|October 10, 2010|
Over the course of the night I realized that I only had two peaks lined up for Anna and I today, and both should take less than a couple of hours each, so we slept in until the sun was beating on our faces. A nice luxury after yesterday's hikes and nighttime return. We crawled out of our sleeping bags and ate what would become our traditional peak-bagging breakfast, a bagel with cream cheese. After packing up, we drove back towards the S2, narrowly being run in to by a few guys on dirtbikes, probably headed towards the Pinyon Dropoff.
North Pinyon from the S2 (shot taken 4-9-11)
I wasn't quite sure where to start for North Pinyon, but the mileage and elevation gain were minor from any reasonable starting location. We ended up driving down an easy dirt road that forks north from Pinyon Mountain Road, just a few hundred feet from the S2. We continued east on that road until I thought I saw a good route on North Pinyon, then parked near some large rock outcroppings, perhaps a 100 feet tall, so that we could locate the truck more easily upon our return.
The Pinyon mountains are broad and rounded, so it was hard to make out exactly where the North Pinyon summit was. The huge summit plateau was obvious though so we just aimed in that direction. We hiked a mile or so across the desert floor before starting up gentle slopes on the mountains south side. I couldn't see the entire route to be sure that we wouldn't have any unexpected drops in elevation, but it looked good on the map and it ended up working out pretty well.
Anna on North Pinyon's gentle slopes
We had an expansive view to the west across Earthquake Valley for the majority of the hike, Granite Mountain being the biggest eye-catcher. Only gaining 1100 feet in over 2 miles, the hike was really mellow and we just kept heading north and up until we hit the high point, finding the summit rather easily. Like most of the other peaks we'd hit in the area, the summit register had only an entry or two per year. We added our names, ate a snack, and started down, the hardest part of our easy day behind us.
On North Pinyon's summit, Granite Mountain across the valley
On the way down I could see the rock outcroppings I had parked next to. It looked to be a long ways away, certainly farther than we'd hiked, but the scale of the desert is deceiving and we were back at the truck in under an hour. I didn't realize how important my choice of parking really was until we got closer, but with how tall the Ocotillo and other cactus in the area was, we couldn't see the truck until we were less than 100 feet away. I couldn't believe it, there was no way to tell there was even a road there until we were right on it. Though I didn't use it, I was glad I had my gps with me. We piled our stuff into the truck and drove towards the easiest and last peak of the weekend, Ghost Mountain.
We pulled up to the signed trailhead for Ghost Mountain, our easiest and 5th peak of the weekend. Most people who had come to this trailhead were here for the Marshall South ruins site, located about halfway up Ghost Mountain. Marshall South had moved to and built a house on Ghost Mountain in 1930, and lived there as a writer for 17 years with his wife and two children. They braved through harsh winters and summers, and had to carry everything they needed up the mountain themselves. Now that's hardcore.
I was looking forward to this particular hike because my Dad had been here several times, and I would argue that he is one of a few historical experts on the ruins and Marshall South. My Dad has met members of the South Family, done extensive research on their unique history, reprinted and distributed rare books and articles written by the family, and even written an article himself.
The view west from Ghost Mountain, typical terrain above the ruins
The entire hike to the summit was only 1 mile and 600 feet of gain, and a trail brought Anna and I to the ruins at the halfway point in under 20 minutes. We cruised right by though, saving their exploration for a break on our return hike. Once above the ruins, the trail disappeared and for the fiftieth time this weekend we began dodging teddy bear cholla, ocotillo, and more. The cactus was dense on Ghost Mountain compared to the other peaks we'd done, making cross-country travel a little slower than we were used to. With just a half mile to go though, it was largely irrelevant. What was not irrelevant however, was the piece of teddy bear cholla that sunk into my left leg. I had stepped on it with my right foot and it stuck to my boot as I raised it for my next step, making a perfect transfer to my left calf. Ouch. I used two rocks to pry it off my skin, having to use a surprising amount of force to rip the barbs from my flesh. Double ouch. Anna made sure to get a picture.
An encounter with teddy bear cholla. Not cuddly!
The summit was huge and broad, and I wasn't quite sure where the actual highpoint was. I checked a few places for a summit register but found nothing, and finally decided that a large round boulder was the highest point on the mountain. A few easy moves put me on top and I encouraged Anna to follow, but she declined, not too pleased with the current daytime temperature.
Ghost's summit block (?)
Granite mountain from Ghost
We started down, stopping for a good 15 minutes at the site of the ruins. I thought that the ruins themselves were largely unimpressive, but the history made them intriguing and worth the visit. The idea of a westernized family living there was certainly very impressive. I tried to imagine what it would have been like, and for amusement I tried to convince Anna that I could and would live that life, though I knew I could not and would not, especially in the summer.
Anna next to a huge ocotillo, almost back down to the ruins
The ruins on Ghost Mountain
Once back at the trailhead, we celebrated a successful weekend with a single cold beer, relaxing by the truck for an hour before starting home. A ranger cruised by to see what we were up to, she'd seen us coming down Ghost Mountain and mentined that the heat really wasn't too bad, which we found to be amusing since she shouted that from her air conditioned truck. "It's not too bad out here!" we joked, cranking the AC up on our pretend dashboard. She was quite nice though and we were happy she stopped by to say hello. She was, after all, the first person we'd said a word to all weekend.
North Pinyon stats: 4.5 miles roundtrip, 1100 feet gain/loss
Ghost stats: 2.0 miles roundtrip, 600 feet gain/loss