Eureka Dunes, Saline Valley
By: Igor Mamedalin
[Unable to persuade Suzanne to commit words to paper, I volunteered to spew forth my recollections on her behalf and in her name about this outing before all memory fades (over the hill the fog get denser with each new day).]
An outing to explore and study the Eureka Dunes and the Saline Valley was scheduled by the Desert Committee of the Angeles Chapter in an attempt to introduce new people to the beauty, majesty, and solitude of the desert. At one point over 20 eager seekers of the desert experience signed up for the opportunity; alas, Saturday morning, at the rendezvous point in Big Pine, only three participants met the leaders and their daughter, Tanya, to realize their desire. The rendezvous point in Big Pine was to be the 'Egg Chalet' restaurant; on arrival, the leaders discovered that the restaurant had changed hands and name since their last visit to Big Pine. Fearing confusion among the expected participants, the remaining 2.35 eating establishments in Big Pine we scoured, to no avail, for soulful eyed desert experience seekers.
After waiting an additional half hour hanging around the main intersection of Big Pine, the leaders drove east into the desert followed by John Gibba in a pick-up truck and a father and daughter (whose names have already faded into the fog of age) in a small sedan. Crossing the northern spur of the Inyo Mountains and dropping into the Eureka Valley it was noticed that the small sedan was no longer following .. a victim of a blow on a gravel road. Sadly, after mounting a 'toy' tire as a replacement, the sedan's occupants headed slowly back to Big Pine and home. At Eureka Dunes Suzanne read the BLM literature on the area, sent to us by Steve Smith, and sketched the dunes on paper while Igor, Tanya and John raced across the dunes seeking their highest point. Returning to the parking lot across the burning sands, we discovered that another participant, Hillary Gordon (not a desert novice, but a staunch and eloquent desert conservationist), found her way out into the remote desert to join us!
After a brief lunch and a short exploratory journey south of the Eureka Dunes along the jeep road heading toward Saline Valley, we decided to head to the northern end of Eureka Valley around Sylvania Mountain. Less than 100 yards out of the Eureka Dunes parking lot we encountered Barbara Reber who promptly joined us. Upon reaching Sylvania Mountain we proceeded to circumnavigate it along a series of jeep roads passing a small mining encampment at Sylvania Mine and many other mining sites and ruins in the area. Mining interests have thoroughly staked out and exploited the area for its mineral reserves. Returning back to the crossing of Willow Creek we camped for the night. After hors d'ouveres and dinner, a lively conversation ensued around the campfire probing subjects ranging from desert conservation to feminism to Medieval literature (Hillary's academic pursuit).
Sunday morning we headed back out of Eureka Valley to the junction with the Saline Valley road. Here Barbara Reber departed to pursuit personal climbing objectives while the remainder of the group headed south into Saline Valley. Stopping along the way we tasted the abundant pinion nuts, explored the more abundant mining ruins, and viewed the monumental geologic exhibits. At each stop, John Gibba, honorary curator of Saline Valley culture and lore, availed of the opportunity to fill in the vast voids in the leaders' learning with his extensive knowledge of the area. At the lukewarm springs near the Salt Lake in Saline Valley we took a refreshing dip before departing on our way home while John stayed on to continue to indulge in the hedonistic rites commonly practiced in the valley.
Many thanks to Hillary, John and Barbara who, each in their own way, have imparted a greater love for the desert onto all who partook in this outing. The desert wilderness must be preserved from encroachment and exploitation.
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