Burl Parkinson Peak, Mazorka Peak
By: Erik Siering
It was late June in the Argus Range, and we were postholing through the deep ridge snowpack! Really, it was just a heat-induced fantasy. But messy Sierra snow conditions had induced Bob Sumner and I to these alternative desert dayhikes in June. Fast and early starts got us off the climb each day by noon to beat the pressing heat. These are great, seldom trod routes.
Our Panamint Valley approach to Parkinson Pk was from near the Maturango Pk trailhead in Bendire Cyn. Beyond the prone wilderness boundary stake lay a mile of sound road, which evidenced no recent vehicles. The negotiable gravel wash sections past this have deteriorated in the absence of DPS traffic. An alluvial fan obliterates the 4wd track in one place, and a three foot boulder ultimately blocks the road 0.5 mile prior to its end at the dry waterfall.
We started up for the peak one mile before the Maturango trail, where the road makes a sharp turn to the north. Our brief foray in a side canyon was cut short by an insurmountable 40 ft sheer waterfall. We backed off, and scaled 2000 ft directly up the disagreeably steep and loose adjacent slope to gain Parkinson's eastern ridge. A faint mining path atop the ridge extended to the subsequent saddle, and with it were numerous adits, cairns and artifacts. And lots of signs of burro activity. We pursued a fairly open route through the pinyons, with a full view of Bendire Cyn below. At 8400 ft we intersected an old China Lake NWC jeep track, which we followed briefly right before heading to the small saddle south of the rocky top. C12 boulders led to the fine summit, easily the nicest of the cluster of peaks that include Maturango and French Madam Pks to the north.
Parkinson Pk was named for Burl Parkinson, a Sierra Club leader that perished with Francis Foley in a sudden spring storm in 1959 on the Boundary-Montgomery ridge. He'd explored this peak and had planned to subsequently lead a DPS trip to its summit. The sparse register indicated infrequent intentional ascents in lieu of Maturango Pk, mostly by familiar DPS folks and botanical survey personnel from NWC.
On our descent we were treated to a herd of feral burros at close range. Their pinyon-shaded siesta had been interrupted and they were puzzled by our abrupt appearance. There were several each of black, brown, and white hue, safeguarding an adorable small colt (burrito?). The burros graze and water in the canyon at night and retire to cooler elevations in the midday heat. We continued down the ridge to the Maturango trailhead, then returned to our takeoff point by the road. This is the optimal route. Stats rt: 9 miles, 4600 ft gain, your mileage will vary with your starting point.
Mazourka Pk, identified as Barber Pk on AAA maps, is a dirt road drive-up. Radio installations prompted an extension from Badger Flat, which is accessible from Owens Valley by the Mazourka Cyn Rd. So naturally, Bob and I instead climbed the peak from the Valley floor to the west.
The Black Springs Rd turnoff from Hwy 395 leads west to crossings of the Angeles Aqueduct and Owens River, and the excellent dirt road to the Jack Black Mine at the base of the Inyos. We camped at a mine and spring at 4400 ft. This is in the canyon that leads NIE to the summit. In the morning, we hiked-the track 0.25 mile further to its end, and then dropped into the sandy wash heading north, turning east at the second and most prominent wash junction two miles hence. We stayed in this drainage until shortly before it meets a side gully at 6400 ft. Here we decided that the rugged rib to the north was more appealing than the scrub brush. 600 ft of scrambling put us atop this main western ridge. Negotiating the large boulders, fortunately shaded in the morning, slowed our arrival at the summit plateau until 9:00. Three bumps with microwave repeaters are present-- the high point is the southeast. Only the shards of a register jar were apparent.
We savored the cool breeze and a panorama of the Owens Valley and the snowbound Sierra. Locals have reported that this summit affords good views of the 4th of July fireworks display by the town of Independence. We descended a southern ridge and gully variation, which dropped us precipitously through scree and sand to our trucks in a whirlwind 90 minutes. A fun loop route that is clearly visible from Hwy 395. Stats rt: 10 miles, 5000 ft gain.
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