26 October 2014

Wildrose Peak

Death Valley National Park

Locate the trailhead.

When the plan was to join folks who were working hard to claim Telescope Peak, the plan for the day before was Wildrose Peak with a side of section corners since three of them lie near the trail. This is a shorter trail, so we put it to the day with more driving. At the trailhead, we get stories about the wind from those who stayed in Mahogany Flat the night before. It seems the wind was constantly strong with gusts of stronger and made for an interesting night. One fellow said he slept in his jeep which was lifting up in the wind. One of this friends decided that the good was good and the bad was good. In Wildrose Campground, the wind would slow down greatly and lull us into a sense of security before coming up and, say, picking up a glove off the table and tossing it halfway down the campground. We begin to worry if we might have to share the trail with the dozens of people who seem to be clustering around, coming from camping above and driving in from below, but it turns out they are only stopping to have a look at the charcoal kilns that sit in a row beside the road.

charcoal kilns lined up beside the road
The charcoal kilns are just one monument of many to the history of mining in the area.

window in the back of the kiln
A high window is at the back of the kilns and air holes are around the bottom.

The kilns were built in 1879 to turn the local pinyon pines into charcoal for a nearby silver mine but were only in use for three years. A couple crews have done stabilization work on them over the years, but otherwise they stand as they were left. In spite of the short life, a thick coating of soot from the smoke covers the walls. The smell of it still permeates the space. Every step within them rings as they pick up and hold a note in the sound of our footsteps.

window side of kilns with a tree
One of the survivors stands at the back of the abandoned kilns.

Finishing our own perusal of the kilns, we make our way along the back to the trail by the last one. The trail starts off at an easy grade along a wide bed that was likely once a road. It curves around the mountain with some views into Wildrose Canyon. Stumps of trees cut for charcoal remain on the hillsides even after 130 years. Eventually we reach a drainage and start climbing to a saddle leaving any semblance of road behind. The saddle gives our first view into Death Valley to the east.

wide trail generally indicates a road bed
Following an old road around the side of the hills.

Wildrose Valley
Looking down Wildrose Valley and the only road in to the kilns and other nearby places.

first look into Death Valley
First look through some trees into Death Valley.

We climb more gently again, although with more determination that the initial section of road. The views into the desert valley open up as we climb much of the way up a small bump and drop into a second saddle.

barren hills
Barren striped hills to the north framed by the nearby pinyon and juniper.

road switchbacking up Rogers Peak
A clear view of Rogers Peak with the road switchbacking up to the radio facility at the top.

After the saddle, there is one last surge to the peak along short switchbacks that climb generally just north of the ridge. A reroute takes us a little further around to the north, but then back to the quick turns. Another long stretch wraps around the south side of the mountain and seems to bring us to the peak, but reveals one last long, easy climb to the true peak.

Looking back at the first saddle and the desert beyond.

trail over the little bump
Coming to the false peak, the finish of the trail is clearly visible ahead.

Wild Rose Pk. 1949
The benchmark at the top of the peak set in 1949.

Today, the winds are easy breezes with no real desire to hurry anywhere rather than the freight trains of air that blew their no-nonsense way across the desert mountains yesterday. It is much easier to take the time to enjoy the views. Mount Whitney is just visible in the distant haze to the west.

ammo can for the register
Telescope Peak just visible beyond Rogers Peak.

northwestern view
Bald Peak and such things that lie to the northwest. (panorama)

northeastern view
The northeastern view from Wildrose Peak. (panorama, full 360 here)

Mount Whitney
The distant Sierra Nevada range with Mount Whitney along the row.

After enjoying the peak, we head down the side of the mountain in a direction that is almost entirely out of our way to look for the section corner near the peak. The terrain is easy to travel and the trees somewhat sparse, but wandering about near the estimated location in the GPS finds no post and the map seems to indicate I am in the right spot. We make our way around or back over the peak to the trail and down again. Next stop is the saddle where we got our first view of Death Valley today.

trees along the trail
Trees shading a bit of the trail.

discarded exoskeleton
A discarded exoskeleton from a molting insect left on a cactus. More were on a neighboring pine.

The corner near the saddle is down about 120 feet and north of the trail. I decide to drop those feet along the trail, then try to contour around to find the corner. It is hard to stay level, but the effort proves unnecessary as we find a post just 15 feet from my estimated point. Bernard is interested in seeing what exactly it is we were looking for, but is more interested in his own find along the way: a row of logs cut to size and still waiting to be lashed to a mule and hauled down to the kilns.

section corner
Marked T19S R45E, so we are in the area marked from the Mount Diablo Meridian and Baseline. From 1934, so it predates the triangulation station at the peak.

logs cut to 4 foot lengths
Logs destined for the kilns still waiting after 130 years.

The next stop is actually at the trailhead. The last corner is about halfway to a spring above the kilns. The old trail to the spring is hard to find near the road, but easy to see as we cross it a few times. It is another old road cut. The hill above the kilns is littered with old metal trash. I am still climbing the hill toward my estimated location when Bernard, who is shadowing me at lest 50 feet down, shouts that he sees it. The cap is poking out from a small pile of rocks. This one has had an accident and is bent at a right angle and broken. More pipe next to it is bent as well, but still in the hill. This time we are 74 feet from my estimated point and I very likely would not have found it.

quarter section corner
The quarter section corner near the trailhead is only marked with the sections it bounds. This one is also from 1934 and in its righted position is about 180 degrees from how it should sit.

With the successes of the day, we are ready to head home. Coming down the hill, there is even more metal litter including bits of the stove the various canned items were likely cooked on.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 November 2014

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