By: Bob Greenawalt
QUAIL SPRING EXPLORATORY KNAPSACK
On the fall morning of October 14, Ana Zordan, Jack Grams, Al Palmquist, Hal Rosso, and Bob Greenawalt(Leader) met at the Wade rock monument on the Southern Death Valley road to begin our 32-mile caravan to the start of the overnight hike. After passing Owl Hole Spring, a watering stop for many birds and animals, we saw the bombing range at Leach Lake, and then Owl Lake, and finally, just about three miles due south of Lost Lake, we parked the cars. These are large dry lakes and so typical of those found on the Mojave Desert. As we began our southerly trek into the 12 mile long Quail Range, we sighted a shiny object that made us digress from the proposed route to see what it was. We found an aerial target of aluminum alloy and honeycomb construction, which had wandered off the Ft Irwin Military Reservation, 1 mile due south of the object.
We knew that Quail Spring was accessible from the pre-WWII Barstow-Avawatz Pass road into Death Valley, and was reached by a J-shaped. two-rutter from the south of the range. Since WWII however the Ft Irwin boundary allows Quail Spring to be a half mile outside of the reservation. But no road exists on topo from the north. We had an inkling of where the spring should lie. After on-course again we lunched at a small dry lake, perhaps 100' long and full of burro wallows. This spot incidentally, is where the road from the south intersects. So we were on-trail. A half hour later we sighted some willow trees high in the range and knew this must be Quail. As we neared we found a different picture from what I had expected. Here we met four men, with a small arsenal of firearms, and a bottle of Early Times for the weekend. As it turned out there is a sheet metal cabin built into the cliffs and apparently owned by one of the men, who has this as a weekend retreat from Hollywood, He claimed it was his property and he has been a visitor for forty years to Quail. I believe his statement. The spring is sad as it was dry after some rains had covered it and two of the men were trying to redig the earth and clear the water. It was a mudhole in my book but has potential! After some questions and answers, we decided it was time to leave, as we were as astonished at seeing those people, as they were viewing us. With a "You people ARE just passing through, aren't you?" we bade good-byes and proceeded up-canyon so as to see where we should head. The mystery still remained as to how they reached the spring with their two pickups. We began a over hill-over dale course to the west and ended up the day in a joshua-clad canyon, where dew was heavy in the AM. From then on, it was an hour to the summit of the range at, 5,103'-nicely marked with a USGS triangulation pin. The views from the top were wonderful.
From here Lost Lake was our landmark and in only a short time we were in narrow canyons on the north flank of the range. We kept our eyes peeled for Fourth of July Spring(not shown on current maps) but had no luck in spotting it. It is written up in some 1909 USGS writings-the reason for our interest. We decided it may have dried up like Quail almost has, but one could spend weeks in the area trying to pinpoint its locale.
Short of the cars we crossed an auto trail-the one that leads to the spring from the north and used by the four men. It is not on topo and is we11 obliterated. So our mystery was no longer one. Two dead burros and a dead coyote made us believe what their arsenal served. By lunch we were back to the cars.
The desert in this part of the Mojave is well littered with military debris outside Ft Irwin, Projectiles, clips, metal pieces, are in sight to all hikers.
The summit of Quail is on1y about a quarter mile out of the reservation, however it is hard to tell just what is going on since there are no markers to be seen.
This writer would not recommend this peak as an addition to the list, but the area makes for delightful hiking and exploration. The burro population is limited too.
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