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 we 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 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 we 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.

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.
Golden primrose
Mojave Aster
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
Almost to the top
Looking back down the "trail"
I made it!
Two others that climbed up after me
View northwest towards the campground
View northeast towards Pinto Mountain
View southeast
View south
The peak's shadow is on the left
The remains of an old mine near the peak
Desert Mallow
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
It's up up uphill!
Cool rocks and lichen
Climbing higher
Almost there!
Made it!
Mt. San Jacinto in the background
The Hidden Valley Rocks don't look so big from up here!
Now that's a cairn!
Others who made it to the top
San Jacinto is 10,834'
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
Todd at Barker Lake
Dead tree along the Bajada Nature Trail
Many flowers were blooming along the Bajada Nature Trail
including Chuparosa
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!