Castle Dome, Signal Peak
By: Barry Holchin
This trip was a provisional trip, which I had planned in February, so there was some concern whether there'd be time to generate sufficient participation. Thanks to email and help from the various newsletter editors and webmasters, it was very well published. In addition, the weather was perfect and some of the desert plants were in bloom. Although the temperatures got into the low 90s, the fairly early departures permitted us to hike in very comfortable conditions, with cool breezes accompanying us much of the way, especially on top.
Castle Dome was planned as our first peak, so that we could finish with Signal. That's a shorter hike and also closer to home, permitting us to get back sooner. Viewing the peak from Highway 95, we wondered what we were getting into. It looked daunting. We drove all cars as far as we could, just past Hull Mine, and then transferred to 4wd vehicles. Using the DPS write up for guidance to the hike point of departure, and confirming mileage with the odometer, we had 13.7 miles instead of 12. Since I had read all the trip descriptions on the web, I assumed such an error would have been noted, so it took a while to confirm we were indeed in the right spot. Walking up the canyon, I saw what I was certain was Castle Dome most of the way; however, the write up implied it didn't come into view until two miles. In any case, rather than heading for the saddle, we took the ridge up to the base of the peak, dropped perhaps 100' to the west, then directly to the saddle. It went well and the footing was good. The 3rd class section was uneventful, but sufficiently challenging for the group. We took the route straight down from the saddle on the way back, just for comparison. I preferred the other route. By the time we got back to the vehicles, it had warmed up a bit. The drinks from the ice chest were welcome. On the way out, we were treated with the sight of several horses roaming the desert, eating the young Palo Verde leaves, with Castle Dome in the background. They appeared to be very healthy. We drove over to our meeting location for Signal Peak, where we enjoyed happy hour and dinner, compliments primarily of Trader Joes. Word of my vegetarianism must have spread, since there was virtually no dead flesh in sight.
The drive out to the Signal Peak departure point was uneventful, except for the beautiful rock formations and the varied nature of the mountain itself. There's a fork just as you drop into the wash that's not described in the DPS guide. Bear right here. The parking turnoff described in the DPS guide did not materialize, but there was no problem finding a parking spot at the base of Ten Ewe Canyon. On this portion of the trip we hoped to see some bighorn sheep, but all we did see was abundant evidence of their presence. We took the 2nd class route described in the DPS guide, but at 4100' we took the canyon bearing NW then W to the peak. That saved considerable distance, and probably some time. When we reached the ridge, the wind was cool and the view was awesome! We stayed for an hour, and then headed back the same way. On the way back, we recovered the sunglasses I had left at one of the break spots. In hindsight, I wish we had gone back using the route recommended in the DPS Guide, just for comparison purposes.
In my welcome letter, I indicated that the attribute I consider most important on a trip I'm leading is a positive attitude. This trip had that in abundance. Trip participants were Asher Waxman, co leader and evaluator, Duke Blakesley, Jay Friedman, Dave Heenan, and Shane Smith, who's a 3rd generation Desert Peaker! It was a pleasure to hike with them.
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