Black Butte

19-Mar-94 (Chili cook-off)

By: Ron Jones, Leora Jones, Igor & Suzanne Mamedalin


Again this year, the threat of rain scared some people away. It turned out to be a great weekend in the desert, albeit a little added adventure in the morning. Ron, Steve Langley and I drove out Friday afternoon, and stopped to visit the Palm Springs Museum and see the Maynard Dixon exhibit. Maynard Dixon has long been one of Ron's favorite western artists and exhibits of Dixon's works are not frequent. He did live for a while in Southern California. We arrived at the Corn Springs campground well before dark. It was warm, clear, and a rather pleasant evening in the desert as usual. There were 40 people signed up and we were expecting to see folks starting to arrive that evening.

It turned out that only one person, Janet Strom, drove out Friday night. Sometime near 3am we heard a few raindrops hitting the top of our van. It stopped, and we were soon back to sleep. But near 5am, it really cut loose. Ron hurried out to bring in our camp gear and put things under the van to keep them dry. At times hard, but mostly steady, it rained until near 10am. We were wondering if anyone would show. The LA radio station said 100% chance of rain, ending in the afternoon, and that the storm was quickly moving north after originating in Baja. We counted on a few desert rats to show, and they did. Maris and Anna pulled in around 11am, and the rain returned. It really started to come down in buckets. Luckily they had brought a nice tarp and bungy cord system, as did George Peck and Igor and Suzanne. Before noon we had erected a very nice cooking area covered with one ramada and three tarp extensions attached to it.

The friendly and efficient camp hosts, Henk and Georgia Parson came out with their umbrellas and declared that the ranger in Palm Springs had just called to see if we were ok. Apparently Desert Center and Chiriaco Summit were being bombarded with rain. We took it in stride, and the cooks began their preparations. George Peck began on his "traditional" bean, hamburger and tomato sauce entry taken from Better Homes and Gardens. Suzanne Mamedalin, a past winner, was sautéing her three different types of meat and adding mole to her entry. Ron Jones was dicing onion, garlic, and tomatillos for his white bean green chili entry. Maris and Anna Valkass were preparing a traditional chili and brought a portable cuisinart with a hand crank to dice the onions. Mike Treat, another past winner, began preparing his spicy Italian chili with sausage, pine nuts and rocky mountain oysters. These five fussed over their entries all afternoon and the competition was "steaming" up.

By 2pm or so the rain stopped and the skies became bright blue and the sun shone brightly. More and more people showed, including the sixth entry. John McCully, last year's runner up, was determined to win this time. He and Carol rolled in, set up their new Coleman stove, and started chopping and cooking. John's chili was called Picadilio, with secret ingredients of grilled and seared (Costco) beef, raisins and cinnamon. The rain had unfortunately scared away the remaining cooks and tasters, but it turned out fine. There were plenty of people to enjoy the rewards of these southwestern culinary artists.

The Beane company had supplied me with adequate anti-gas samples far all tasters, and T-shirts for the cooks that read "All Quiet on the Western Front". The cooks wore them proudly and posed in front of the Beane Banner for a group photo opportunity. Everyone seemed impressed with the generosity of Beane, and were interested in trying the samples to determine its effectiveness.

No DPS trip is complete without a happy hour. As the rain stopped and the sun began drying out the campground, we began to shed clothing and partake in goodies. Competition was getting fierce. Ron and Maris both protected their entries so that the other wouldn't "contaminate" their pot. Maris tried to gain "unfair" advantage by trying to get Anna nominated as a ballot counter.

Soon it was time to begin the tasting. We had official ballots and everyone including the cooks tasted all entries to determine which of the six best fit into the following categories. The results are:

Meat/PoultrySuzanne Mamedalin 3-meat chili with a mole chili sauce
Dutch OvenRon Jones
Beans Ron JonesWhite small beans with pork and green chili sauce
SpiciestMike Treat Rocky mountain oysters, pine nuts in a tomato based chili
UnusualJohn McCully
Best OverallJohn McCullyRumor has it that John has been perfecting this recipe since January. It paid off John! Congratulations

After the votes were counted, Igor and I made the official announcements. Prizes were awarded to all winners. Maris Valkass and George Peck were runner-ups and will hopefully perfect their entries and try again next year. A vegetarian category in past years has been competed in, but this year we had no entries. However, J Holshue's apple pie and Karen Ferguson's mint cake were voted as this year's best vegetarian entries.

Campfire frivolity was up to usual DPS standard. There were conversations about everything one could imagine. The fire was warm and plentiful, and the stars were far too numerous to count.

Bright and early Sunday the hikers carpooled the half-mile back out the dirt road to the start of Route B for Black Butte. From here the group of 12 started out for the peak. The climbers "scrambled" 1200 feet up the difficult slopes and rocks about 1 3/4 miles to the point east of 3051 ft. mentioned in the guide. Then descended about two miles and 600 feet before starting up the final 3,300 feet of gain. In between this descent and reaching the final slopes of the peak, they lost six experienced, strong hikers. This was a tiring route! Delores Holladay, newcomer Isa Labrada from the Canary Islands, Ron Young, George Peck, Igor and Ron summited in 6 hours.

Ron had led this peak directly from the Corn Spring campground 6 or 8 years before and didn't recall it as such a difficult hike. Checking the topo he spotted his previously used route and they followed this for a 4 hour return directly to the campground. This is a much more pleasant route and the description goes as follows:

From the campground, follow the large and long drainage bearing about 205 degrees gradually up a mostly sandy wash bottom, with some detours around boulders in the drainage. This wash passes about O.1 miles west of point 2844 ft. located at approximately UTM 533185 and ends less than 0.2 miles beyond. Climb south up the 50 foot sandy slopes to the small saddle at 2760+ feet (UTM 535184). Descend southeast down easy slopes to the Ship Creek drainage at 2200 ft. (just north of point 2381) and proceed up the drainage to the N ridge of Black Butte and on to the summit. 4060 feet elevation gain (3500 in, 560 out), 11 miles, 7 hours.

Several who remained in camp enjoyed the interpretive nature walk that points out several forms of desert plant life and Indian pictographs. Others hiked to Aztec Well to see the abandoned mines. There wasn't a hint of rain and it turned out to be a beautiful day spent in the desert.

We were sorry to leave our BLM campground hosts, but life at home was calling to us. We were on the road westbound and were lucky to find no traffic. I did think how nice it would be to be home when we pulled off to get gas on 22nd street in Banning. Lucky you, Ron Young!

A big thanks to Ron, Igor and Suzanne for their assistance and leadership, and also to all of you who made the 4th a success. For those reading this, that didn't come because of the rain, I hope you don't make the same mistake for the 5th! In addition to those already mentioned, the following people added to the fun for this weekend: Carol Smetana, Bob Wyka, Gregory Morgan, Margie Hutton, Ed Lozano, Tom Ferguson, Ron Hudson, David Ress, Bruce Trotter, Bill T. and Pat Russell, Jan and Gary Hearn, and Sue Leverton.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

DPS Archives Index | Desert Peaks Section