Sandy Point, Last Chance Mountain
By: Igor Mamedalin
Waking up in the middle of the night at the Aberdeen BLM Campground off 395 with raindrops in your face does not forebode a propitious fall outing. Dawn bristling with black clouds over the Sierra and the Owens Valley and a persistent drizzle dampening the sage makes one wonder whether it ever rains in the desert. Will anyone show? Will we have to cancel this outing once again as a result of inclement weather? As we drove north to the planned rendezvous at the Country Kitchen in Big Mine portentous signs loomed over the eastern horizon -- clouds were parting over the Inyo's and the sun's morning rays pierced and illuminated the ominous black clouds over the Sierra. Sixteen people gathered at the Country Kitchen in Big Pine eating breakfast and preparing for the journey over the Inyo's and past Eureka Valley to the land where the sun always shines.
Leaving the clouds behind us we descended into Eureka Valley looking forward to a sunny and dry weekend in the desert. No other soul or vehicle in the valley. Climbing over the Last Chance range and descending into the northern reaches of Death Valley we headed north from 'Crankshaft Junction' on a dirt road that deteriorated in one mile forcing us to leave the 2WD vehicles behind. Consolidating everyone into 4WD vehicles we proceeded as directed in the DPS Road and Peak Guide to the miner's cabin at Last Chance Spring. After prevailing on everyone to sign the insurance waiver forms, fifteen desert rats scampered up the ridge heading southwest toward the main ridge. After a few bumps enroute everyone attained the summit of Last Chance Mountain. From the summit the views were unparalleled -- Eureka Valley to the west with the Inyo's and the Sierra looming beyond, the Whites and Arc Dome to the north, and Death Valley with dark clouds and rain streaks to the south.
The Country Kitchen in Big Pine is NOT the place to eat breakfast. Assistant leader, Suzanne Thomas, experienced undue stress in her gastric organs throughout the whole weekend as a result of eating eggs and sausages at the above mentioned establishment. The leader's omlet tasted like recycled polyester fibers encased in yellow egg substance. The Egg Chalet across the street was reported by Vic and Sue to be a preferred choice.
The descent from Last Chance was more direct - east down a ridge and into the canyon which was followed to the spring and the cars. Returning to the where we left the 2WD cars we decided to call it a day and pitch camp where we were -- in the middle of the road.
After setting up the hors'd'ouver on a table made out of scrap wood set by a fire ring in the middle of a wash everyone was soaking in the last rays of the sun as two rogue vehicles drove up OUR dirt road. And we thought that we had the desert all to our selves. It was Dave Jurasevich and his crew of desert marauders heading north to plunder Last Chance Mountain. They came with tales of washed out roads and perilous wash crossing out yonder south by way of Cottonwood Canyon. With compassion for their day's toils we cleared the road so that they could hasten to reach their goal for that day and rest. Back around the campfire, Rheta Schoeneman (who joined us after completing the graveyard shift at the Inyo County Hospital in Bishop - yawn) served everyone steak picado quesodillas, Suzanne wielded her buck knife chopping up fresh vegetables for the dip, Larry Tidball challenged everyone with a jar of delicious hot jalapeno peppers, the Lutzs serenaded the campsite with Irish pub songs from their van, and Bob Greenawalt proffered to everyone sprouted garbanzo beans and tales of many desert outings. As the campfire burned into the night the crowd around it diminished slowly until everyone sought slumber under the clear and starry desert sky.
Rising early next morning, we drove back up the road to the saddle in the Last Chance range from which we climbed Sandy Point. Vic Henney and Sue Wyman started the climb an hour earlier in order to return home before sunset -- we met them enroute as they were descending. Betsy Lutz and Tanya Mamedalin, finishing her homework, chose to stay at the cars while the rest of us headed across the desert toward Sandy Point. Joyce, who brought along an ailing dog, chose to wait for our return part of the way to Sandy. The ridge to Sandy is LONG but not a bit challenging (we did not find the signature of Alan Cranston, as rumored, in the register on top). The view of the Eureka Dunes from the summit was worth the walk. Returning to the cars by 3 PM everyone headed home via Big Pine. After a 'dry' weekend, Suzanne, Tanya and I stopped to take a dip in the Owens River on the way home. The other participants who made this a great weekend were Paul Backer, Graham Breakwell, Georgina Burns, Mario Gonzalez, and Ron Lanyi, his first DPS outing
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