Big Maria Mountains, Spectre Point
By: Larry Tidball, Scot Jamison
The drive out to Blythe on Friday night was not too auspicious for the weekend with scattered showers and lightning. Saturday morning we all met at 7:30 AM at the turnoff onto the power line road for the drive into Big Maria Actually, almost everyone had crashed there after arriving at various times throughout the night. Except for high winds, the weather didn't seem too bad. We caravaned up the road for about 2 miles where we left the 2WD cars at a nice flat spot beside the road Consolidating into the several 4WD vehicles from this point seemed wise. The peak guide warns of rough road ahead, and the heavy January rains were not likely to have made things any better. As we drove into power pole # 46-3 it turned out that the road wasn't so bad after all. Only Bill in his Trooper II needed to use 4WD, the rest of the trucks did fine in 2WD. It wasn't suitable for a passenger car, and moderately high clearance was helpful.
The high winds continued as we hiked across the desert floor for a quarter mile before dropping into a wash. Once in the wash we were sheltered from the wind Following the Peak Guide directions we continued up the canyon to the 2000' level. Along the way we enjoyed the rock walls towering above, the pools of water in the canyon bottom, and some folks experienced continuing encounters with the cats claw bush As we approached the ridge line at the saddle, some loose rock on the steep slope caused us to use caution. We took a brief break in the lee of the saddle before continuing up the windswept ridge towards the summit. Once on top we found some shelter from the wind on the southeast side of the summit rocks and ate our lunch. In addition to the normal ritual of everyone signing the register, Ken provided entertainment by resolving the problem of the bubble in his compass by dissecting the compass with his "Leatherman" tool and puncturing the liquid filled capsule.
After leaving the summit and descending the ridge a ways, we angled down the side of the ridge prior to reaching the saddle to avoid the loose rock in the side gully that we had encountered on our way up. This traverse took us back to the main canyon at the normal turn off point After an uneventful hike back to the cars, we headed out to look for a campsite with some shelter from the wind.
Since our route towards Sunday's peak was to be up the graded Blythe-Rice Road to highway 62, I decided to check out the location marked "Mojave Tank" on the Riverside County AAA map. The map shows this as being located on a loop road with two intersection points with the graded road However, no one could spot either of these roads, and we backed up to another side road 7/l0ths of a mile North of "Styx" A mile or so in on this road (suitable for passenger cars) we found a nice campsite near some hills and a wash with trees for a wind break. With camp established, Happy Hour commenced and that soon rolled over into the Pot Luck Dinner. As we sat around the campfire, we all enjoyed many dishes, but special thanks to Mirna for the home made Guatemalan style Tamales, Barbee for Bar-B-Qing the chicken, and to Tom for the Chili. Tina had plans to head back to town after the hike of Big Maria, but we persuaded her to stay for some of the great food before she drove on home.
Sunday morning's drive West on highway 62 was marked with rain showers, and we chased rainbows across the desert towards the Spectre Point trailhead The turn off point from the highway is currently marked by an overturned burned out car. We left the 2WD cars a short way off the pavement, consolidated vehicles, and drove on up the wash to the Monument Boundary to strut our hike. The peaks above were shrouded in clouds and occasionally peaked out into a bit of the general sunshine. We followed Route B in the Peak Guide up the steep wash to the saddle and the second wash, following occasional ducks along the way. We checked out the Pinyon Pines along the way, but only found empty dry husks inside the nut shells.
From the shoulder of the ridge west of Aqua Point, the peaks were obscured in the clouds. Eventually we caught a glimpse the distant point we assumed to be the peak. With the clouds not quite giving us a clear view of all the high points at one time, it was difficult to tell which was which. We ascended a ridge to what turned out to be the correct peak, but missed the easiest route by being too far west on the way up and had a little fun on some 3rd class rock as we traversed to the summit. We had a great lunch stop on the summit rocks. Sitting sheltered from the winds, we watched as the clouds opened up in front of us to reveal narrow views to sun colored peaks and crags, and then once again enveloped us, only to reopen a different view through the clouds.
Thanks to Scot for assisting once again. The participants were: Tom Sumner, Barbee Hoffmann, Bill Oliver, Tina Stough, Mirna and Greg Roach, Mario Gonzales Ken McElvany, Jack Wickel Paul Backer, and Doug Hatfield.
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