8152 ft (2485 m) – 2300 ft gain
It was finally time to get back to a desert high point – my string of monthly highpoints having been broken by a wonderful trip to Patagonia and Atacama Desert in Chile (stories and images coming soon).
Although we have not had good precipitation in 2022, a couple slider storms have left dustings in the high country and access can be an undesired, muddy adventure as early runoff continues. With this in mind, Darren and I ventured southward into the Mojave to find the south-facing slopes of Gold Mountain above Bonnie Claire Flat. It is a long but easy drive through Tonopah and Goldfield before turning west toward Scotty’s Castle and the former northern, paved entrance to Death Valley National Park – the road remains closed where, several years ago, the headward drainage of an alluvial fan reclaimed the highway near the castle grounds. It makes for a quiet section of highway along Bonnie Claire between Gold Mountain and the Grapevine Mountains.
We turn northward up the fan, encountering traces of Bonnie Claire Airfield before tracing our way to some mining prospects at the toe of the mountain front. There is a cool breeze as we head out, but we are soon warm as we gain elevation. On a moderate slope we walk up loose, dusty scree with Joshua trees scattered among granitic boulders. Prospects dot the hillsides where seams of hydro-altered rocks and occasional volcanic dikes run through their host outcrops; these intrepid miners chased riches promised by the historic strikes of nearby districts, and who could pass up “Gold Mountain”?
The scattered Joshua trees give way, with elevation, to a pinyon woodland where a few Pinyon Jays call out – I fail to see the talkative birds, however. Darren reaches a small cornice which preserves the recent snowy turbidity of recent storms; the small wave climbs from the ridgeline but we step over and through to reach the rocky slope of the summit outcrop. A square cairn protrudes from the summit where we can look westward to the Sierran Crest and eastward into the Basin and Range. It is a simple but very worthwhile summit, as is most often the case in the smaller isolated ranges throughout Nevada.
We drop southward to look for one of the larger prospects among a dense pinyon grove. Our descent takes us too far west, a bouldery outcrop and sandy canyon drawing us downward. I am not, however, overly fascinated by the old mines, so we take the descent following game trails toward the fans that feed into Bonnie Clair. We are quickly back to the truck where we marvel at the afternoon warmth. It is time to return to the chill of the northern valleys and we head homeward. A good day for a high point outing, taking advantage of windshield time to catch up with my brother and feel the warmth of a winter day at the edge of Death Valley.