Chemehuevi Wilderness Backpack
BLM Monitoring

February 18, 2013

Ron Harton, Steve Linton and I were attempting to find a way over the Chemehuevi Crest to allow a loop hike that would go to monitor several spring and sites scheduled for geological research. On this trip we decided to attempt to go over the next pass north from a pass that was previously found to be too difficult.

From our car camp the evening before we started on our backpacking we heard a coyote yowl which was answered by a distant yowl. This communication was repeated several times.

After getting started there were many tracks that looked like tank tracks. There was a tank at the Patton Museum like those used in the Desert Training Centers. Later I used photos of that tank to compare track spacing and tread widths to the tracks. A shell casing like the ones from a WWII tank machinegun was found near these tracks.

We arrived one of the geological sites and found several stands of exposed weathered rocks. This route over crest was slow going because of steep ravines and several dryfalls. Parish Spring on most of the east side of the crest consisted of intermittent seeps and trickles with a few small pools. Near to bottom of the ravine there were several large pools. Burros had well worn trails into the group of pools near the mouth of the ravine. The burros had contaminated these pools.

We saw large fields of cholla some with fruit. There were barrel cactus, some in groups. There were yucca and mammillaria cactus. We saw a chuckwalla. We found two empty tortoise shells, a 1-cm. snail shell, and a long red centipede.

We camped in a narrow wash where we heard the diminishing scale song of the canyon wren and an owl. Shelters used were a tent, a tarp, and a bivouac bag seeming to suggest that the question of the best shelter remains unresolved.

The next day on the way over a low pass we hears an unusual honking then saw a small formation of geese, but wait, they did not sound or look like geese. They were sandhill cranes.

We found a level clearing with a long unused fire ring. There were many mildly corroded 22-shell casings and very recent 12 gage shotgun shell casings. There was a collection of fire wood and prominent truck tire tracks. We followed multiple recent tracks down to Trampus Wash to the north in the direction we were going.

Since we had not been able to go as far as expected by that time and our alternative route out, while looking promising, had not been explored we decided to start back in case this route should prove to be difficult. We followed the truck track west until the tracks and wash turned to the northwest.

Since we needed to go southwest we chose to leave the jeep road and take a route over a pass that seemed to provide a shorter alternative route and hoping not to find difficult dryfall or thickets of catclaws. It proved to be reasonable and we were down the west side of the crest by time for lunch.

While sitting in the part shade of a boulder we heard the sound of an approach jet. We look up and saw a Boeing 747 size plane with two fighter jets in close escort formation flying west. One escort was close off the right wing and another separated and high on the left. Two more fighters were following them. “Wow, who is that, Air Force One or Two or …”. As speculation died down and we went back to lunch about ten minutes later another big jet appeared on the same course with two fighter escorts adding to our amazement. Later searched did not account for the passenger of this level of luxury travel. A bit later we noticed a drop in temperature with an increased wind and our barometer showing a falling pressure foretelling the coming weather.

We drove to the Clipper Goldhammer Road trailhead to continue with the planned loop hike of Clipper Peak. The plan was to ascend from the trailhead on a seldom used route straight south to the peak then descend the standard route west and back to the cars along the edge on the mountain. That morning our cars were covered with snow and large clumps of wet snow were falling and starting to cover the ground. Snow covered Clipper Peak solidly from top to our level. We decided to be reasonable and come back to do this hike on a better day. On our drive out the snow continued to come down covering the desert.

It was a good day to go further south out of the snow to visit General Patton Memorial Museum. It is in Chiriaco Summit, a way station town with a Chevron, home-style café, gift shop, Frosty Freeze, Post Office, a antique car rebuilding shop, and an airport. The museum had a broad assortment of objects related to the Patton Desert Training Center. Of particular interest was the machinegun belt links in a display case that confirmed the identity of a rusted link found on a pervious Chemehuevi trip. A inspection of the treads of a medium Sherman tank like the tank used in the Training Center fit the track and tread width of the many track found on Chemehuevi trips.