By: Ron Jones
PANANINT TO OWLSHEAD TRAVERSE
Seven desert rats and one desert rattus met Friday night at Owl Hole Springs about 23 mi west of the Harry Wade Exit on highway 127 north of Baker. This 33 mile north to south backpack requires a car shuttle and Steve Smith first led us onto Leach Lake in Camp Irwin. We were wondering why the A-10's were making strafing runs around and over us when Jim Conley pointed out we were a mile inside the Marine Base at a time when pilots were training for the conflict in Kuwait & Iraq. We beat a hasty retreat, expecting a chopper to land anytime and the military to issue a citation. The old Randsburg Road we were on is not marked and so at about 1.5 mi west of the iron ore mine at Owl Hole Spring one is advised to take the right fork to stay legal and in one piece. We drove west about 24-1/2 more miles, past Quail Spring to the south, to about BM 3307 and the turnoff north to the visible microwave station. Another 2-1/2 miles (all pretty good periodically maintained dirt road) took us to the posted , gated entrance to the Randsburg Range of China Lake N.W.C. Here we left one car where we would end our backpack and took 2 cars back to the Death Valley N.M. west side road and then onto the Warm Springs-Butte Valley road where we drove west about 7 miles to about 400feet and the mouth of Anvil Spring Cyn. Wes Shelberg had day hiked Sugarloaf 11 years earlier and suggested the route.
Here we shouldered our backpacks, with 3 days of provisions and about 24 pounds of water, and started hiking WSW up Anvil Spring Canyon. It was the first backpack since summer for many of us and it hurt! About 5 miles up canyon we took the left, southerly, fork of Lost Spring Canyon, so named for the spring shown on the Anvil Spring Canyon, West 1985 provisional 7-1/2' topo (and shown but not named on the Wingate Wash 15' map). In about another 4-1/2 miles we came to Lost Spring which I was surprised to see had a small flow in this dry year! In 1/4 mile at about 2300 feet we came upon a larger spring with vegetation and a better flow. This would be a nice place to set up camp but we chose to hike another mile to a delightful dry camp at about 2500'. This route does have magnificent scenery and the weather was great.
The next morning we were off at 7:30 and carried our packs south on the ridgeline, over bump 4484 and in about 2-1/2 miles we were on top of the named Sugarloaf highpoint, 4623' on the 1985 topo. It was a very clear day and the views are outstanding from this summit. One sees the rugged east side of Needle Pk about 8-1/2 mi to the west, you can see the 3rd class summit block of Manly, Striped Butte and most of the Butte Valley, the mouth of both Goler Wash and Redlands Cyn, the Slate Range and Argus Range beyond, the backside of Porter, of Sentinel and Telescope, and to the east you see Smith and Charleston and Kingston and Clark and more. You also lookout over the whole Owishead Range and Owihead Pk at 4407'.
Wes Shelberg had placed the register on his April climb in 1980. March 1981 saw a helicopter ascent by a USGS topographer followed by an October '81 climb by Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley, Harvey Hickman, Roy and Barbara Magnuson. We were ascents #8-15.
On the descent, Randy Buck from Tehachipi twisted his ankle badly when he stepped on a small rock. There was a lot of pain but Randy thought he could continue if he did not carry his pack. So we divided it into 7 parts and he continued on with about 22 easier downhill miles ahead to the end of the hike. After several miles he determined that the pain was too great. I wrapped his ankle and Erik Schumacher offered codeine and Randy pressed on another 9-1/2 miles when spitting rain, strong gusty winds and eminent nightfall stopped us at 2300' just north of point 2709 on the 15' map.
The next morning dawned calm and clear. We had about 11 miles to go. We dumped a few quarts of non-essential water, Randy took more codeine and south we went,, past BM 1956' (where there is a posted gate on the Wingate Wash Road leading on to the Base) and south on the road just inside the Naval Reservation to a little pass just west of the old Epsom salts works and its ruined, abandoned monorail. We didn't realize it but several of us strayed about 1/2 mile inside the base and walked past the two roofless stone cabins and one creaking wood frame cabin still standing at this venture from the 1920's. A rather colorful and interesting area. From this point it was about 2-1/2 miles to Steve's car.
Here we completed our complicated car shuttle. Desert Rattus Barbara Cohen traveled with Erik and Bob Tomlinson to Baker. Erik & Bob went on to L.A. and Barbara waited on the front steps and inside the Denny's coffee shop. She looked so warn and dirty and disheveled that people took pity on her and offered money on 2 separate occasions so she could get some food and a room in which to get cleaned up. Randy went home to Tehachipi where he notified me that his bad sprain was also a hairline fracture and he walked about 22 miles on it rather than have me arrange a helicopter evacuation! Barbara joined Jim Conley and me for a second dinner at Dennys and then home after a wonderful trip. Thanks to everyone for being so helpful, especially in helping Randy, and cheerful and to Steve for his usual great assist.
Steve and I always think there are a lot of great desert peaks and we've proposed a few for the DPS list, some of which make the list, others which do not. We both think that Sugarloaf is better than most which we have proposed and is a whole lot better than many peaks on the list. All of us felt that it should be formally proposed for voting on the 1992 DPS ballot by the membership. We now have led an official scouting trip and there is plenty of time for others to check out Sugarloaf for list status. It is a pretty hard 23-24 mi dayhike with more than 4200 ft of gain or a moderate backpack of a peak in a new area that goes with no other peak on the list.
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