By: Carolyn West
Bringing the D.P.S. Season to a Close with a Bang!
That's what happened at 5:30 AM Sunday May 22nd when Don Cook decided to burn trash in the 50-gallon metal drum in the courtyard of the abanoned mine headquarters buildings in Panamint City: Ka-boom! . . . . Ka-boom! The first explosion was after Wynne Benti added Kool-Aid wrappers ant the second after Don stirred the fire. Some preceding trickster had put blasting caps in the barrel which--loaded with black powder--made quite an explosion when ignited and debris was scattered all about.
Needless to say, all 6 hikers were ready to head up Magazine Canyon for Sentinel promptly at 6 AM. The early departure was designed to get us back to Panamint City as early as possible to start the 5+ mile backpack, into 100° temperatures, down to our vehicles at Chris Wicht Camp, After 3 hours of steep climbing (3000' gain, 2 miles) we were on the summit. About 20 minutes later we started the descent, returning to Panamint City in 2 hours via a similar route, but staying a bit longer atop the ridge just west of Magazine Canyon.
On Saturday the 6 of us met at the Ballarat Rd. turn-off from Hwy. 178 (21 miles north of Trona).. After preliminaries we drove the 3 vehicles up to Chris Wicht Camp. We talked to George Novak and gave him some fruits, vegetables, and a 6-pack of cold beer. Stovepipe (the cat) had disappeared and Rock (who had worked at Panamint prior to the '84 flood) was off to mining work around Tuba City. At 7 AM George went into the house to enjoy his pancakes before they got cold and beer before it got hot and we started up Surprise Canyon! Terry Munhall insisted on carrying several gallons of water-for the exercise--but, was our strongest hiker for the 5+ miles and 4000' of gain to Panamint City.
Enroute we stopped at Limekiln Spring, Brewery Spring, and again past Marvel Canyon just at the point where the towering old red brick smelter chimney becomes visible. We were in the middle of town (near the water pump at the northwest corner of the workshed) just after 11 AM. It was getting quite hot. After a bite to eat, Ron Young, Don Cook, and I went on to check out Thompson- Camp and prospective routes to Sentinel. Thompson' s did not appear to have much to offers the buildings and beds at Panamint had more appeal than the one shack at Thompson's. The "faucet water" definitely had more appeal than the shallow stream running through Thompson' s that originates from a spring that is a partially-dammed lily-pad swamp and mud hole. (Most of us did put iodine in our water,) Ron started up the road that winds up a steep hill toward a mine while Don took a rest on the shack porch. The hill is a great vantage point for observing Sentinel and the routes for getting there.
The balance of the afternoon was spent back at Panamint sleeping, eating, and exploring the old buildings and mine tunnels. A lot of the stuff that was abandoned in '84 is still there, mine records, photos, books, clothes, boots, furniture, trucks, now date-expired TV dinners, and cases of dynamite behind a metal door marked "danger, explosives," (The latter has been reported to the Inyo Co, Sheriff who reportedly said something about the area being closed?) Well, Don brought the latest Louis Lamour novel and Julie King read an old pop-psyc paperback found on the porch of the main house. She got the tuna and noodles prepared that the ladies had for supper, eating out of the dishes in the kitchen.
An assortment of mosquitoes and other insects started attacking us after dark, I'm glad I had my head-net so I could sleep, Terry slept away from the buildings, but was still bitten up. When departing I observed a giant black millipede crawl under the bed where I slept....over the floor where Wynne slept (tried to). Heat and avoiding dehydration were the biggest problems on this trip, Would you believe that a month before a snow storm went through? (I postponed the trip then with 20 people signed up.) We had a good time and made the hike out in 3 hours. After a thank you to George for watching the cars, we left (about 3:30 PM). All but Terry stooped at the Rose Restaurant at the north edge of Trona for an early dinner. Thanks to the participants and to Wynne for being assistant on this trip I needed for my "I" rating.
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