Old Woman Wilderness Backpack
Painted Rock
March 14, 2014

This is the third area of the Old Woman Wilderness that was explored recently. The northwest section is a good place for day hikes into several canyons but not good for backpacking because the steep and rough rock slopes of the mountain crest and the side ridges do not allow reasonable crossings.

The northeast area was interesting but not acceptable because of many cattle. A trip to the next area to the south, Painted Rock, found a good area with the only the mild disadvantage of a 30 mile access road.

In deciding on this area I had found a way to avoid carrying all water. There was a spring tank that first night that might have water suitable for cooking and a location for the second night where water could be cached. While the group went on to our campsite at Painted Rock I cached a liter and a half for each of us where we would camp on our last night.

Painted Rock is a massive monolith where we found rock art and a spring. In the morning a red sunrise appeared behind a dense bank of clouds.* Phaineopepla were singing in the bushes as we headed out.

There were volcano shaped mounds like ant nest openings but no ants were seen. The opening were about an inch in diameter, and some of the sand grains were larger than an ant.* Then on one of these a single ant was seen, a little black ant, Monomorium minimum.* These must be their mounds. The size of the rocks they excavate is amazing.

Beavertails were starting to bloom.* A few hedgehogs were starting to bloom.* There was an unusual hedgehog variant* and a few Mojave mounds. A single desert paintbrush was blooming.* There were several Mojave asters*, a scale bud*, and a rarely seen wooly blue star*. There were abundant mistletoe berries*.

We saw large flocks of sparrow size birds, undoubtedly migrants perhaps surviving on berries. Several small quail flocks were seen. There were many very fast small brown lizards that flashed past. A side-blotched lizard and then a zebratail posed for pictures*.

In the center of Painted Rock bajada there was a small corral with a loading ramp* and near there a small game guzzler. We were surprised when 8 to 10 cows crossed the wash ahead of us and walked away. One with horns that curved down along the forehead stopped and watched us like a rear guard*. We thought that these were stray or feral.

We encountered several large stacks of rocks thought to be mine claim markers. One of them had a Prince Albert tobacco can with a note on leather.* It was mostly illegible but we could read in flowing script “Northerly”.

After crossing a rocky ridge to Azalea bajada there were multiple large rock cairns*. Azalea Wash was broad, flat and straight, then turned at a boulder wall in the distance.*

At end of Sunflower Road and the top of Sunflower Wash we located Goldstar Mine and Cabin. At the end of a spur off of Sunflower Road at the base of the next ravine north there was another similar site, Pinion Pine Cabin and Spring. The spring tank had a low level of unappealing water. Fortunately no one had depended of this sketchy water source.

We followed a road northeast then crossed a second rocky pass into Paramount Wash. We found the mine site with derelict buildings, two shafts, a hoist motor made from a model T era truck, and a collapsed head frame over the open mine shaft.* On concrete gateposts there were inscriptions of mine owners from different times.*

In the wall of Paramount Wash there was a layer of black rock that contained tiny light reflecting crystals.* Further down the wash there were stones, gravel and sand from this formation. There were cattle tracks in Paramount Wash.

We crossed from Paramount Wash back into Sunflower Bajada by going around most of the ridge the made the south wall of Paramount Wash. From the center of Sunflower Bajada, Old Woman Statue appeared as a prominent spire of the mountain ridge.* At Sunflower Spring there was a cattle station with several intact buildings.* There were several springs that had been altered with concrete and pipes. All were dry.

A short walk from there we found the water cache site in Sunflower Wash where there was a wide confluence of washes. When I attempted to distribute the cached water I learned that no one needed this water. All had not only avoided the marginal water at Pinion Pine Cabin but they had carried enough water to not need the cached water. My efforts to avoid carrying all water were not needed for this group. Each took a bottle as far as the road where I could pick them up on my way out.

We next explored a windmill site at the head of Painted Rock bajada. Near the road to the windmill we found a series of pottery and china shards, one with an image of a blue bird perched on a wildrose stem.* We followed the trail of shards to a trash dump with a metal double bed frame and mattress plus the back wheels of a tricycle. At the end of this road there was a very old windmill that has been partly rebuilt, a derelict crew truck and a campsite.

We found a pleasant wash for the night and walk back to the cars early the next morning. Later I found that the cattle in this area are in a legal allotment. The absence of cattle on the first trip was the anomaly.

On the way home I camped at Blinking Red, my gorilla camp with good night views of windmill lights, California City, and Mojave. High winds coming down from Tehachapi Pass are expected here. This night they were fierce. I had placed my loaded pack against a downwind wheel. The next morning it had rolled about twelve feet away from the car.

That night the moon was setting behind drifting clouds.* In the morning brilliant sunrise appeared over California City.* A few minutes later jet contrails made dashed lines in the sky.* I think that the high wind coming over the mountain had established a standing wave between layers of air with different dew points so that as the jet pass through the tops of these waves the dashed lines appeared.