01-Jan-2001 -- On New Year's Day 2001 my friend James
Radzwill and I visited 35N 116W, which is one of the more remote
confluences in southern California. Situated in the East Mojave Desert,
the confluence is about 20 miles by line of sight from the nearest town,
Baker, California. To go from Baker to the confluence, we drove 21 miles
on the paved Kelbaker Road, then drove 20 miles off road (some of it requiring
four wheel drive), then hiked a 15 percent uphill grade for three miles into
the Bristol Mountains.
At one point during the off road part of the drive we startled a small herd
of bighorn sheep, which bounded away at our approach. We could easily see
their distinctive arched horns. What a pleasure to spot these beautiful animals
in the wild.
The three mile hike into the mountains would have been difficult if it weren't
for a desert wash (a dry river bed) that leads practically right up to the confluence.
Thanks to the wash, a hiker can just walk the smooth, sandy river bed with no
trouble at all. We chose this confluence because, of all the southern California
confluences, it was conspicuously unvisited. If you look at a map you'll see why. It
takes a lot of work to get there. So imagine our surprise when we started our
hike and noticed two sets of fresh footprints going right up the wash ahead of us!
"James," I said, "We've been scooped." And sure enough,
the prints led all the way to the confluence, so we knew we were not the first
people to visit it. Knowing that no one would trek to this point by chance, I began
wondering if I would return home that evening to find the point posted on the Degree
Confluence Project pending list. The last quarter mile was pretty rough going. We
scrambled up and down rocky ravines where the footing was treacherous at times.
At last we arrived at the confluence, which is situated on a slope that offers a
beautiful panoramic view of the East Mojave Desert. We ate MREs for lunch, then
built a three foot cairn to mark the confluence. We took several pictures there and
I later noticed the GPS screen photographs better in daylight with a flash.
That night at home I rechecked the Degree Confluence Project pending list,
and still no one had submitted the confluence. Is it possible someone would visit
the confluence apart from the Degree Confluence Project? James and I will
watch and wait.