Old Woman Mountains, Painted Cave, Ward Valley


By: Dean Acheson, Ron Jones


My wife Pat and I met up with Ron and Leora Jones riding in the famous brown "LE BURRO" Friday night on I-40 just west of Barstow. We proceeded to a makeshift camp at the Florence mine near Old Woman Mountain.

Saturday morning was accompanied by a battle between sunshine and fog. The Shacklefords arrived, followed shortly by none other than Dick Hingson, LA Chapter conservation coordinator.

Six attempted the peak and six made the peak, despite continual attempts by the fog to provide us with near zero visibility. Thunder threatened all around us, but we managed to make it back to our cars by mid-afternoon without the need of raingear.

We then proceeded caravan style to a privately owned campsite near Painted Cave, a small cave containing an Indian pictograph, (I had previously obtained permission for us to use this site from the owner.) Our journey to this site was turned into an adventure by puddles, small lakes, mud and washouts, courtesy of the heavy rains which had fallen in the desert below while we were busy climbing Old Woman. With the help of 4WD and tow ropes, all vehicles arrived just before dark.

We were joined several hours later by a group of Greenpeace supporters from San Diego. They came up especially to visit the Ward Valley dump site with us, and had navigated here by aiming for our campfire which they could see for miles away. In addition to their fine spirits, they contributed live serenade with voice, guitars and congas. The natural mini-amphitheater around the campfire turned this into a special and unique event.

We were told that a group of Indians might come through sometime during the night. We found out that not only was this place an ancient, sacred Indian site, but the Indians of the area to this day regularly use it for their special ceremonies.

Sunday morning arrived with beautiful sunshine in which to view the cave, examine the petroglyphs adjacent to our camp, jury-rig Dick's muffler (and change out a flat tire) and enjoy the beauty of this area. We agreed that this was truly one of the most outstanding camp sites we had ever experienced anywhere!

We then drove to Ward Valley and the location of the proposed nuclear dump. Turns out that Bill Shackleford is professionally engaged in research concerning the transportation aspects of radioactive waste, and had a special interest in viewing this area. He had wanted to view this dry desert area first hand, and was more than surprised to find himself sidestepping the large puddles of water which had somehow appeared throughout the compound.

Regardless of the viewpoints we individually hold regarding the Ward Valley site, I believe the participants all feel much more intimately connected with the area, more personally involved and somehow more responsible.

Special thanks to Ron Jones for his assistance on this my first I-rated provisional trip.

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