Piper Peak, MacGruder Peak, Silver Peak Range
By: Wynne Benti
Saturday morning, we met Delores Holladay, Scott Weaver, Kim Osborne, Pete Yamagata & Bob Michael at Glacier View Campground on the corner of highways 168 and 395. With Kim, was her 14 month old Dachshund named Mattie, a restless little dog with a natural talent for mountain climbing. We left the Owens Valley where the early morning storm clouds sailed across White and Iyo Mountains, but the sun beamed down on Big Pine. We caravanned across Westagard Pass to Fish Lake Valley, where the sunny morning quickly changed into one of cold rain, snow and sleet on the east side of the Whites.
Not to be dissuaded by a few grey clouds, we followed a series of wet, slippery roads across Fish Lake Valley into the Silver Peak Range, nothing so difficult that careful driving in a two-wheel drive couldn't negotiate. We parked at a saddle, then followed a jeep trail for a short distance through a miniature moonscape of pale pink volcanic tuff. Leaving the jeep trail, a ridge was followed through pinyons, then open sage with a fresh dusting of about five to six inches of snow. Near the summit, visibility was obscured by a heavy cloud cover which rolled across the entire summit ridge. On the summit of Piper, the high point of the Silver Peak Range, we signed the register. We enjoyed Kim's homemade brownies but didn't linger too long, deterred by the cold, dripping fog. What would have been an otherwise spectacular view of the snow-covered White Mountains was completely camouflaged by a thick, wet blanket of clouds. The return trip to the cars was uneventful with some heavy downpours which quickly passed. The road had dried out somewhat by the time we reached Fish Lake Valley. We had an enjoyable lunch in Dyer at "The Boonies," complete with a full bar ($2.00 well drinks) and slot machines. From there, we drove to the ruins of the 19th century boom town of Palmetto, where we camped just off the road. Ominous skies threatened rain at sunset. By nine o'clock, the rain came down and did so throughout the night. Sunday morning, most of the storm clouds had cleared out, replaced by blue sky and cold wind. We drove a few miles to Lida Summit, where we parked on a dirt road below the main highway. Kim and Mattie stayed at the cars, while the rest of the group proceeded in a southerly direction up a steep pinyon-covered ridge to the open summit ridge. Once on the broad ridge, the walk to the summit of Magruder through windswept junipers was pleasant and the views spectacular - east over the Great Basin, south across Death Valley to the sandy plains of Badwater, west to the snow-covered eastern slopes of the Whites and Sierra. The summit register was an impressive ammo canister replete with a Pierre Cardin designer notebook. While reviewing the register, Delores discovered that she had climbed the peak several years ago. On the return route, the hills were alive with the sound of cicadas! As we dropped off the steep main ridge and walked across rolling hills through a grove of pinyons, we were overwhelmed by the boisterous hum of a 17-year cicada hatch. Piney branches were covered with live cicadas and their empty skinned counterparts. Apparently, cicadas hatch in such huge numbers that their natural predators are totally overwhelmed, and can't make a dent in the population. They spend 17 years literally holed up underground. Then on that magic year, they are compelled to crawl from the earth to do whatever it is cicadas do - shedding, mating, flying underfoot. Bob Michael petted one, and for a moment, it looked like Scott seriously considered eating one on a $10 dare. Yet another flew under my boot heel before I had a chance to step elsewhere. Soon, the cicadas were just a passing memory, like a piece of cottonwood fluff floating across 395. When we reached the cars, lawn chairs were opened and we relaxed a moment to enjoy Bob's bag of Ruffles, Delores' salsa and Kim's remaining brownies. It was an absolutely wonderful weekend and thanks to everyone who cam out for these unlisted peaks.
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