There is an Internet Forum I enjoy being a member of called
A year ago they held their first "Fall Haul" and now they were
going to do it again. The forum owner, Charlie, decided to have T-shirts this year and I
wound up printing them for him. Nothing left to do but deliver them!!
I left Fort Bragg, CA. October 19th.
After ten hours of driving I camped beside a very nice Joshua
Tree five miles east of Mojave,
enjoyed an evening fire, then called it a night.
In the morning I zipped up to Trona and entered Panamint
Valley. I headed straight for Panamint Springs Resort where the "Fall Haul"
gathering would be and looked up "B-Spec" to drop off the shirts. I had it
in my mind to hike up to Panamint City and I didn't want folks waiting for
shirts if I didn't make it back!!
I drove back down the valley to the turn-off to Ballarat,
checked in with Rocky at the Ballarat Store, then headed north on Indian Ranch
road to the turn off for Surprise Canyon. Where the road entered the mouth
of the canyon I set up camp.
I spent a couple of days day hiking up and down the road to
get used to the weather, the altitude and my backpack.
Finally, only one more evening. Time to contemplate the road to Panamint
The morning of the 23rd I drove up to the trailhead where
Chris Wicht camp burned ten days earlier.
The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation
according to some BLM .folks I met along the way.
I parked across from the burnt area and locked up.
It was time to hit the road.
I had been to Panamint City in August of 1981. In the
autumn of 1984 a flash flood washed out this area of Surprise Canyon down to
bedrock and there has been these falls ever since. I knew this section
could only be gotten through by carefully climbing up the falls. Because
of that I brought
extra shoes and socks.
What I didn't know was ..., this would be the easy part!
In time I discovered there
are three long stretches of overgrown brush to deal with after climbing the
My old Kelty backpack kept snagging on branches. Now and
then it was easier to walk in the stream until I reached an area so overgrown I
became convinced I had made a mistake and there had to be an easier way.
This happened repeatedly!
But there was no easier way. It is a continuous struggle.
Where previous hikers had gone through the brush there were broken branches which were
reassuring in that they indicate I might be on the path but they were also
sharp sticks that scratched and cut my arms!
Near Limekiln Springs I came across this recently deceased
By the time I cleared Brewery Gulch I felt nearly deceased
myself! Checking my map I discovered I had hiked two and a half miles in
four hours! In Fort Bragg I had no trouble walking 3.3 miles per hour!!
Four hours of crashing and bashing through the brush!! I was whipped! It
was noon and I still had three miles of "up" to hike in the
heat of the afternoon! Plus, my water supply was half consumed! I
ready to call it a day. Give up. Quit! I decided I am too old for this shit!
But the thought of four hours of fighting back down through
that brush was a thought I simply could not face.
I was beat, hot and bothered but after a rest of fifteen
minutes I suddenly realized I had all afternoon and some evening to finish the
remaining three miles. What's the rush? Take it easy!
In places there were remnants of the old Surprise Canyon road
but most of it is loose rock or washed out and non-existent all together!
The last mile I was reduced to counting fifty paces, stopping
to let my breathing and heart rate settle down, then fifty more paces.
During one rest stop, panting like an old dog, I glanced up and noticed a burro
quietly watching me!
Stone foundations start appearing. Juniper trees.
I have hiked from 2,600 feet up to 6,400! No wonder this sea-level guy is
And then the most uplifting sight of all, the old Smelter
Stack of Panamint City!!
I say to myself,
"By God Blab, ya made it!!"
And there is the "Hilton"! A complete house left from
the 1982~1984 mining attempt.
Eureka! It's mine! All mine!
In the evening I used my tin can stove to cook my evening meal
of potatoes, cornmeal mush and lentils.
For dessert I had an Oreo Cookie!