Painted & Ladder Canyons

Mecca Hills
& Joshua Tree, too
March 26-27, 2011
This weekend was originally slated for heading towards Figueroa Mountain on the Los Padres NF, a place known for its spring wildflowers.  But with another storm moving through that area, Nick, Todd, and I instead headed towards the low desert near Palm Springs instead where there wasn't any chance of rain.  We explored the Mecca Hills on Saturday where we hiked up Painted and Ladder Canyons.  This is a spectacular BLM area - the badlands and canyons are narrow and colorful and it's a bit of a challenge to hike far up them.  Their sandy lower reaches turn rocky and steep but there are ladders to help you up.  The ladders themselves, though, are kind of hard to trust as they wobble a bit and some are a little short of where you wish they'd reach to :p  And so you still have to scramble a bit.  But I found the challenge to be quite fun :D

We saw a lot of spring wildflowers in the canyons - including the Mecca Aster (grows only here), heliotrope, globe mallow, Arizona lupine, beavertail cactus, desert tobacco, sand blazing star, desert poppies, brittlebush, and many others.  We also saw a ton of lizards and an area where there must've been 1,000 cairns - it was very cool. 

That night we drove to Cottonwood Campground in southern Joshua Tree where a jackrabbit decided for us which spot we'd camp in.  We roasted turkey hotdogs and enjoyed a calm night that was cool but not cold and the stars were bright.

In the morning we ate breakfast, packed up, then explored the cholla cactus garden, the area around Arch Rock, and did some more scrambling around Skull Rock.  I never get tired of exploring the endless nooks and crannies in the fantastically shaped rocks of Joshua Tree.  I was also thrilled to see the desert carpeted in bright yellow desert dandelions and we found a bunch of cactus blooming out that way as well. 

Anyway, hope you enjoy the pics :)

Hedgehog Cactus



More of my photos here!

Nick's photos here



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Mecca Aster Xylorhiza cognata, grows only here
Nick taking a photo of a cactus
Beavertail Blooms
Looking down into Painted Canyon
Brittlebush Flowers line the trail
Sand Blazing Star Mentzelia involucrata
Desert Mallow
Side canyon ladder was rickety and we didn't go up
It was very tricky getting to the top rung of this ladder
Desert Dandelions Malacothrix glabrata
Todd is 6'1" so this cholla is more than 8' tall!
Todd and I under Arch Rock
Phacelia, above
Wand Holdback
Caesalpinia virgata, below