New York Butte, Pleasant Point
By: Karen Leonard
We met at the Lone Pine Ranger Station at 6 am on Saturday, Oct. 8, and since notice of the trip had been so short (the Sage announcing it arrived barely a week ahead of the trip), I was uncertain about participants. Only one 4WD vehicle was expected, that of Jim Farkas with whom Maris Valkass and I rode; Bob Sumner, the other expcected participant, was waiting at 6 am with his 2WD. The decision on how to climb the peaks depended on the vehicles which showed up. Richard Carey of San Diego had given me a detailed report on the Cerro Gordo dirt road as of Sept. 9, 1988, indicating that driving in meant going up some very steep, rough places where other vehicles had tipped over recently, and others said the Swansea road was worse; I had decided not to try either dirt road with only one 4WD vehicle. So we abandoned the possibility of doing both peaks In one day and were about to set out for our long hard 5900' climb of NY Butte from Long John Canyon. But suddenly a tune rang out in the darkness and Randy Bernard and Carolyn West drove up in Randy's 4WD, ready and willing to drive the Swansea road in to NY Butte and even try going out the Cerro Gordo road after doing Pleasant from the north. Regretfully we decided to pass up the joy of climbing NY Butte from the bottom, and since we now had time we went for a hot breakfast at Bobo's Bonanza. This decision proved lucky for Ron Leach, who had overslept and missed the rendevous; cruising through town later he saw Randy's distinctive DPS sparewheel cover and found us at breakfast.
We left the 2WD cars at Keeler about 7:30 and drove in the Swansea road just north of Lone Pine without any problems. We saw deer hunters often; several were camped at the end of the road below NY Butte. Unwilling to sacrifice elevation to follow the poor dirt road just west of road's end which leads Into the good trail winding up to the summit, we cut across and up more directly and followed use trails or no trail most of the way, hitting the good trail just before turning east up to the peak. A beautiful day and great views of the Sierras across from us. Coming back, we followed the good trail most of the way, cutting down to our cars just at the end (an hour up and less back). We ate an early lunch before hitting the road once again for Pleasant and the Cerro Gordo Mine, and then we stopped at the tramway ruins to wander around this Impressive structure which once hauled salt up and out from the Saline Valley. We parked just north of Pleasant to walk the ridge up some 1000' to the top and back down again, again rewarded by clear sun, brisk breezes, and wonderful views; this exercise over, we set out at about 2:30 pm on the most challenging part of the day, the drive out to Cerro Gordo Mine. This drive offered ample opportunity for Jim Farkas to demonstrate that he was a new, relatively inexperienced 4WD driver; fortunately he failed to demonstrate this, although a rock did get stuck In his drive shaft on the way out, causing a halt until Carolyn located the problem and Maris knocked It out. We stopped again at the Cerro Gordo Mine to look around and again when we reached the cars, sharing some of the goodies brought for the Saturday night campfire each time. Most of us drove on home then, although Randy and Carolyn went off to the annual Bodypainting Contest at the Saline Hot Springs, promising photos for the Sage of this unusual event. Many thanks to the participants for a relaxing day of dirt road driving and pleasurable hiking. Special thanks to the two 4WD drivers, Jim and Randy, who made it possible to do the trip this way, and to Maris for assisting me.
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