Thomas Mountain Trip Report

Thomas Mtn (6,835 ft)

The California Fifty Finest list of prominences includes the highpoint of the Granite Mountains (one of several such ranges in California alone) at some 4,300+ ft in a remote location halfway from the Palm Springs region and the Arizona border.

In order to shorten a two-day backpack from the nearest paved road (route 177), Edward Earl and myself negotiated a very sandy dirt road to shorten this 22 mile hike to something less ... when my Saturn got stuck in the sand about 11 PM Friday evening.

According to a report from the Sierra Club DPS (Desert Peak Section), a Nissan Sentra had made it up this unmarked dirt road all the way to one Palen Pass. However the report said it took considerable skill to accomplish that feat. I should say so!!

EE and myself cannot fathom how a Sentra could've gone the 2 miles down this lonely road, as we had in my Saturn sports coupe, and then negotiate some additional 7-8 miles over similar sandy terrain.

Indeed, upon seeing how far down the road I had taken my Saturn by light of day at 7 AM, we were amazed at far far I had taken the car the previous night given the 6+ inch drifts of sand all over the place.

Given the information we had at the time, Edward feels that we made the right decision.

Unfortunately that information has become seriously out-of-date since the report was submitted.

This was in a remote location about 50 miles west of Blythe and 17 miles north I-10 "in the middle of nowhere".

We spent three hours jacking up the wheels; placing a hard octagonal rubber object (from a construction site and that I kept in my car) under the wheels one-at-a-time; placing much broken branches from nearby shrubs for additional traction; and trying to maneuver the car around via a three-point turn.

By 2 AM we had managed to turn the car only about thirty degrees with perhaps 100 feet of horizontal travel. Noting our dismal rate of progress and the lateness of the hour, we turned in for the night.

As I lay back in the passenger's seat, on the outside chance that it would work, I tried my cell phone and found that I coud call my home number successfully (to test the concept).

I awakened Edward (who was in a sleeping bag outdoors), and, using the phone, EE called his AAA emergency road service number ... and we were in dialogue with various people for much of the night.

Please note that the AAA will not assist you should your vehicle break down on a dirt road: they consider it "off the road". Sometime around 4 or 5 AM their authorized driver had gotten 100 feet down our road and abandoned the effort since he feared getting stuck himself.

I got no sleep.

Bottom line - a tow service from Chricaco Summit (spp??) some 40 miles away extracted the car via a heavy chain using their 4WD vehicle. They were not affiliated with the AAA since, as noted above, the AAA refused to provided the necessary assistance.

The charge was $250 ($125/hr door-to-door) and the two tow service people (both morbidly obese) did not arrive until perhaps 10:40 AM in the morning since they did not come into their shop until 8 AM and then took their sweet time in driving out.

Sapped of energy and drained of motivation from having not slept, EE and myself opted to drive home and nab an alternate mountain - Thomas Mountain at some 6,835 ft, located in southern Riverside County. It has a 1,900 ft prominence and was on our wishlist for a while.

We earlized it by making it an 1,800 vertical foot gain with 9 miles for the round trip even though a dirt road leads in a circuitous fashion to the very summit.

Visited multiple possibe highpoints on top. Snow was intermittent beginning from below our starting point, and was blanketing the ground thoroughly by the summit.

Time up 2 hours and down 1 h 20 min - returning to my Saturn 6:02 PM having started at 2:17 PM (so making for a summit siesta of 25 minutes including highpoint touching).

I slept 11 1/2 hours the following night at home.