Paiute Monument


By: Parker Severson



June 18 - 19 saw the DPS paying a return visit to Winnedumah (Paiute Monument) after an interval of six years. This 80-foot granite pinnacle, associated with Indian legend, is located in a broad dip on the crest of the Inyos east of Independence. Sixteen members and guests, including the small fry, made camp at the mine below Barrel Spring in Mazourka Canyon, 12 miles east of Independence. Among the guests were Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Clemans and their three boys from China Lake. Paul and Mary DeDecker of Independence joined us in the evening.

Saturday afternoon a group of us drove 4-1/2 miles up the canyon from camp to do a bit of exploring. Parking the cars, we hiked up the jeep road to Badger Flat, where we could look up Tamerack Canyon. This is a feasible new route to Waucoba Peak from the south, which we hope to scout in the near future.

The hike to Winnedumah, led by Parker Severson and Jerry Zagorites, got under way early Sunday morning after some commotion caused by a rattlesnake in the trail. The rattler was lurking under a low shrub and several people stepped over it before it cut loose with its buzzer. A second rattler was killed in camp later in the day. More rattlers than we have seen in a long time on a DPS trip. Lets carry those snake-bite kits along more often.

The trail winds steeply up the mountain side and disappears in a maze of huge rock outcrops on the west side of the summit ridge. Here the route dips in and out of several arroyos. Five or six miles of hiking brought us to the pinnacle, where we had lunch.

According to Chalfant's "The Story of Inyo," Indian legend has it that Winnedumah was the great medicine man of the Paiutes, whose principal stronghold was in the Black Rocks, a great field of tunneled lava in the middle of Owens Valley. A band of Diggers invaded the valley from the pass of Pahbatoya in the Sierra to raid the hunting grounds of the Paiutes. After days of bitter fighting, the Paiutes were beaten and forced to flee. Among the fugitives was Winnedumah, whose medicine had been useless against the invaders. Alone and exhausted he gained the summit of the Inyos, where he stopped for a final view of his domain and to await the coming of his warrior brother, Tinnemaha, war chief of his people. While he was invoking the aid of the Great Spirit for his stricken people, a great convulsion of nature came and one of its effects was to transform him into a pillar of stone. So there he stands silhouetted against the sky, looking out across Owens Valley.

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