Big Maria Mountains, Palen Mountains

18-Mar-95 (Private trip)

By: Ron Jones, Dean Acheson


This was the weekend for climbing out near Blythe & the Colorado River. It was the peak weekend of a banner year for wildflowers.

A small group of 5 (Ron & Leora, Dean & Pat Acheson plus Terry Morse) met at the intersection of the power line road with Midland Road. Following the climbing guide we left my VW van at pole #48-1 and took the 4 WDs to #46-3 where we parked and made a routine ascent of Big Maria. Visibility was outstanding and several commented on the lack of smog and dust. I video taped the climb and on the way back we encountered a mature male tortoise browsing among the flowers. When we got back to my VW we found Luke, a desert rat who was trying for his third time to retire in the desert. He was traveling on a mountain bike with a .38 prominently strapped to his hip, "for shooting snakes". He would ride his bike into Blythe once a week for a shower and to buy groceries. He lived nearby in a small travel trailer and hoped he had enough money that he didn't have to return to the work place. He had been out for about 6 months and saw people in the area on only a few weekends. He was lonely, liked to talk, and was anxiously awaiting his first meeting with a 30 year old "pen pal" who was his "girlfriend" and was coming out the next week to join him in retirement on the desert.

We returned to Midland Road, drove to the Inca turnoff and attempted to follow the driving instructions from the guide for the eastern approach to routes B & C roadhead. This approach was cherry stemmed into the Palen Wilderness Area with the passage of the Desert Bill. As of this date the Wilderness Area had not been posted. In late afternoon we found Linda McDermott & her son, James, lost and confused about the location so we stopped and joined them at their camp. An hour later Barbara Cohen & Jennifer Lambelet joined us at our camp. The next day we found we were not on route at all but only 1/4 mile away. BLM road P172 was seriously eroded by a January storm which dropped 6" of rain in the area (this accounts for the profusion of wild flowers). After a few more vehicles travel the road though, it will become a road again passable to 2 WD foreign imports. There are a few short sandy areas through washes in the mid-part of the route which need to be driven with care, but many passenger cars in the past have driven to roadhead B.

Early the next morning our now three 4 WDs took us all to the roadhead for route C. We climbed Palen by the slightly easier but longer route B and descended the steeper route C which has a couple of short waterfalls which are easily climbed and one very nice tall dry fall which is passed on the west side. We returned to the 2WD camp about 4 o'clock for a successful weekend. Thanks to Terry Morse for checking my mileages and to Dean for a great assist.

Following are corrected driving instructions from Midland Road for the eastern approach to Palen. All mileages were checked independently by two vehicles. From the intersection of BLM P172 dirt road to Inca drive 100 feet to where the road splits. Take either fork for 0.6 mile where the roads rejoin and continue another 0.4 miles to the railroad crossing at Inca. Follow the main road left for 0.2 mile to a large rusty hopper and other abandoned mining equipment and turn right (west). Disregard all minor forks and junctions, stay on the main road (paved along some short portions) and go 7.7 miles to a minor road to the right with a old faded BLM sign. Stay left and go 1.3 miles to a major fork on the right. Straight ahead and to the left is the now quiet Arlington Mine. This is an easy spot to leave 2WD vehicles before coming to the few sandy washes ahead. Turn right at this major fork and follow the main road, swinging west, about 1.7 miles where you come to another major fork. The road right is P172 leading to Palen Pass. Take the left fork currently posted "Limited Use Area". At 0.3 miles there is a fork with a bare metal pole. Stay right and at 2.8 miles, as you are obviously approaching Palen Mtn. ahead, there is a fork to the right. Stay left and at 0.2 miles pass another road 160 degrees on your right. At 1.2 continue straight where there is a fork to the right. At 0.2 the road is blocked by dirt, go right. At another .01 miles the road is washed out. 2WD vehicles should park here. 4WDs can drop into the wash, cross and take the right fork. We continued on another 1.3 miles to an old low dirt loading ramp. Parking and turn around space is very limited but one could get 4 or 5 vehicles in OK.


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