Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flattop Mountain Road - Mojave Desert

I was returning from Arizona last week and decided to take a scenic 4wd trail: Flattop Mountain Road.  This is actually a natural gas pipeline service road that (somewhat) parallels I-40, just west of Needles, CA.  It's signed as BLM Route NS061.

The section I drove was slow-going.  It took me 2 hours to cover less than 15 miles.  I used low range more than I have on any other trip.  

The route isn't terribly difficult.  I think it would rate a 4 on the Mitchell or Massey scales.  I had to go off road only once to get around a steep bit.  I followed the tracks from at least 2 other vehicles, so I wasn't the first to do this.

Like most gas pipeline roads, it's a very straight road.  The road doesn't skirt around terrain obstacles or undulations.  Gas pipeline roads tend to have a lot of hills and gullies as they go straight over the land.  After rain storms, erosion produces deep washouts in places.

I was using low range to climb many of the hills and even to descend a couple.  On one hill, I decided to try it in 4-Hi.  That lasted about 4 seconds as I quickly lost traction trying to climb from a deep gully up a steep, rutted and off-camber hill.  I had to back up and try again using low range.  Worked perfect.

I want to hike Flattop Mountain, but I don't want to drive this road again.  Maybe another day I'll feel more adventurous and return.  If I do return to hike the mountain, I'll approach from the west, the way Andy Zdon suggests in his book "Desert Summits".  Here's a google map centered on Flattop Mountain.

Apparently this area is a place to collect rocks.  Here's the BLM web site about that. 

The road is pretty flat and easy on the west side of the mountain.

This road skirts the southern edge of the Bigelow Cholla Garden Wilderness Area.

I had planned to continue on to Danby, but the slow progress on the hilly section caused me to bail out and head for pavement.  I turned north on High Tower Road.  That's a graded powerline road that hits I-40 at Water Road (another graded powerline road).  

It looks like continuing west on Route NS061 is pretty flat.  I've driven sections of that in the past and it's got some deep sand in spots.

The Camino Airstrip is located beside High Tower Road.  I've never seen any aircraft using it, but I have camped there.

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