Porter Peak, Telescope Peak
By: Wynne Benti
Originally scheduled for Boundary and Montgomery, the massive amount of snow still present on those peaks at the end of May made it impossible for me to lead them for my "I" experience trip. Instead, I opted for Porter, Telescope and possibly Sentinel depending on how far we could get up Pleasant Canyon in 2-wheel drive vehicles.
This trip was eventful in every way but actual peak-bagging. Our first night prior to meeting the other trip participants, was spent perched upon a rocky slope overlooking the ghost town of Ballarat and a calvacade of RV's and ATC's camped on the town's perimeter. Around 11pm, we were entertained by a massive fireworks display courtesy the RV camp. At midnight, beneath the light of the full moon, at least 25 assorted ATC's fired up their engines and converted the great expanse of the Panamint Valley into something that resembled Ascot motor speedway.
Dawn arrived much too early the next morning. Regardless, we met our other trip participants early Saturday morning amidst the adobe ruins and abandoned cars in Ballarat. We drove our 2-wheel drive vehicles up Pleasant Canyon to about the 2,000' mark. We found out later, that this part of the road is usually maintained by Frenchy, the prospector who has lived in Clair Camp for the past fifty or so years. He has spent a lot of time building up the road only to find later that the ATC's tear it up faster than he can maintain it. This part of the road is passable however, with 4-wheel drives, dune buggies and motorcycles. Once past this spot, the road is smooth and wonderful all the way up to within a mile of Porter. For us, walking meant about 19 miles and 7100' of gain, diminishing chances of getting Sentinel as well.
I do recommend stopping at Clair Camp and talking with Frenchy. He has some good stories to tell about the BLM and what seems to be his never ending battle with them. He did tell us that with the push to reinstate the Nelson Bighorn back into Pleasant Canyon, the burro population is quickly being eliminated, not necessarily in the most humane manner. He has found many burros wounded by rifle fire and left to die. He also noted that the mountain lions, which once fed on the immense burro population, now target the few Bighorns reinstated into the area.
In Stone Corral about two miles above Clair Camp, is the source of a natural bubbling spring, tapped by the 19th century miners and now Frenchy's primary water source. Frenchy is in the process of filing a lawsuit to keep the Forest Service from pulling out his access to this spring. Frenchy and the relics of 19th century miners seem to be as much a part of this history as do the Nelson Bighorn. Interesting stuff happening in those lone desert canyons.
Sunday was cool, making the hike up Telescope from Mahogany Flats quick and pleasant. All in all, the weekend was a success. Thank you Desert Peaks Section for putting Porter on the list.
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