Saline Peak, Sugarloaf Peak, Providence Mountains, Mount Moriah, Needles Eye, Mohave Peak, Mormon Peak
By: Bob Sumner
The dust storm hit us with surprising ferocity. From the cozy confines of my Cherokee, I watched lawn chairs, styrofoam ice chests, and trash go flying past. The disrobed humans soaking in the Saline Hot Springs hunkered down or went running for cover, as each deemed appropriate. With wind gusts like this, an evening campfire was clearly out of the question. Dusk slowly cloaked the valley as I sat back and sipped a microbrew. I was glad to be a spectator rather than a participant in this unexpected spectacle.
Early the next morning, Erik Siering and I drove several miles up the road to the Saline Peak roadhead. Under gray cloudy skies we quickly ascended the 7063’ summit to surprisingly good views of the Saline Valley and snow-dusted Inyo range. After traversing over to 6548’ Blacktop, we carefully descended a treacherous chalk ridge to view the outstanding petroglyphs in Chalk Canyon. I was not aware of it at the time, but my quest for the Miserable Seven had begun. The Miserable Seven, so named by Doug Mantle in the March 1993 edition of The Desert Sage, are a group of peaks that were considered for list addition that year. “Conspirators seek to mutilate the DPS, driven by boredom”, stated Mantle. Intrigued, I voted for all 7 peaks, though they were soundly defeated in the subsequent election. I’m sure Doug’s letter in The Sage contributed to their defeat, much to the chagrin of the would-be mutilators.
Having completed The List and the Desert Explorer Emblem, I too was driven by boredom to see what these obscure corners of the desert had to offer. Over several seasons, the remaining six miserable mountains beckoned me into more adventures.
Sugarloaf was purported to be “a challenging dayhike”. The route up Lost Spring Canyon was nice enough, including interesting rock formations, burro trails, flitting birds, sun-dried gourds, and early-blooming flowers. The shady slot at the spring was especially pretty. But the peak itself was a decomposing crud pile, mitigated only by the pleasant views from the top. This ankle-twisting jaunt checked in at 12 miles, not 22 as some have suggested. Challenging — no, tedious — yes. While Sugarloaf offers some unique desert hiking, it’s not on my “repeat” list.
Providence Point was a keeper. The Dale Van Dalsem route up the east ridge (Sage 219, May 92) is worthy. The terrain transitions from scrub & cactus to pinyon & boulders in a steep mile. Summit views are far-ranging and include DPS peaks in almost every direction you look. It certainly seems like a listable peak, and is some distance from Edgar and Mitchell, but is it far enough away from these two to warrant addition? Perhaps.
The next batter to step up to the plate was Moriah. Following Mark Adrian’s route (Sage 221, September 92), I was pleased to partake in this high Great Basin beauty. The road to this trailhead is not particularly pleasant, but once on the trail you enter a world of aspen and pine before emerging onto a picturesque plateau peppered with bristlecones. East Ord should have it so good. The 12,067’ summit of Mt. Moriah proffers splendorous views not offered by other DPS peaks (except possibly Wheeler). if this peak wasn’t so far from LA, it would have been listed long ago.
Needles Eye and Mohave Peak were also among the proposed Seven. Most reports have these two nice Sonoran desert beasties located on the Yuma Proving Grounds military base. While Needles Eye represents a small incursion, Mohave is a full five miles into the base. Is it just me, or does the thought of tangling with a military at war not seem sensible. . .or maybe miserable? No thanks, I don’t need another Maturango or Argus.
The Miserable Seven ended like it started, with Erik accompanying me on a remote romp, this time to Mormon Peak (7414’). On the approach drive we ended up camping adjacent to seemingly deserted railroad tracks. A bright idea if you like numerous trains thundering by throughout the night (which we didn’t). The peak however, was a proper conclusion to the Miserable Seven. The desert was coated in a cacophony of spring flowers. The route sampled numerous vegetation and rock zones. Far-ranging views from the summit were happily imbibed and led to speculation of “what is that one out there. . . .“ Like its partner in crime Muddy, Mormon is list-worthy but hasn’t yet been captured.
The Miserable Seven had its highs and lows. Not all should be on The List, or anybody’s list for that matter. Sauntering the far reaches of the Southwest had it pleasures and pains, unexpected delights and jagged punctures. But being out there, anywhere, is far more important than any piece of paper. Even if its our piece of paper.
The Miserable Seven:
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