Much like us, mountains often seem to have personalities. At the very least, each mountain has its own distinctive feel, with there being a veritably infinite set of variations amongst the mountains out there. Sounds crazy, but it seems like many people who spend some time in the mountains, come away saying something similar. But, have you ever had that experience where you see somebody in photos, or hear about a person through third parties, but when you finally meet them in person, they seem quite different from what you expected and built up in your mind. More rarely, some folks turn out to be almost exactly what you expected. Over the Christmas break, I went on a road trip that involved hiking two different desert peaks – Avawatz Mountain outside Baker, California and McCullough Mountain just over the border in Nevada – that were fine examples of both scenarios.
After a few miles in the canyon, I found myself at the small, abandoned radio tower of sorts along the ridge. Shortly before this spot, I was able to pick the old road back up where it climbs out of the canyon putting a safe distance between itself and the flash flooding below. From the tower, I followed the road as it contoured around to the hillsides on the far side. I picked a semi-random spot to leave the road and gain the ridgeline, but not before meeting the crux of the route. This consists of a steep hillside with white cliffs, which was now towering in front of me. It mostly looked like it would be a bit tiring, but I could see obvious ways around the cliffs, so I wasn’t too worried about them. In fact, it wasn’t too bad overall. I just took my time and next thing I knew I was on top and starting out along the ridgeline to Avawatz. This portion was pretty long too, but I had some amazing clouds to gaze at and occupy my mind as I strolled along. The clouds looked surreal: popcorn shaped puffs, forming checkerboard like patterns off to the horizon in both directions. I was lucky to have these clouds spice up an otherwise bleak, gray sky. In addition, the timing of my arrival at the summit was rather fortuitous, in that all the clouds and bleak lighting I had since after sunrise, mostly cleared up right after I got there, leaving me crisp, clear vistas with just the right amount of clouds to spice up the view. Some of the remaining popcorn-puff clouds left a checkerboard like pattern of shadows across the desert floor to the East. I rested for some time, took photos, snacked and soaked in the views as much as I could before starting down. Most of the hike back down was uneventful. I enjoyed snapping photos of the hillsides on the way down, which were now vibrant and colorful with the bright, clear afternoon light. When I got back to the car, I enjoyed a beer and relaxed in the back of the 4runner cooking up some dinner – black bean soup with a can of chicken thrown in. A pretty tasty meal for a hungry hiker. After dinner I packed up all my stuff and slowly made my way down the rough road and on to McCullough Mountain.