"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious" ~ Albert Einstein

Friday, October 25, 2013

Inyo Mountains, Mazourka Canyon Ride, May 25th, 2012

This is another one of those retrospective blog posts. Since I've been writing up trip reports on a few recent outings, it seems like a shame to not have one for some of our more noteworthy trips in the past.  Plus, I wanted this blog to partly be a resource for others to find inspiring, fun destinations to explore and ideas for adventure.  Not too mention, on this particular trip, I made one of my first GoPro videos that actually turned out half-way decent!  Curtis and Mark joined me on this trip.

Our ride went up Mazourka Canyon and into the Inyo Mountains.  Inyo comes from the Owens Valley Paiute, which means "dwelling place of the Great Spirit".*  We slowly made our way up Mazourka Canyon and entered Badger Flats, without much anticipation of an actual meeting along the lines of Moses' encounter on Mount Sinai.  From Badger Flats, we started a loop that initially heads back towards Papoose Flats.  This section of road got a little rocky and rough in places, but it was a lot of fun and the views off to the Sierra were pretty expansive in several spots.  Papoose Flats was a really cool place - remote, scenic and tad-bit unusual.  It's a fairly wide flat with large, isolated granitic boulder formations spread out across its extent, which had a somewhat other-worldly feel to them.  If it wasn't for all the sage and other desert brush, which makes me feel right at home, Papoose could almost start to resemble an alien landscape. 

Papoose Flats

Papoose Flats
We had lunch in Papoose Flats before heading over to Squaw Flats, another pretty and isolated area nestled deep in the Inyos.  The trail was pretty sandy getting over to Squaw, but then there was a fast, fun section of trail right through Squaw Flats that led to a hill climb of sorts on the far side.  I had a blast trying to keep up with Curtis through this part as we weaved our way along to the far side of Squaw Flat.  However, it made it go by too fast!  It was nice to visit Squaw Flats again because it brought back some good memories.  Rebecca and I drove back there quite a few years ago to hike up Waucoba Peak and Squaw Peak with Rosco and Daisy.  We all really enjoyed that one.  Gotta say, sure was a lot easier getting back there on a dirt bike, though!

From here, we headed out to the 178 highway and then circled back through Harkless Flats before returning to Papoose Flats.  I'd love to get back to Harkless Flats to explore around some more.  The crest between Papoose and Harkless had yet more great views of Owens Valley and the Sierra.  The clouds were building above the Sierra by this point and a swift wind was picking up over the Inyos.

Looking Back At Squaw Flats

When we got back to Badger Flats near the top of Mazourka Canyon road, Curtis and Mark had to head back home to Ridgecrest and take care of some family business.  Since I drove up separate, I decided to stay and ride on up to the top of Mazourka Peak and check out the views, which held some promise for being some of the best that day and, indeed, they certainly were.  I found a couple of really nice on-the-edge-of-the-world camp sites up there that are still on the to-do list for one day!  I got off my bike, took off the helmet and some gear and relaxed for a while in this awe-inspiring location.  I love crisp, cold mountain winds.  They feel almost cathartic and enlivening as they purify, carrying away any concerns, frustrations, or any other emotional tensions, with each gust.  I rode back down the mountain feeling re-invigorated.

Next up, I decided to try getting out to the Betty Jumbo Mine, one of those more obscure locales.  The road to Betty Jumbo follows a narrow road that precipitously snakes its way along the side of the Inyos for about 9 miles, with a lot of steep, rugged mountainside stretching far above on one side and far below on the other.  Frequent large, fallen boulders lay across the middle of the road.  It's always neat getting to these antiquated, rarely-visited old mining sites. Since the mine site was separated off a bit from the main mountain massif and out on an isolated sub-peak, it made for a nice lookout with views stretching up and down Owens Valley below.  One can quickly feel tiny and insignificant in this vast landscape.

Betty Jumbo Mine
Looking Back At Road to Betty Jumbo
Betty Jumbo Mine

I slowly made my way back over to Mazourka Canyon and down to my vehicle parked in Owens Valley.  I packed up my gear and loaded my bike up as the wind occasionally blasted me with clouds of sand swept up from the desert floor.  I headed back down the 395 to a hot shower, a yummy dinner and a couple cold beers.  After a good night sleep, I enjoyed relaxing the next day.  I always enjoy the contrast of rugged adventure, followed by a well-earned day of sheer, utter laziness.  ;-)

*Zdon, Andy; Desert Summits, Spotted Dog Press, 2000

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