Palen Mountains, Big Maria Mountains


By: Maris Valkass


This was the weekend of the big rain forecast, at least for LA. As it turned out, the rain did come, but on Sunday when we were about a half an hour from the cars. Otherwise the weather could not have been better. We met Saturday morning on the Blythe-Midland paved road at the intersection with the dirt road coming from Black Hill. The road can be identified easily by the powerline that parallels it.

Eighteen people came, some others had cancelled due to colds. The participants were: Anna Valkass, Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Don Sparks, Dan Skaglund, Debra Lerner, Tom Duryea, Christine Mitchell, Ron Bartell, Gene Olsen, John McCully, Wendy Ruess-McCully, J Holshuh, Sue Hanna, Gary Murta, Judy Ware, Francoise Walthert, and me.

We drove north on the dirt road. At Black Hill there was a bad spot on the road at which point we consolidated into all 4WD cars and proceeded to the high point on the saddle several miles away. From the saddle we hiked up the major canyon going east to the summit. Everyone made it, and we got back to the cars at 2 pm. Some notable events: Jaussauds and Debra Lerner climbed their first peak with the DPS.

Since there was plenty of time before cocktails, Ron Bartell, Christine Mitchell, Wendy Ruess, and John McCully did some ridge running in the nearby hills. The Jaussauds, Olsen, and Valkass scouted the Palen Pass road, which was found to be very marginal for low clearance cars. The others investigated the Arlington Mine near the campsite. We had a fine campfire with many goodies to share, which precluded everyone from cooking dinner.

Two surveyors from Sacramento who were surveying the prison site at Blythe stopped by and explained to us why LA has two manhole covers in intersections and Blythe only one. Contact Gene Olsen for answer. They were going to tell us why water flows uphill, but we got sidetracked and missed that bit of knowledge.

Wendy and John McCully, as newlyweds, were "shivered" after they went to sleep. This is not the same as shivering from cold. Any midwesterner should be able to explain it to you.

Finally, late into the night, Bob Jaussaud, Don Sparks, and the writer discussed the merits of the California Desert Protection Act (Bill S7).

Sunday morning at 7:30 we drove to the Palen roadhead. Everyone could drive there. It was overcast and windy. We climbed up the south west face to the ridge, and followed it to the summit. Strong wind, cold, and rain encouraged early departure. Half a mile from the cars it was raining steadily. J Holshuh discovered a dead bighorn in the wash near the cars. It had died of severe infection.

Palen was the sixth peak for Dan Skaglund, now he can join the DPS.

On our way out, rain was steady, with pools of water on the ground.

My thanks to Gene Olsen and Don Sparks for assisting.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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