Owens Lake 2020

Friday afternoon we set up base camp at the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns. In attendance were Kirk, Bobbie and Joe, George and Pam, Bryan Tiffany and Kacey, Art Norma Diego and Aldo and myself. Also camping with us were my daughter Jessica and her family and friends from Atascadero. We had 7 vehicles on the trail including the entire Slattery fleet. 

Friday night weather was the typical Owens Valley wind but not too cold. The rest of the weekend was perfect with mild temperatures and no wind. We had campfires each night and fireworks displays. 

Saturday morning I herded up the group and we headed for Swansea on the eastern shore of Owens Lake. At the trailhead we aired down and started up the mountain. The trail goes from 3600ft to over 9500ft and passes through several ecological zones. Along the way we passed several towers that are remains of the salt tram. The trail is fairly easy except for a couple of rock ledges that need to be climbed. No one had any trouble except Chub Chub overheated and we had to take a cool down break. 

Near the top we stopped in a shaded area for lunch and a bathroom break. From there we went to the Burgess mine at the top of the mountain. The only thing there are a run down cabin and several holes in the ground. This is on the ridge of the Inyo Mountains and has spectacular views of Owens Valley and Mt Whitney to the west and the Saline Valley to the east. 

Next we set off to the south along the ridge to the Salt Tram Transfer Station. This structure was built around 1910 to bring salt from the Saline Valley to the Owens Valley. It’s amazing that they could haul all this construction material to the top of the mountain and also build all the towers. For more information check out this site (www.owensvalleyhistory.com/saline_tramway1/page50a.html). 

From there we went to Cerro Gordo ghost town. The town was closed to tours that weekend but we stopped and looked around a little. We helped a couple in a IH Scout that was stuck in drive low range. It had a new Chevy LS conversion and the transmission linkage was too close to the exhaust and had melted. We unhooked the cable and showed them how to move the selector from under the vehicle. I hope they made it home. Check out (https://cerrogordomines.com) for more Cerro Gordo information. 

Sunday morning we headed up to Horseshoe Meadows in the Sierras directly above our base camp. This was all paved road but is considered one of the steepest and highest altitude maintained roads in the country. Chub Chub again over heated so the Slatterys turned around. The campground was closed due to COVID but the views were great. We stopped at a view spot to watch a hang glider launch but he chickened out. 

We then headed down the mountain and drove through the Alabama Hills to the Reward mine on the eastern side of the valley. The Reward Mine is an abandoned gold mine with tunnels large enough to drive into. Bobbie, George and myself with Kirk ridding with Bobbie drove in about a 1/4 mile. Turning around was the hardest part but it was fun. 

We went back to basecamp for dinner, target shooting and a campfire. The younger ones were let loose on the trails in the area to work on their driving skills and Joe got to use Bobbies new winch to pull Kacey out of the mud. Kacey blamed it on her navigator (Bryan). 

Monday we broke camp and drove home. It was a great weekend and I was to thank all who attended. I’ll probably do it again next year.

Written By: Dick