New York Butte, Pleasant Point
By: Steve Smith
INYO CREST BLM VOLUNTEER PROJECTS
This was a joint DPS and Desert Committee outing in conjunction personnel from the Ridgecrest BLM office. The goal was to have time for enjoying camping on the Inyo crest while completing some public land volunteer work and providing opportunities to climb New York Butte and Pleasant Point. The itinerary over this three day Columbus holiday weekend was left flexible and participants had options on which activities they wanted to do.
Jim Kilberg handled all the logistics and trip details for our three day outing. A total of 21 people were at the Keeler meeting point Saturday morning which was our starting point for driving the steep road up to Cerro Gordo. In addition to members of the DPS, about half of the participants were members of BLMs Ridgecrest Adopt-A-Cabin program who volunteer to maintain historic public land cabins.
ACCESSING THE INYO RIDGE
While getting a few people transferred into 4-WD vehicles at Cerro Gordo, the owner of a brand new 4WD discovered a tire going flat. Inspection showed that a small rock with a sharp point had apparently become wedged between the tread and with repeated rotations of the tire, had been able to flatten a brand new tire. First time that any of us had ever seen a small rock cut through the tread of a brand new tire.
The next hurdle was the steep section of road several miles north of Cerro Gordo which climbs out of Boiler Canyon and back up to the ndgeline just north of Pleasant Point. This half mile of road is the primary 4WD challenge when driving north from Cerro Gordo. BLM maintenance personnel had used a small bulldozer four years ago to do limited maintenance over the entire length of the Cerro Gordo to Swansea Road. On this section, they had reduced the severe side camber but for some reason, the surface has gotten very loose and some vehicles have trouble getting traction. Getting past that took awhile but by late morning, we were at the historic Inyo Salt Tram. Taking time for lunch, everyone enjoyed exploring the salt tram and recently restored five room caretakers cabin. Several years ago, BLM got a $25,000 grant to restore this cabin and with the help of volunteers, were able to reconstruct and stabilize a very nice historic structure. and getting our campsites set up. After getting our camp set up at the Salt Tram, Saturday afternoon we split into two groups. Bob Beach lead one group on a climb of New York Butte while Jim Kilberg and I lead the second group to do maintenance work on the northern 1-mile section of the Cerro Gordo pipeline trail. Historically, the mining camp at Cerro Gordo obtained its water from the Cerro Gordo and Mexican springs which are located north of Pleasant Point. Parts of the historic trail which follows the northern section of this pipeline between Mexican Spring and Cerro Gordo Spring had become indistinct and hard to follow. For three hours on Saturday afternoon, we worked on just the very southern end of that trail section where the trail gains 400’ back up to the ridge from a pumphouse. Both groups were back at the Salt Tram Station by later afternoon with plenty of time for socializing and sharing the usual assortment of foods.
JUST PUBLIC LAND PROJECTS ON SUNDAY
There were two work projects scheduled for Sunday. BLM wilderness specialist Marty Dickes took one group of people to do a cultural site inventory at the Burgess Mine. After providing instructions for finding and recording cultural artifacts, Marty’s group established a grid system covering the Burgess Mine area. Participants then carefully covered every section of the grid and mapped a variety of different artifacts and features. This included a fenceline, prospects, three faint cabin ruins, one partial cabin ruin, one standing cabin, women’s jewelry, soldered bottom cans, and fragments of pottery, bottles and china. The location of each artifact was recorded and then described. The second group worked with me on the entire one mile northern segment of the Pipeline Trail. We installed some small trail markers and used McCloud’s on indistinct sections to smooth out the trail tread. Those segments which had been very indistinct and caused hikers to use varying routes, are now in good enough shape to allow everyone to keep to the one original historic route. It was nice after our two days of effort to have this historic trail with its spectacular views eastward from the Inyos established.
Everyone was back in camp at the Salt Tram by later afternoon for another nice evening of socializing and another round of hors d’oeuvres and a potluck dinner.
CLIMBING PLEASANT POINT
On Monday, the group broke camp and drove back south to a point just north of Pleasant Point. Working out way up the north side of Pleasant Point, it wasn’t long before everyone was at the summit. It was a beautiful day and the clear weather afforded great views. Getting back to Cerro Gordo, some of the group opted to take an hour long tour of the Cerro Gordo minesite. Having done this tour several times, its still always interesting to hear about Cerro Gordo and learn new facts about its history and work they are doing to improve the townsite.
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