Owen’s Valley Day 1: Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Well, been a while since I’ve done a blog post from my android phone on the road.. not even with the motorcycle this time. Only a few days off and I wanted to bring two bikes.

Day 1 is a full dirt climb up to an old mining site, Cerro Gordo. Notably, by FIETS score (16.98 FIETS, Pike’s Peak is 17.8) so this would be a solid Top 10 in the USA if it was paved – it climbs 4600 feet in a little less than 8 miles. It starts about 15 miles south of Lone Pine toward the Panamint Valley and then onto Death Valley.

d1-cerro-gordo

There’s a whole bunch of interesting history in this area related to the Water Wars where LA diverted their river – it’s still going on to this day over toxic dust clouds caused by the dry lake.

Anyways, it kicks off in Keeler, where a few hardy souls still hang on, and a lone US Post Office outpost.

Turn off from the highway
Looking back down the “easy” part

Once you roll out, it takes you onto a pretty well maintained dirt road (and in fact I passed a grader on the way back down) – the washboard was not too bad on the lower slopes and the first 5 miles is a pretty gradual (heh) 8-10% grade.

After you make this turn, the grade goes up

It kicks up in a few spots, but nothing egregious. At this point I was wondering what the fuss was about and figured it was cake.

Up up up
This is steep
Final kick to the ghost town
Nearly fell over here taking this picture. ha

Then you get to about mile 4.8 and take a small downhill, and the rest is pretty brutal. Solid 15-20%, and I saw upper 20s a few times. The road surface becomes a lot more challenging – much looser and more washboard. I don’t advise trying to stop: You may fall over or may not be able to get going again!

Panamint Valley Side
Summit looking down to Owen’s Valley

The summit gives you a peek over into the Panamint Valley and you can check out the old buildings and random artifacts related to the old mining history. I didn’t hang around for a tour and headed on down.

The upper descent was definitely sketchy on skinny gravel tires. You don’t want to get too much speed going on the loose wash board, or you may run out of traction. Being solo, I took it easy.

Once onto the lower slopes, I met up with the grading tractor knocking down all the washboard (what luck!) and it was smooth sailing.

As usual in this part of California, epic scenery abounds!

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