July 17-18, 1982
An enthusiastic group of 10 enjoyed perhaps one of the last chances to visit Rock Mesa within the Three Sisters Wilderness — if U.S. Pumice Co. of Lee Vining, CA has its way.
From Devil’s Lake we crossed Wickiup Plain to the base of LeConte Crater, a perfectly-shaped cinder cone which is partially included in the 1400-acre mining claims. Part of the group climbed the crater for a view overlooking Rock Mesa, while the rest simply relaxed in the shade. Traversing around Rock Mesa to the East, we hit deep snow with unending suncups slowing any semblance of progress, and bright sunshine reflecting off the snow providing nice burns. Near Mesa Creek we tailed it quits for the night and set up camp atop a low wooded ridge.
Later in the evening, as dusk fell and the bats began to fly and the coyotes to howl and the creepy-crawlers began to do what they do best, we were suddenly confronted by a dreadful apparition that appeared out of the dark and mysterious North. But no! Wait a minute! A closer look showed it wasn’t that dreadful—merely ugly; and not an apparition at all, but only the blessedly-unique Ben Ross in training for his 75-mile one-day Rock Mesa Benefit Hike, to be held September 4. Ben had started at McKenzie Pass in the morning, and after 20 miles alone through snow, met up with us. The propeller on his beanie needed to be rewound, the flower in his teeth had wilted, and his roller skates were coming loose. So, we talked to him very softly and gently, then coaxed him into a nice white parka with sleeves that tied behind his back. By the time you read this the hike’s outcome will be in the company of other great legends.
In the morning we slowly (and Ben even more slowly!) climbed out of Mesa Creek and back up to the North end of Wickiup Plain. Here we explored the damage already done by the northern mining trail on Rock Mesa itself. Only a tiny portion of the lava appeared to contain mineable pumice; but numerous claim markers and exploratory pits emphasized the seriousness of the mine threat.
The final side trip for half the group was a quick jaunt up The Wife for an aerial view of the entire Rock Mesa-Wickiup Plain region. The other half clocked the climbers’ progress from below. A leisurely return to the cars at Devil’s Lake completed an enjoyable weekend. Very special Congratulations are due Doris Traudt, who chose a quite strenuous outing for her very first backpacking trip ever! Hikers included Dorinda Bankston, Emmy Dale, Bob Foster, Mary Fulton, Ed Lovegren, The Late Ben Ross, Doris and Merle Traudt, Paula Vehrs, and leader Bert Ewing.