New Years in Joshua Tree
December 30, 2007-January 1, 2008
|Mastodon Peak and Brittlebush
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
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 :)
|Cottonwood Leaves from trees in the aptly named Cottonwood Spring
There are also native California Fan Palms here
|The spring has been an important source of water
for animals and humans for a long, long time.
|This end of the loop starts from the Lost Palms Oasis Trail
|A few people ahead of me on the trail
|The last part of the trail is a Class 2 scramble
|Looking back down the "trail"
|Two others that climbed up after me
|View northwest towards the campground
|View northeast towards Pinto Mountain
|The peak's shadow is on the left
|The remains of an old mine near the peak
|The last light of day shines on the peak
|The northern part of the loop consists of a wash route
|Exploring the first part of the Ryan Mountain Trail
|The Hidden Valley Rocks don't look so big from up here!
|Others who made it to the top
|San Gorgonio in the distance is the highest peak in Southern
California at 11,502'
|Looking southeast towards Pinto Mountain
|After hiking back down we went over to Hidden Valley and I
snapped this photo of Ryan Mountain from there
|Prickly Pear Cactus Spines
|Dead tree along the Bajada Nature Trail
|Many flowers were blooming along the Bajada Nature Trail
|Arizona Lupine and Brittlebush
|Driving back home going west on I-10 towards San Gorgonio Pass
Mt. San Jacinto is on the left, San Gorgonio Peak on the right
|San Jacinto has a very impressive relief - its base near Palm
Springs is close to sea level and the top is 10,834'
|San Gorgonio is a beautiful mountain!