The Old Hiker Dude is back! Yes, he has returned to leading local hikes after giving his knee a much-needed rest and medical treatment. On a recent breezy February Saturday, he led a Sierra Club sponsored hike of nine to the top of Calico Peak, the highest spot at 4,542 feet in the Barstow area.
Besides Barstow hikers, others came from Big Bear, Apple Valley, Orange County, and the Los Angeles area. Meeting at the BLM parking lot across from the college, the group signed in and was off by 8:00 a.m. Traveling north on I 15, we parked at a cleared area just off Ghost Town Road at the entrance to Odessa Canyon, about a mile to the east of the entrance to Calico Ghost Town.
The hike to the top of Calico Peak was a little over six miles from the dirt parking area. Creosote plants dotted the open hills of pale yellow and green; a tan dirt road began a the gradual ascent through Odessa Canyon. The roar of off-road vehicles was heard as they stirred up the dust clouds in the distance.
The road narrowed, and the reddish weathered rocks closed in to form walls pocked with holes. The road, once covered with asphalt, has deep ruts with little of the original paving material remaining. The road remains a challenge for off-roaders and eventually becomes impassible for any vehicles.
Odessa Canyon was once a place where early gold and silver prospectors hoped to find the Mother lode. Their cave-like mines remain, testaments of failed ambitions and forgotten dreams.
Eventually the canyon walls gave way to open space and other dirt roads. Now the trek to the top of Calico Peak began on a maintained dirt road that winds around the mountain to the top where microwave antennas stand like futuristic sculptures. The road may be maintained, but it is steep with loose gravel that can be a challenge for most hikers.
Once on top, the view from Calico Peak was spectacular, a 360 degree panorama of local towns, dry lake beds, and vast expanses of desert. The San Bernardino Mountains and San Gorgonio Mountain can be seen to the south and the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains come into view when looking to the north.
This year all nine hikers made it to the top of Calico Peak; last year three hikers didn’t and had to wait further down the mountain for the group to return.
Since we were ahead of schedule, Old Hiker Dude suggested that we return down the canyon via Sweetwater Spring. This alternate route appealed to all, so off we went to see where water bubbles up to the surface.
We continued south on the ridge above Doral Canyon, just west of Odessa Canyon. The area was a mecca for old gold and silver mines dug by the hard rock miners in the late 1800′s. Remains of mines were everywhere along the ridge as we ventured down into the canyon itself. Eventually, we hiked our way through the rocky narrow canyon, and by 3:30 p.m. we had made it back to the cars for another fun-filled adventure hiking in the desert.
The next local hike is Saturday, March 24 through Owl Canyon and into Rainbow Basin. For more information and meeting place, contact Terrence McCorkle at 760-252-2194 or 760-412-1683 (cell) or e-mail oldhikerdude[at]verizon.net.
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