Cottonwood Springs


By: Erik Siering Rose Certini



Hunter Mountain-Cottonwood Springs Traverse

It seemed a simple enough task to walk a loop in the Panamint Range using old prospectors' trails on and below Hunter Mountain, located on the northwestern edge of Death Valley National Monument.

Trip Leader Bob Greenawalt billed the event "The Panamint 3C Hi-Lo Roundabout", being that 3C represented Cottonwood Springs in Cottonwood Canyon in the Cottonwood Mountains. Some who were on his aborted trip last year billed it "The Last Time".

Since April of 1981, Bob had tried this exploratory route without success! First one off there was too little time for a 2-day weekend. On the second attempt, the group got lost. Then Thanksgiving came along in '81 and presented us with a beautiful Friday AM, but a surprise storm came in by a bit past noon of Day One and pelted the hikers with snow and rain. The upstairs cars were snowbound so a damp group of seventeen + one dog walked out of Cottonwood Canyon and all were lucky enough to hitch a partway ride into the last remaining motel room at Stovepipe Wells Village. The abandoned cars up Hunter way were recovered the following weekend.

So, with these tales of horror in mind, eleven determined souls set out again from Hunter Mountain under beautifully clear skies. Three + Bob were repeats from last year: Bill Faulkner, Rose Certini, and Glen Warner. Jack Lahey, Martin Feather, Alan Coles, Bob Ferguson, Nancy Peariman, Chuck Barsuglia and Tom Speechly were doing this one for the first time. Harold & Bev Rosso started with us until they felt it time to turn around so as to camp in Death Valley for the weekend, sans packs. They had car-camped with us the night before.

Here Day One was a pleasant jaunt of ten miles. Sun-bleached burro skulls smiled down from pre-AAA-like granitized, finger pointing signs that showed the way to the old boom towns of Skidoo and Keeler. Apparently part of our route followed ancient pathways now buried by dry washes. We even found many of the enroute water bottles stashed by Bob's group last year. Camp was made under towering, fall-colored trees at our goal of Cottonwood Springs with an adequately boiled water supply. Burros are still in evidence though less in number than previous years.

Day DOS was mostly uphill over two entertaining ridges and down into deep Dead Horse and Marble Canyons. A total of ten miles ended the day at Goldbelt Springs amid old mining ruins and an evening campfire was enjoyed by all. Water for cooking that night was also "half-ruined" as the burros had done a pretty complete job of fouling the water. Someone previously had left the Park Service gate open on the fenced-in, slow-trickling but dependable, spring.

Day Three saw us do six more up, up and away miles in Shorty Harris Canyon after the group had joined two eager before-daylight climbers that went up Harris Hill to breakfast and enjoy the views of Death Valley. We ran into enough old snow patches along the brushy game trail so as to have some old fashioned snowball fights. A bit after noon and we were back to the cars and after some almost troublesome wheel spinning through old mud and snow we were off the big mountain.

Yes, contrary to popular notion, the 4th time is the charm!

Leader's Comments:
After becoming somewhat acquainted with the area, I feel it is one of the most pristine and unknown regions within the Monument and any hike in there is worthwhile. The views from Harris Hill give the local topography like a 3-D map, and the area is chock-full of high ridges and deep canyons. Believe me-it is easy to lose one's way! I suggest more DPS exploration into the region. Harris Hill, named for Shorty Harris, the famous old DV prospector who is buried below sea level in the Valley; overlooks the panorama @ El 5738.

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