What was to be a structured SCTC club run became two guys, John and I, exploring about and covering a lot of miles on a lot of trails both afoot and wheeling. We saw what most folks would see in two weekend trips and had a wonderful time in Death Valley National Park.
Our days started early, about 4:00 AM, in our homes in Los Angles and Orange County as we got ready for the long haul up to Olancha. The good side is that there is very little traffic on Friday at 5:00 AM! Our luck was good, we were able to make simplex radio contact while on highway 395 and decided to stop at Fossil Falls along the way. We are then also able to test the Little Lake and Mazourka Peak linked 2-meter repeaters that would prove useful for the rest of our trip. Fossil Falls is where the Owens River flowed over a lava flow and made odd an interesting shapes and it was well worth the stop. We took the short hike out to the falls and enjoyed this odd place in the desert!
After Fossil Falls we headed north separately toward Olancha. I was testing my new handheld 2-meter as John drove down the road away from me at Fossil Falls. It worked great! We got some distance, too far for simplex, and then got on the Little Lake repeater where we met Kurt, W6PH in the Alabama Hills on the Mazourka Peak repeater. He went outside and looked across at Cerro Gordo to give us a snow report and said we’d be fine.
With a good report on the snow and full tanks in Olancha as well as snacks from Gus’s Jerky we headed to Keeler to look at the old town. The town was built to be a smelting and processing point for the silver and lead mines in Cerro Gordo. After the mines died off, Owens Lake on which it sits dried up when the Los Angles Aqueduct stole it water and it dried up. The resulting dust storms drive off most of the people though a few remain. The old rail station, a fire station and other remnants of its glory days still stand.
Next we went up to Cerro Gordo, via the Yellow Grade. Cerro Gordo is a mining area that began being worked in the 1860s and was worked for many years by various groups. Part of the town there still stands, as a museum and we were lucky to be greeted by one of the current volunteer caretakers who kindly told us about the place and also let us into the American Hotel and to have a look around. I was wonderful and I bought another history book!
We left Cerro Gordo, making first tracks in the snow on the way down toward Lee Flat. We turned toward Hunter Mountain and then up Hunter Mountain to Hidden Valley. We needed to stretch our legs after too much seat time so we took a short hike just to look around and were rewarded with great views.
Back in the seats we headed to Teakettle Junction and around to the Racetrack Playa as the sun set. We paused at the top of Lippincott to enjoy some sandwiches, we’d not really eaten all day. Then we went down Lippincott as it got dark and into Saline Valley where we went straight to the Warm Springs, arriving at about 10:30 at night. We set up camp just above the middle springs and then enjoyed getting cleaned up at the springs after such a long day. Sleep came easy.
In the morning we tested to see if we could hit the Mazourka Peak repeater and could do so without any trouble. We again talked to Kurt, W6PH and then met Adrian, N6VDR in Bishop. Adrian said he had a friend at the lower springs and wanted us to deliver a message that Carlos’s girlfriend was coming home early from Costa Rica. So off we went to find Carlos, who eventually came up to the lower spring on his own. We got back in touch the Adrian and all details were exchanged so Carlos could leave immediately and make his way to pick up his girlfriend at the airport in Orange County. Without all these radios, Carlos’ girl would have not gotten the welcome home hug!
After all that, we headed to Steele Pass and hiked about in some random canyons to see what even more off the beaten path looked like. We ran into a geology class hiking back down a canyon, so we went up it. We found Cambrian marine deposits! Well John looked them up after, now we know. We headed down the falls in Dedeckera Canyon to a shady spot, relaxed a bit, looked down at Eureka Dunes and had a bit to eat. However, we were tired, it was late, so we headed back to camp. We ran into some friends, Lance and Pam as well. Lance had found our camp from a Spot OK message I had sent the night before! Spot is useful in more ways than just keeping one safe! We ate our evening meal and again enjoyed the Warm Springs, but, worn out as we were we were soon sleeping.
In the morning we awoke early and got on the trail by 7:30 AM, heading out North Pass and stopping at a the usual sites we were off the trail and aired up by 10:00. John immediately headed south and I turned north to Bishop to get some edibles to bring home from Schat’s Bakery for my wife. and to eat a few myself while I as here! Though now at least an hour of travel apart on the road, John and I were again able to use the Mazourka Peak repeater to stay in touch and as he worked his way south, he switched over to the Little Lake repeater. Also Kurt, W6PH, was out wheeling and on the repeater so we got to say good bye to him. John and I were able to stay in touch using the two linked repeaters until John was outside of Ridgecrest, and then we switched to Randsburg and then Keller Peak. So though far apart, we were seldom out of communication range.
The trip was a lot of fun,
we saw some great things (too much to
mention here) and the weather was perfect
the entire time! Though we’d have loved a
larger group, two people can move fast and
take a few aimless side trips without care.
Everything made for a great time and a
For those amateur radio operators who go out into this area or traverse 396, Mazourka Peak and Little Lake repeater information can be found here: http://www.n6ov.com/repeater.html They make up a great little system!!! As per W6PH, please use and support them!