the last of the soft sand and about 30.9 mi from pavement, or 19.4 mi from I-10, coming from the west. It is exactly .14 mi east of a cement slab floor some 20 yds south of the Bradshaw Road. The turnoff is marked by a small rock cairn and is a few feet east of a dip in the road for a wash. This road forks 2.5 mi N of the Bradshaw Rd. We continued straight to a point where cars start to bag down in a wash, about 3.2 mi. in. If one turns right at the 2.5 mi fork, the road goes east through a couple of washes, then joins another, parallel, northbound road, that goes closer to the peak by at least half a mile. High clearance or short wheel base required on this one. This is probably the 'jeep road' that passes the site of Gulliday Well on the topo, approaching from the southeast. One can easily drive over .5 mi N of the well site on this road. We hiked up the SW canyon & left the canyon at about 3800' & took a rib up to the right which topped out at the summit. Nice views, and some fun slab waterfalls in the canyon. Coming down, we hedged south on the gentle ridge to the first saddle, then west into the canyon, down and out. Total time about 4 hrs r.t. (31/4 if you take the right fork at 2.5 in!)., 1700 gain, 4 mi r.t., 24. people, sunny, warm.
Back to the Bradshaw Rd at about 5 P.M., sundown, then west 7.4 mi. & turn right at the 4-way dirt road junction with the north-south gas line road (easily seen because it has a phone line above it). We camped a mile or two south of the junction with the Red Cloud Mine Rd & had one of the finest nights we've seen on the desert: a half moon, no wind, and warm enough to have an occasional mosquito. A warm friendly campfire & plenty of libations & snacks.
Sunday we drove 2-3 miles past the Cottonwood Visitor Center & parked on the edge of the Pinto Basin Pd, then walked on a heading of 120° across the desert floor toward Eagle. We went to the left of the prominent ridge & SE up the canyon, taking the largest fork at each confluence, then left at a fork of two equal gullies near the top. We headed east and southeast with some contouring & some up & down to a large, northward-draining saddle, then to the south side of the ridge & east to the summit hillock with one false summit & 16 signed in & had lunch and enjoyed superb views of everything from Kofa to San J & San G. The day was slightly marred by a poor decision on the leader's part: we dropped down, north from the aforementioned saddle just west of the summit, then had a long hike on the desert floor to skirt the peak. 3 hrs up, 1/2 hr on top, 31/2 hrs down, cars at 4; could have been cars at 3 PM., 10 mi r.t., 2300 gain.
P.S. Thanks to McCosker & R. Jones for informative & inspirational Sage write-ups which were indispensable in planning this trip.
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