Ah, the DPS list: peaks for when you have nothing better to do. Sitting in Loony Bean looking at the current and imminent snow in both the Sierra and the Whites, I was at somewhat of a loss for what to do. My “hit the Sierra early” plans were toast for awhile, and even the drier Whites were looking unexpectedly white. I hit up a friend for a shower and bed, and she, being a desert rat, suggested a trip to Saline and/or Death Valleys. After a week spend fighting rain and snow, some time in the driest part of the country seemed like a good idea.
Topping off on water, gas, and supplies in Big Pine, I headed a couple miles down highway 168, then turned right on the Saline Valley road. Despite having crossed between the Sierra and Rockies too many times over the years, this remote route was new to me. I stayed north instead of heading into Saline Valley, continuing past the end of the pavement to park at a saddle in the Last Chance range. Though the sporting route up Sandy Peak climbs from the Eureka Dunes, the common, boring route from this saddle is easier and involves less driving.
After lunch, I filled my pack, walked around the car, and noticed I had a flat tire. No problem: I come prepared with both a spare and a can of fix-a-flat. I read the instructions, shook the can, screwed it onto the valve stem, and… listened to it pathetically sputter out after a couple of seconds. More shaking, screwing, and unscrewing forced a bit more of the sealant into the tube, so I moved the car until the tire was puncture-side down, pumped it up the rest of the way with my bike pump, and took off for the peak.
Sandy proved to be a classic, boring DPS peak, a long walk through rolling, dusty washes and hills, trying to optimize one’s route to minimize elevation gain and avoid volcanic choss and occasional rocky outcrops. I distracted myself with the occasional flower and views of the Eureka Valley and cloud-shrouded Sierra to the west. Despite finding only occasional cairns and bits of use trail along the way, I saw quite a bit of traffic in the summit register, including a number of friends as well as the desert regulars.
Retracing my steps, I startled some sort of desert grouse and about a dozen of its chicks. They scattered, hiding under sagebrush before I got a picture of the whole gaggle, and the hen clucked to her brood from a safe distance until I moved on. Returning to the car, I topped off my rear tire, which was still leaking slowly, added a bit more sealant, and drove on to Last Chance Spring to camp.