Glass Mountain Carcamp
August 31, 2013
BLM Monitoring

“Hey Bob, this is not Glass Mountain, that peak over there is higher.” I had just been on a short walk to resolve some confusion about our location. My thoughts were: “Hold on a minute, the peak register waterproof box is on this peak and the trail to Glass Mountain clearly goes to this peak yet, the USGS map has the other peak labeled Glass Mountain.” So, we decided to hike the half a mile across a low saddle to the other peak hoping to resolve this issue. On the north peak we found a radio repeater building and a Glass Mountain USGS marker.

In response to my request for a good place to backpack Dave Halligan sent me his map of his backpack trip to Glass Mountain in 2003. They hiked in on a jeep road, went out on a different jeep road, and camped on an elevated meadow surrounded by forests and near a vigorous spring. On going home from a Desert Symposium at Zzxyx I first went to the north end of the Inyo National Forest to explore the access roads to Glass Mountain. It was a surprised to find a wide and recently graded gravel road that went to the trailhead at the base of the mountain and then to a good campground nearby. On a second trip a way was found to climb three peaks if we were to carcamp at the campground at the end of the good road. The two mountain peaks are at each end of the Glass Mountain Ridge that is the northeast rim of the Long Valley Caldera.

The primary interest was the obsidian, volcanic glass. It was black, translucent when thin, mostly speckled with rhyolite sand grains, and transitioned in size from fields of fine sand, gravel, rocks and boulders, to mountain strata several feet thick. Glass Mountain had spires of layered obsidian that were 10 to 15 feet tall. In a few places there were fields of flawless black obsidian with rare pieces with red translucent edges.

We climbed Glass Mountain on the first day, the mountain at the east end of the ridge on the second day, and a granite knoll on the last morning. From these peaks we had views of Glass Mountain Ridge, Mono Basin, Montgomery Peak in the White Mountains, Owens Valley, Long Valley Caldera and the Sierras. From the peaks of the Glass Mountain Ridge we could see on the floor of the caldera in Long Valley between the mountain and Lake Crowley fields of linear disturbed ground that suggested human intervention, possibly ancient geoglyphs but more likely agricultural marks.

We could see dramatic cliffs of obsidian about a quarter mile down a shallow ridge from the north peak of Glass Mountain. We were tempted to go there. However, chances of thundershowers were predicted, and we had watched clouds building through the day. We were surrounded by developing cumulonimbus clouds and could see a big shower in the general direction of our camp. Reason prevailed and we hustled down the mountain and back to camp. We camped at Sawmill Meadow Camp that has a picnic table, a classic duplex outhouse, a shack in bad repair, and a derelict structure consisting of a remnant of a 30-yard flume. About 100 yards uphill there was a dry pond adjacent to a marsh, perhaps a water source for the flume. This was probably part of a sawmill operation.

After rest and recovery we were starting to organize for dinner when there was a great crash and flash and then light rain. After all were sheltered this became a heavy downpour then medium hail which lasted long enough to create a white winter scene and started ephemeral steams across the campsite and under some of the tents. All were able to find a dry place for the night and dry out everything the next day. Both evening had amazing cloud studded sunsets.

Sawmill Meadow is a marsh or wet meadow like Alaskan muskeg. It has multiple springs around the edges and a running stream in the middle. From there the view to the south is Glass Mountain Ridge and to the north the Sawmill Knoll. The knoll is a small round hill of granite with steep sides and a flat top. It has large pine trees on two sides and is surrounded at its base by a dense grove of small mountain mahogany trees. All of us gained the peak of the knoll by using moderate rock scrambling skills. After high fives all around we found amazing views of the local and distant scenes.

On the drive out, what had been our flawlessly smooth graded road was marked with treacherous washouts. On the way to investigate the ground disturbance in Long Valley CA 120 was found to be closed from Benton Crossing Road to Benton due to flooding. On driving across the disturbed ground between Lake Crowley and the base of Glass Mountain Ridge and walking across some of the area there were only creosote bushes and evidence of cattle grazing with no explanation of the mystery. Later the Inyo Forest archaeologist found that there were seeds planted by machines in this area in the 30s that is the most likely cause of the disturbance of the ground.

At home a careful review of the facts revealed that the high point of Glass Mountain is the south summit, the peak we went to first. It is one half mile from and 40 feet higher than the north summit. The trail goes to the south summit that has the peak register. The north summit has a radio repeater building. It is apparently incorrectly labeled Glass Mountain on the 1994 USGS maps, and has a misplaced Glass Mountain USGS survey marker. On this marker the elevation is garbled. Even the USGS makes mistakes.