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Mazourka | Inyo West #3

Having thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Swansea to Cerro Gordo loop, I had two more areas - or at least, access points - in the Inyo Mountains that I wanted to explore. I didn't know much about either of them, but they centered around Mazourka Peak, which I thought would be a nice, high elevation - so cooler - place to spend the night. Getting there required a bit of pavement and a refuel in Independence, before heading up Mazourka Canyon road and my first decision of the morning.

It's always hard for me to drive by Manzanar without visiting, but somehow, I managed to stop for just a single photo this time.

It was just after 10:00am when I started up Mazourka Canyon. Not knowing how long it would take to follow the canyon to the peak, I was already debating whether or not I'd forego on of the longer side-roads that I'd mapped - to the Betty Jumbo Mine - in favor of leaving enough time to reach the summit before sunset. In typical fashion, I was easily distracted even before I had to make that decision - a much less exciting ore bin - clinging to the side of a small hill - was enough to move my foot to the brake, and have me out for a look.

Did I really stand a chance of reaching the Mazourka Peak before dark? The smart money - clearly - was a resounding nope.

Don't forget to keep an eye out behind you, sometimes that's where the best views can be found!

The most interesting aspect of the ore bin - I thought - was this old ladder.

With this small distraction out of the way, I immediately set about a much larger distraction as I turned onto the road leading to the Betty Jumbo Mine. I had no idea what I was getting myself into - in fact, I'd found very little about the Betty Jumbo when I searched online - except for another person asking about road conditions in 2012:

I was wondering if anyone knows the condition of the road to the Betty Jumbo Mine where it narrows past the Black Eagle Mine? I've heard some stories but would like to know more before I commit.

OpenTrackRacer (July 30, 2012)

Last time I was up there a big boulder came down behind me while heading past where you are talking about. I was within sight of the mine but could go no further in my full-size Blazer. Turned around and found the boulder that had come down. I spent some time nudging it back out of the way so I could pass it but even the dog was scared. I was right on the edge of the cliff with my left tires.


With a description like that, it probably would have been safer had @mrs.turbodb been there to talk me out of the attempt entirely, but left to my own poor judgement, I just couldn't help myself but to find out. At the very least - I convinced myself - I'd be able to enjoy some nice views before I had to turn around. And hopefully, I'd be smart enough to turn around before I found myself in a situation where it was too late; a situation where I needed to back down some sketchy, rocky, narrow, shelf road.

As I started up the road to the Betty Jumbo Mine, I resolved to turn around as soon as I saw something that made me the slightest bit uncomfortable.

Immediately, the views were out in force.

The first few miles of the road were much better than I expected. While not graded, they did seem reasonably well travelled, and I enjoyed the terrain as the road followed the folds of the mountain, working its way into - and through - boulder-covered hillsides.

I always love running into terrain like this.

A wonderland of rocks, with the Sierra peeking through.

Then, I saw the switchbacks. I was still a mile away, but my brain sent a clear signal to my mouth, because I distinctly remember muttering something like, "don't be stupid, just turn around now."

Looks safe.

Are you really going up there? Even I don't go up there...

Predictably, I convinced myself that I should at least see how I felt when I got to the switchbacks, so I continued on. My poor decision was reinforced when the road turned out to be quite reasonable - only one of the turns requiring a 3-point maneuver - and soon I reached the top, where more narrow shelf road unfolded before me!

Looks so flat from above.

The lupine was out in force at these higher elevations.

I continued on for another mile or two - only encountering a couple of places where I should have turned around - before rounding an internal bend on a narrow shelf road, only to find a series of basketball-sized rocks placed neatly across my path.

That was too obvious a sign for even me to ignore, so I stopped the Tacoma and hopped out on foot to try and figure out if I could continue on - at least to a turnaround point - or if I was going to be backing down the sketchy, rocky, narrow, shelf road I'd just climbed.

Didn't my cousin tell you to stay down below?

Definitely not going to be driving that.

Wondering why someone hadn't blocked the road at a place that would have been a bit more conducive to turning around, I now had another decision to make - hike the remaining half-mile to the Betty Jumbo mine, or tuck tail and start slowly backing down the shelf road to a place where I could turn around.

Hoping to delay the later, I chose the former.

Colorful geology.

Rounding a corner, the mine sat below a saddle, and it looked like there were "things" to explore!

An old concrete bunker - perhaps an explosives room - built into the granite along the side of the road.

I arrived - after what seemed like significantly more than half a mile, probably due to the mid-day sun - to find a pair of dilapidated ore bins and a collared adit that has seen better days. Wondering if I should have saved my time and energy, I hoped that I'd at least be able to wander into the adit a way, even if I had left all my lights, tripod, and flashlight back at the Tacoma!

All that's left at the Betty Jumbo Mine.

Thank goodness they refrained from installing that last piece of angle.

Less than 50 feet into the shaft, an enormous collapse had sealed the workings from any sort of exploration.

The portals upper (left) and lower (right) of the Betty Jumbo in 1976. Photo Credit Don Deck.

Feeling a bit behind schedule - for good reason, given the completely avoidable distractions I'd failed to avoid so far in the day - I headed back to the Tacoma and got myself to a spot where I could turn around before speeding my way back down to Mazourka Canyon.

Down we go.

Nearly back down to the valley, the Sierra only seemed to grow taller.

Finally - now 1:23pm - I was less than a quarter of the way to my destination for the evening as I headed back uphill and into the road system that I hoped to explore on my way to Mazourka Peak. Not knowing exactly what I would find, I anticipated a series of mines, cabins, and views that would take days to explore properly. I now had a little less than seven hours until sunset.

Back on the main road, finally.

My first stop turned out to be an old mining cabin - now named for Russell ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  - at the site of an historic talc mine.

Shaded by a Pinyon Pine.

Inside, this place is clearly a memorial for Russ, who adopted it for many years before his passing.

I always enjoy seeing the wood stoves in these cabins, as they often contain the signature of whoever created them. I have a feeling this one was attributed incorrectly. Nyuk, nyuk.

After sending the flying camera in search of the talc mine, and finding it to be reasonably high up on the mountain and not all that interesting looking - or at least, that's what I convinced myself - I hopped back in the truck to continue my exploration.

Even if these guys never achieved success in their mineral explorations, they certainly had the location nailed from a view perspective!

Even before I could get back to the main road, this Leopard Lizard caught my eye.

It's always a special surprise, when exploring a mountain range, to come upon a large open area. Generally referred to as a "flat," I'd planned to spend much of the following day - north of Mazourka Peak - exploring around a place called Papoose Flat, but I didn't realize that a good chunk of the road system I'd mapped out on the way to the summit was through another - Santa Rita - Flat. Here, enormous piles of granitic boulders and eroded hills are nestled below the peaks of the Inyo. Not only did these provide a dramatic change in scenery, they surely provided living spaces and art surfaces for the Paiute who called this place home as late as the 1930s.

Looking down into Santa Rita Flat.

No shortage of drama in the views here.

Following a maze of roads to various points in the flat, I didn't find any explorable mines, but there were several camp sites that I marked for future enjoyment!

After working my way around the flat - a place I'll surely revisit in the future to search the rock wonderlands for some of the secrets they hold - it was time for my final push to the highest point around. As had been the case to this point in the day, I was in no danger of making this push quickly; there were several old mining roads to explore along the way, and I intended to investigate them all!

As I climbed higher, desert shrubs gave way to juniper and pine.

I stumbled on some spectacular sites.

Ultimately, I found very little in the way of mining remains, realizing only as I visited the fourth or fifth - or maybe eighth - prospect, that had my usual copilot been along for this trip, she'd surely have informed me that the names of these places revealed all I needed to know. As prospects, these locations never actually developed into mines; the roads that I followed today - and a few small diggings - the only real evidence of historic mining activity.

Eventually - a little more than an hour before sunset - I reached Badger Flat. Here, I had two final spots - at the Mexican Hat Prospect and the Blue Bell Mine - that wanted to check out before settling down for the evening.

At the Blue Bell Mine, I found more evidence of digging that at any of the other sites I'd visited through the afternoon.

Finally, it was time to head to the summit.

Not knowing at all what to expect, I hoped that there'd be a place - perhaps a little windy, but with a fantastic view - to call home for the evening. I was surprised, then, to discover that Mazourka Peak didn't have just one "summit;" rather, there were three!

This is a popular place, with everyone staking their claim to the high ground.

The most official of the installations was at the lowest elevation, but was also positioned the furthest west, with line of sight to the entire Owens Valley.

I got a kick out of these two solar panel installations. On the right, the clean, professional installation of a communications company; on the left, the local ham radio club had been hard at work.

Unfortunately, the top of Mazourka Peak didn't offer the experience I'd hoped to find at 9,396 feet above sea level and more than a mile above Owens Valley. The communication installations seemed to occupy nearly all of the flat ground, and the constant hum of generators was enough to send me searching for something a little more idyllic.

It didn't take long to find.

Exactly what I was looking for.

I'd made it, and somehow - even with all my side-trips and detours throughout the day - I'd arrived nearly 30 minutes before sunset. Plenty of time to wash my face, assemble dinner, and - as I stuffed my face with tacorritoes - enjoy my sky-high perch as the sun dropped behind the Sierra.

It'd been a long, full day, and I knew that sunrise would be even better.

The Following Morning

Knowing that I wanted to catch the first light on the Sierra, I'd taken my camera into the tent. Even so, I set my alarm for 5:15am, sure that without it, I'd sleep right through.

Just before sunrise, the Belt of Venus made an appearance.

After snapping my first pre-sunrise shot, I seriously considered hitting the snooze button and letting whatever light show was going to play out, to do so without me witnessing it. In the end though, I climbed my way down the ladder and wandered a little further uphill so I could capture the alpenglow on the snowy caps of one of my favorite ranges.

Higher than the Inyo, the Sierra saw the sun well before I did, even perched on the ridge.

A perfect spot to enjoy the morning.

A few minutes later, light finally hit the tent, the backbone to my west already bathed in light.

My first trip to the top of Mazourka Peak had been a success, and I knew that after another hour of warmth under the covers, that I had another exciting day in store as I continued north, through the Inyo.



The Whole Story


Filed Under

California(50 entries)
Inyo Mountains(2 entries)


  1. David Fitzgerald
    David Fitzgerald June 23, 2024

    Hey! I like that Russel's cabin!
    I could disappear there for a while.

    • turbodb
      turbodb June 24, 2024

      Plenty to explore around the area as well! 😉

  2. Randy Stevenson
    Randy Stevenson June 24, 2024

    I grew up in Independence and Russ lived across the street from us. the Three Stooges was Russ and a couple of other local guys who helped preserve a few cabins in the Inyo's. I'm glad they did. My personal opinion is there are many more places in the Inyo/Whites to explore than in the Sierra that border the Owens Valley. If you like to hike and explore, this area is seemingly endless. I enjoy your trip reports - keep it up!

    • turbodb
      turbodb June 24, 2024

      I love this sort of comment, so thanks for leaving it Russ. Details like this add so much to a place for me and are the things I remember as time passes on. Super cool that Russ helped with that stove! I grew up in a household where the Three Stooges were not constantly on TV, but were constantly referenced by my dad, and to this day, I still get the occasional, "I resemble that" remark, or a good "woob woob woob."

      And as for the Inyo/White mountains vs. Sierra - I have to admit that I've not done enough exploring of either (from Owens Valley) to have an opinion. For some reason, nearly all my exploring of these ranges is from the opposite side (east for the Inyo, west for the Sierra). Both are spectacular from that regard, and I can't wait to do more along the escarpments I've not explored!

  3. Doug
    Doug June 24, 2024

    I've had the cabin pinned for a couple of years, but never knew the name. After reading his obit, he sounds like a cool dude. There is a lot to check out over that way. Maybe someday I'll find the time.

    • turbodb
      turbodb June 24, 2024

      The Inyo are definitely worth checking out from both sides. And then, a hike on the Lonesome Miner Trail... but now, I'm just dreaming.

      • Doug
        Doug June 24, 2024

        How hard can the LMT be? A girl did it in 18 hours. 🙂

        • turbodb
          turbodb June 24, 2024

          Well, there's the problem. I'm not a girl.

          She must have been a badass; would love to see her trip report. If I thought I had a chance in hell to do it in 18 hours, I'd be all over it. My knees would disintegrate, and I'm sure I'd need more than the 40oz of water that I carry. 😉

          • Doug
            Doug June 24, 2024

            She is well past being a badass. 🙂 She owns a lot of FKTs (Fastest Known Times). Her name is Kimberly Gardner. She also did a Double Inyo Crossing with a guy named Sean aka Dr Dirtbag. I met him once years ago up at the Whitney Portal when I was getting ready to do Onion Valley to Roads End Kings Canyon and back as a day hike. I pulled it off in 23:45 and that's nothing compared to what they did. They came over Forgotten Pass, cruised through Beveridge, over to Saline Valley and BACK in like 18 hours or so. If you get bored Google them. Superhuman hikers. Man, I miss when I was in hiking shape. 🙂

  4. Mark Sterkel
    Mark Sterkel June 24, 2024

    You've sure got a knack for great photos. Shared yours of Cerro and the salt tram with a friend who knows that Cerro Rd and the tram well. At the sloped puckery part of the road, he got an '83 Toyota 2wd up it because it was low and narrow. A decade later he balked at getting his '07 Toy 4x up it. Yesterday we waded thru dozens of detailed control and transfer tower photos, and he, being an engineer, explained how the thing worked.

    • turbodb
      turbodb June 24, 2024

      Awesome, thanks so much. I love stories like this, where some place I've shared ends up becoming a conversation/memory point for someone else, and then that gets shared with me. Adds so much more context/value to my personal narrative of the place, so thank you! 👍

  5. Wynne
    Wynne June 25, 2024

    Great trip reports, especially the Swansea report, once a viable road for any 4x4 forty years ago, and one I've always wanted to do. At least I can live vicariously through your adventures.

    From Badger Flat, with the right rig (not a stock 2005 Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4), one can continue east to the south side of Andrews Mountain and out to Death Valley Road. I've only stood at Badger Flat dreaming of doing it. Be interested to know if you have ever gone out that way.

    Back in the 1980s I walked from Cerro Gordo to Pleasant Point, then down to French Spring. Two weeks later, went back and day-hiked up to the summit of Mt. Inyo from Union Wash then over to Keynot Peak and back. Ten hours up, two hours down. The following day, a day-hike up Nelson Peak on the backside. I've lived in Bishop for thirty years, and always head east. Enjoy it while you can and we'll all enjoy it with you! Thank you!

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 2, 2024

      Wow Wynne, sounds like you're quite the hiker - I'd love to do some of those hikes you mentioned! One of the benefits of living in Bishop and having all that right there in your backyard 😁.

      As for the route out of Badger Flat... I'm not sure we're talking about the same road - I think there's only one route north out of Badger (the others are all signed as closed now as part of the Inyo Mountain Wilderness), which takes you to Papoose. From Papoose, there is a route that takes you south (and east) of Andrews, and that's the route I took out. Most of it wasn't too bad - there's some deep sand, and of course some rocky sections - but the bit through ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  and north of ▮▮▮▮▮  Flat were narrow, off-camber, and steep. Was the only point in the day where I wondered if I'd made a miscalculation, hahaha. Obviously though, everything worked out! It wasn't included in this story, since it happened the following day, but if you're curious to see the photos and read all about it, check out Papoose Flat | Inyo West #4. 👍

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