Valley of the Moon

Today’s adventure was a combination of climbing some peaks listed on the Borrego Benchmark Club list and some fun off-road adventures in the Valley of the Moon area. Dave picked Ted and me up and headed down the freeway toward the Valley of the Moon. Ted has been wanting to climb Blue Angels peak to cross another SoCal county high point off the list. We pulled off the freeway and lowered the tire pressure on the Rubicon before setting off. We drove up the road that takes you into the Valley of the Moon. Past where I had parked my Subaru on a previous excursion, the road had its first real section that would take some care getting through, but the Rubicon had no issues. Our first designation was the trailhead for Blue Angels peak. It was nice just driving there and not having to walk on the road like I did the first time. Just before we reached the trailhead, we had to drive up one tricky section. We parked and grabbed our gear for the much shorter hike to the summit. 

First, we inspected the quartz mine, as well as the abandoned Chevy, before heading southward along the use trail. To our east, we had some nice views of the actual Valley of the Moon. Huge wind turbines stood off to our south. We cruised along toward the summit, and scrambled up what I thought was the peak, only to discover it was the bump to our north. Since Boundary Marker 321 was just a few hundred yards away, we headed over to it. After snapping a few photos of it, we retraced our route and ascended the correct bump. 

Dave is dealing with some tendon issues, so he found a nice rock to lay on and enjoy the sun, while Ted and I made the short scramble to the summit. I could not find a register, but at least it now has a wooden sign. After snapping our photos and me scrambling to photograph the reference marks as well, we dropped back down off the summit and began working our way back to the jeep.

We stowed our gear in the back and set off toward some of the other minor benchmarks scattered around the area. Just to our west was Whip Benchmark. I wanted to get it last time I was here but had some time constraints that prevented me from hiking to it. We carefully made our way back down from Prospect Mine. At one point we had a 25-degree tilt, which was a fun bit, as we came down the road. The road up toward Whip also had some fun off-road bits, but nothing like that section we just drove down. Whip Benchmark was a quick walk up. In fact, there was a benchmark and register that was guarded by a cactus on the summit. The last person to sign it was back in March 2021! We snapped some photos and cruised back to the jeep. We missed a turn when leaving Prospect Mine for the road I thought we should take, but could now see it to our east. That road actually rejoined the road just above that “fun” section, but this time Dave found a better line and it was a cakewalk. 

Our next destination was Nopal Benchmark, which sits to the southwest of some communication towers. We drove up past them to a small turnout. A small fire ring had been built and next to it was a small frying pan. We wondered who would have left it behind. I spotted a use trail that led up the slope of the peak and began following it toward the summit. Not more than a minute later, a car pulled up and out hops a kid to retrieve the frying pan! He had slept there last night and missed it when he packed up. We asked how it was overnight, and he replied it was nice except for being a bit windy. He hopped in this car and drove off. We continued upward following the use trail. We had to climb over a couple of rocks, but other than that it was a straightforward ascent. The summit did not have a benchmark nor a register, but it had great views of the 8 freeway just below us. 

Once back at the car, we saw that it was getting close to lunch, so we decided to skip Quirk Benchmark and Smuggler’s Den. There are a couple more benchmarks back here (Gold and Tehe) and I am sure I can convince Dave to go driving back here again. We hit The Outpost in Alpine for some great pizza and a beer before heading home. A great day to cross two more of my BBC list and have some fun in the Rubicon!

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