|I had originally planned on going to Death Valley over New Year's but with my car in the shop and Todd's truck not getting as good gas mileage we decided to spend the weekend closer to home in Joshua Tree National Park. Which was fine by me because I absolutely love Joshua Tree. I have been there four times before and still have barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in this lovely park.
On Sunday Todd and I drove out to the southern entrance of the park which is about 1.5 hours away from home and found a campsite at Cottonwood Spring and had a picnic lunch. It was then that I discovered that I had forgotten the mayonaise and mustard so Todd had to have a dry sandwich while I ate some Chinese food left over from the night before. We then hiked to down to the spring and did the 3-mile loop to Mastodon Peak. This was a fun peak to climb. Not too difficult until the last little bit where it was hands and knees scrambling to get to the top. It was a beautiful afternoon and the light shining on the granite rocks was magnificent. I was also pleasantly surprised to see several wildflowers already blooming including ocotillo, brittlebush, desert mallow, primrose, and Mojave aster.
After heading back to the campsite I discovered that I'd forgotten the stove :p So I cooked us some chili over the campfire we built and it turned out to be some pretty darn good chili if I do say so myself! We used up our firewood that night and admired the clear sky filled with stars.
That night it was cold but we bundled up and I slept well. In the morning we decided to head into 29 Palms to get breakfast, more firewood, and mayonaise. Then we headed back into the park and to the Ryan Mountain trailhead. This is a trail I've had my eye on since visiting the park the first time. It's only 3 miles round-trip but climbs up straight up 1,100 feet to the summit and then you return the same way. Much of the trail is made up of stairs fashioned out of native rock. There were plenty of other hikers out on the trail that day and the views from the top were great! Although it was quite chilly on top as the wind was starting to pick up.
After getting back down Todd and I headed over to Hidden Valley to have lunch. We then headed over to the Barker Dam Trail, one of my favorite short trails in the park. Along this very scenic trail is Barker Lake and petroglyphs as well as wonderful views of far-off snow-covered San Gorgonio Peak, the highest mountain in Southern California.
We then drove the dirt roads east through Queen Valley and then made our way south back to Cottonwood. We ended up not using the firewood that night and not cooking dinner because by then the winds had really picked up. We sat up for a while inside the truck talking then I bravely retired to the tent while Todd ended up sleeping in the truck all night.
In the morning we ate a quick breakfast then packed up and headed home with a quick stop to hike the Bajada Nature Trail. I would've liked to stay a little bit longer but the winds made an otherwise cool desert frigidly cold! But overall we had a good time and I hope to go back in a month or two when the flowers really start blooming :)