Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mojave Cinder Cone Hike

The Mojave National Preserve in southern California is speckled with volcanic cinder cones.  Remnants of a violent past.  They're mostly seen from Kelbaker Road south of the small town of Baker.  Many are accessible from the 4wd trails that criss-cross the desert.  For years I've wanted to hike to the top of these.  Some of them have old mining roads heading right up the sides.  A few weeks ago I decided to hike one that's easy to reach from a sandy 4wd trail I've driven several times.  Here's a google map centered on the one I hiked.

The hike was short and not strenuous, although it was much harder than I expected.  Let me explain.  I expected the hill to be covered in small cinder stones with sharp edges and very rough, offering good traction.  That was, indeed, the case on the lower slopes.  

Further up, the slope might have reached its limit and the little cinder stones are just waiting for something to cause them to begin sliding down the hillside.  Something like my footsteps.  That made ascending slower than I expected and descending was a constant challenge to avoid falling.  Glissading on cinder cone stones is not like snow or sand, or even talus.  The cinder stones are covered in sharp points providing grip, so they might slide an inch or three feet.  I regret not bringing my trekking poles.  They would have been helpful.

The photo below is taken from the summit and looks south.  The basaltic lava flow from a neighboring cinder cone is seen in the foreground.  You can see the summit ridge of Old Dad Mountain in the distance.  If you haven't hiked it yet, then I recommend Old Dad Mountain.

The next photo looks north toward Baker.

Here's a shot of the nearby cinder cone with a blown out top that spilled out the large black basaltic flow.  I hope to hike that one soon.  I'll drive the 4wd trails you can see on the left side of the image.

Both of these cinder cones appear in Courtney Purcell's book "Rambles & Scrambles - A Peakbaggers Guide to the Desert Southwest".    That's a useful book if you're interested in hiking random peaks in the desert.  Although these cinder cones don't require any instruction.  They're pretty straightforward.

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