Cottonwood Springs


By: Rose Certini


Thanksgiving Weekend Hunter Mountain-Cottonwood Springs Traverse

Third time is the charm, according to the sages of such things, but charm was not in the fates for the "Panamint 3C Hi-Lo Roundabout", led Nov 27-29 by Bob Greenawalt.

It was the third time that DPS Section members had attempted to go from Hunter Mtn to Cottonwood and Goldbelt Springs via old Death Valley prospectors' trails. According to the schedule, hikers would traverse 9 downhi11 miles the first day and camp at Cottonwood Springs. Day 2 would be 10 uphill miles in Marble Canyon with camp at Goldbelt. Day 3 would add 6 miles through Shorty Harris Canyon back to the cars, completing a loop.

It is a path that has yet to be done!

'Twas bright and clear Friday as 15 backpackers set off from 6,800-ft Hunter Mtn, each carrying a gallon of water in case the desert temperatures were warm. Hikers crossed over rolling plateaus and saw classic old granitized trail signs that still point the way to water sources and towns that existed in the early 1900's. Fair weather turned foul by afternoon and hikers were soon pelted by snow, hail and finally rain. As planned, camp was established. at Cottonwood Springs. It rained all night.

By morning, a damp committee of 15 decided to a)cancel any thought of finishing the loop and b) forget about getting back to the cars which were now snowbound. Instead, the group opted to continue down Cottonwood Canyon to Stovepipe Wells and civilization-about 23 miles away.

Over boulders, through brush and water and over burro chips the hikers continued five miles to a cave and dirt jeep trail. Facing the additional miles and another night in the rain, Greenawalt struck up a deal with drivers of two four wheel drive vehicles for a ride to Stovepipe Wells Village. The hike was over, but not the trip.

A motel room was rented; and space for 15 were plotted out on the beds and. floor! Seven hikers were able to get rides from LA-bound recreational vehiclists, leaving the rest to dry out next to a heater. It rained all Sat night too.

A bright Sunday AM greeted. us-the storm was over-and two fellows from Alaska were recruited to take the remaining eight to the cars on Hunter Mtn. Seven hikers-now riders-huddled in the chill bed of the four wheel drive pickup truck and the eighth found refuge in the cab with the drivers. Everything was snow covered above the 4000 ft level and Towne Pass had been close during Sat nite. It had been scraped by the time we ascended the Passe When we approached Lee Flat, about seven miles north of Highway 190, our truck caught up with the Inyo County snowplow that was attempting to clear the road and free the possible hundred people trapped in Saline Valley. As the snow depth exceeded two feet, even the plow had difficulty, and so we had no other choice than to abandon the cars, still maybe eight miles distant. We hikers were dropped off in Trona at the Circle K Store and the Alaskans were $ 100 richer for their trouble. A beautiful Trona afternoon rejuvenated our spirit along with a phone call to Ridgecrest where "Campy" and "Ski" Camphausen came to our rescue with their two vehicles. They took us to the Greyhound station in Ridgecrest and all LA'ers were soon on the bus to home.

Henry Heusinkveld was accountant, and tallied all billings, and as financial officer advised that incurred unexpected expenses totaled $ 233.

Official and uncomplicated end of the trip came the following weekend. By then the plow had beaten a path to the eight vehicles and mission was accomplished. The cars were retrieved with only minor difficulties.

Next scheduled try: Spring 1982!

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