Granite Mountain #2, 4331'
(It all comes out in the wash)

31 Dec 2004 - by Debbie Bulger

In the waning light we watched in awe as the leading edge of the water slid down the wash, paralleled the road for a bit, then flowed across the pavement. The water picked up speed, pushing foam and debris before it.

Richard Stover, Jackie Stroud and I had been hiking near Chuckwalla Mountain, east of Joshua Tree National Park when the rain started. The peak itself was obscured by the clouds, and we headed back to the BLM Corn Springs Campground where Jackie's truck was still parked. Our way back to the campsite was blocked by a rushing torrent crashing across the road. There was nothing to do but hunker down for the night. We found a relatively high, level spot next to the old highway, prepared a tailgate supper, and tried to sleep.

At 4:30 a.m. all three of us were startled awake by the brilliant flashes of lightening in the sky to the south. Hastily throwing gear into the truck, we hightailed it to Blythe in a steady downpour, luckily having to cross flowing water only once.

I won't bore you with the details of our late night vigil at the Blythe Denny's, or our trek to the local K-Mart to replace the stove we ran over in our hurried flight, or our fruitless attempts to contact the County Public Works Department or BLM to learn the probability of our ever getting back to Corn Springs.

Suffice it to say we eventually made it back, recovered Jackie's truck, then proceeded to further adventures in the California desert. We drove east on the sandy Palen Pass Road that afternoon with plenty of daylight to notice the wash out and feeble attempt by the BLM to route people around. Word of advice: Don't drive this road too fast or you might miss the detour. The resultant plunge into the wash probably wouldn't be fatal, but it would be a heck of a mess.

We were off to climb 4331' Granite #2, the highpoint of the Granite Mountains in the Palen-McCoy Wilderness. We opted for the approach from Palen Pass Road since we weren't sure of the condition of the 4WD approach to the other trailhead at Packard Well after the rains. Trip reports on this peak mention climbing the wrong mountain and returning after dark. I am happy to report we were no exception.

On our first attempt we left at 6:15 a.m. to hike up the 1.5-mile road which is now within the wilderness boundary and can no longer be driven. Then across the desert floor for almost 2 miles to the start of the climb. We chose the ridge approach; unfortunately, it was the wrong ridge. I had forgotten my altimeter at home. Everything looked right; we hiked over a point, traversed to the right and ascended a summit. The real peak was towering over us further north. "We'll just have to come back tomorrow," Richard stated.

Jackie opted out and agreed to position her truck at the trailhead and turn on her headlights every 20 minutes or so if we didn't return by dark. The next day we left at 5:00 a.m. since there was plenty of moonlight and wouldn't be at sunset. It was no hardship since we had been in bed for hours. Taking more care with our navigation, we chose the wash route and had our selection confirmed by the plentiful DPS ducks.

The wash held quiet beauty. We found desert lavender in bloom, pools of water from the recent rains, a tiny black snail sporting a white shell with a black median stripe, and more. As we approached the ridge, it became extremely windy and cold. At last we made the summit at noon.

Retracing our steps, we skirted the 25-foot class 4 waterfall, scrambling down 3rd-class rocks and managed to reach our strategically-placed strobe light just before dark. We held the flashing strobe aloft so Jackie could see we were on our way.

That evening we celebrated New Year's Eve with hot soup, a toasty campfire, and the company of a wee canyon mouse with its tufted tail. The New Year's Day drive out to a paved road turned into an unexpected wildflower preview. The abundant rains had brought forth dune evening primrose, brittlebush, narrow-leaved popcorn flower, rush milkweed, brown-eyed evening primrose, fairy duster, sand verbena, desert sunflowers and more.

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