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
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out-of-date since the report was submitted.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.