Friday, May 24, 2013
Hike 2013.028 -- Table Top Mountain, Mojave National Preserve
Hiked Saturday, May 11. This is largely a repeat of my 30th hike of 2011. The difference is I started this hike much later in the day, and it felt about twice as long.
I can confirm much of what I wrote two years ago. The "trailhead" (such that it is) is a fraction over 5.0 miles north of the turnoff for the Hole in the Wall Visitor Center or Black Canyon Equestrian Campground, both of which peel off of Black Canyon Road. Among the very significant changes that have occurred since my last visit here is a large road washout last fall. The road has been re-graded, but, as of May 2013, the road is now extremely rough for roughly the last three miles of the way north. My understanding is that the road is similarly rough north of this point, so coming down from the Las Vegas direction would also be rough.
Whereas last time, 45mph would have been easy, this time, most of the way was at under 10mph. Obviously, a jeep or other off-highway vehicle could take this road comfortably at a much faster clip. Passenger cars will need to take it very slow.
Also, the cattle grating is largely covered by the dirt redistributed by the flooding. You will hardly notice passing over the grating, though the reflector on the west side of the grate is still easily visible. It's also still true that, if I didn't already know what I was looking for, I would easily have blown right by this little turnout for the "trail" to Table Top Mountain.
So, at any rate, I've got some pictures above showing the approach to the turnout, what it looked like behind my car, looking back at Black Canyon Road, and looking forward from where I had pulled over.
From there, you continue along the jeep trail, over the crest, and continue along the double-track for perhaps 1/2 mile. At the first left on on the road (not to be confused with a wash, coming in from the left), turn left and head towards a windmill. Along the way, wildflowers were comparatively thick. It wasn't a carpet of flowers, like at Antelope Valley in a good year, but it was a very good show for the Mojave: Mostly desert mallow (orange in color), with some yellow daisies, and the purple of chia.
Once at the windmill, you'll probably see a water trough for the grazing cows (you may see some cows, too).
Head cross-country, due east, paralleling the barbed wire fence. Note the large outcropping of rocks, near the start of your cross-country route. That's where you'll head back to on your return trip. Hard to miss.
Meanwhile, you just walk east, barbed wire at your left. It's probably a mile and half of just trudginga long. Some descriptions will mention a duck-shaped rock (the one pictured at the top of this post). But, really, all you need to do is continue until you see that there are no other ups and downs along the ridge line that will take you up to Table Top Mountain. When you reach that point, it's time to look for a point to cross under the barbed wire fence (the lowest strand is not barbed), and head up one of the drainages, towards the crest.
By this time, you'll have realized that the face of the ridge is not very steep. Yeah, there's still some altitude to gain. And you may need to occasionally boulder-hop to do it. But it's not technical, and there's nothing that'll stop you unless you get tired or thirsty. Just take your time. There is more than one way up this ridge, so don't worry about getting lost. Just walk carefully, try not to trample too many wildflowers, and take some care on the way to keep from falling.
By the way, here's the windmill. So all the pictures so far (except the one at the top of the post) were just along the first mile or so of the trail.
Once you reach the crest, turn right (duh). Table Top Mountain should now present a rather daunting climb before you.
And make no mistake: It IS a very steep 150 feet or so remaining. Again, there are multiple routes up, but all will require care to keep from sliding back down with each step.
You'll pass by many dead pinyon pine, the remnants of a thick forest that burned a number of years ago.
Looking up at the lava cap at the west end of Table Top, even getting closer, it still looks daunting.
There is one area where a straight boulder wall maybe 8 feet tall forces a detour left or right. Approach the cap from the northeast, and you'll discover the way up is generally unexposed, and requires no more than good care to navigate the last 20 feet or so to the top.
From the top, you'll be rewarded with some pretty outstanding views from the top. Even just a portion of the way up, you can look south, towards Barber Peak, where near where you may have or will be camping. To the northwest is the slow but steady image of Cima Dome, with Teutonia Peak jutting above it. Far beyond that is Clark Mountain, the tallest point in the preserve, rising north of I-15
Looking east, along the mesa top, you'll see lava blocks just below the surface, which is, of course, the reason why there's a mesa here at all: a hard surface atop weaker sand and sandstone that eroded away.
You'll also conclude that the only real challenges in this hike are 1) Finding the trailhead; 2) Surviving the heat, and 3) Surviving the steep final climb to the summit. Bring plenty of water if you're hiking in reasonable heat, as well as something to eat, because you'll burn a lot of calories on this hike. Sunscreen will probably also be a good idea.
Keep in mind, the hike gets exponentially tougher the higher the temps. Be sure to bring enough liquids.
Return the way you came. Hopefully, you made some note of where to head down from the mesa top. The obvious advice is, if it starts looking tough, you're going the wrong way. If it was easy coming up, returning should also be easy.
Just find a good way down a drainage, cross under the fence, and parallel it back to the windmill area. The follow the jeep trail back to your car.
Total mileage should be around 7 miles (longer if you decide to walk across the mesa top and back).
I'm obviously way behind in my hike blogging. Sadly, I'm not falling further behind since I haven't hiked in the two weeks since Table Top Mountain. I should get in at least one hike over the long weekend, however. Hope to catch up on my blogging after I get back.