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Manly Peak - Death Valley National Park - 04/29-30/2010

Manly Peak is located on the south west end of Death Valley National Park’s Butte Valley in the Manly Peak Wilderness. It is named after William Manly, of Death Valley in 49 fame (you should read that book). The peak being somewhat remote and seldom visited it is a great place to hike and enjoy spectacular views of Butte Valley, Panamint Valley and the Panamint Mountains which form the western boundary of Death Valley proper located to the east.

This trip was a make up trip to the ill fated solo adventure in late December of last year where I went all the way out to Butte Valley, only to get sick, hide in one of the old prospector cabins and abort the hike up the peak. This time would go much better!

I drove out to Butte Valley via the Slate Range and then up Goler Wash but stopped short at Mengle Pass to play Ham radio. I had built a Yagi antenna for 2-meter out of PVC pipe and steel rod and tested using it with a hand held radio. I’d promised people a time to try to reach me and missed that time but I still managed to talk on the Table Mountain Repeater near Writghtwood over 100 miles away on just 5 watts of power. Using the mobile (and its 50 watts and no need to hold an antenna in the air) I even checked into the Adventure Net on Keller Peak, 120 miles away wile goofing off with the Yagi. I camped up on the hill, using the truck to block the wind for my little backpacking tent and slept well.

In the morning I drove down into Butte Valley and to Russell Camp, one of the old prospector cabins, who’s current temporary occupants watched me load my Camelback with my Yagi and hike up the draw at about 8:00 AM. We were the only people in Butte Valley at the time and they must have thought I was a little odd to say the least.

My first error came in that draw, believing that the left side was the way to go, not knowing most folks went up the right side and middle, and immediately I needed to crawl over rocks and up sandy slopes. My stubbornness caused me to continue this nonsense all the way to the saddle of the hills where I looked down and saw the nice sandy trail on the other side that I should have taken. Lesson not learned as the rest of the day would prove.

That trail, left by the feet of previous hikers, soon faded showing where they’d given up. I hiked north on the saddle which then arches to the left to Manly Peak’s summit. The decaying granite turning to sand made it like climbing up a beach in places. This soon had me making choices to get away from the sandy slopes and this caused me to scramble up rocks instead, another error that slowed progress.

Undaunted I continued, even with the four foot long yagi’s boom sticking up out of my pack catching on everything until it broke as I crawled over rocks under the tree. That caused me to spend some time under the tree, relaxing in the shade while I fixed the Yagi, and then continued on with Manly Peak’s rocky summit glaring down at me, daring me to go on! Mean old mountain!

I reached the summit (or as close as you an come without ropes, ten feet less) at about 2:30 PM after my mishaps and also zig zaging about looking for anything related to anything mining but found nothing but a can. All of the mining was on the Wood Canyon side, a trip for another day. The views from the top were great and here the soft sand made a great place to relax for a bit. Laying it is was just like the beach, the good part of the beach. I guess the mountain was not so mean up there after all.

I sat down and enjoyed lunch and assembled the yagi and radio. Using them I could use Keller Peak, Big Bear, Table Mountain, Mozorka, both Posi Mountain repeaters and Randsbug without any problem (so long as there was someone to talk to) as if I as next to them. The antenna has a hiss or induced static in it that folks can hear a bit too well, but this prototype has worked. Version 2 will incorporate Ruby’s idea of using a tent pole for the boom as that will be way lighter and fold up so as not to be a four foot annoyance! It will also get rid of the hiss with a little better design.

After this relaxing time, sitting eating lunch, laying about contemplating rocks, trees and sky, thankful to be alive in such a beautiful place, I began my decent. This time the sand was like soft marshmallows, cushioning every step. Such a nice mountain this was now! Better path choices and this pillow like feel made for fast work of it. Arriving back at the truck at about 6:00 PM the occupants of Russell’s commented, “that was a long hike” and I must have looked it. Filthy and unwilling to spend a night with myself in a tent in that condition, and to lazy to set up a shower, I darted for home, descending Goler Wash and out via Ballerat. I got home at about midnight, ate a bit, showers and went to bed!

It was a great trip and felt good to correct my previous failure with a win! The Panamints and all of Death Valley is a wonderful area, not to be missed!

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