Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Return to Joshua Tree National Park


We left the Mojave Preserve on Easter Sunday and headed south to Joshua Tree. Not wanting to to try and find a site in one of the crowded campgrounds (with no internet) we opted for the BLM area north of the park that is used for overflow camping. It’s just a dry, dusty lake bed near Copper Mountain but there were not many other RVs and they were spread far apart. And it’s only 10 miles to the west entrance of the national park.


Well, we did have one close neighbor, Suzanne, but that was okay since it was intentional.


Having been away from civilization for a week and a half we needed to do some laundry and pick up a few groceries, so on Sunday evening Jim and I headed to the big town of Joshua Tree. I must say this place has some of the most interesting people we’ve seen in a long time. It has an old hippie, artsy vibe, and Pie for the People even had a vegan pizza on the menu. We picked one up to take home and it was really good.

Since this is our fourth time visiting the park and we were looking for a trail we haven’t hiked, I Googled “Best hike in Joshua Tree National Park” and came up with this, the North View/Maze/Window loop. Thinking this sounded familiar I looked at a few blogs and realized this is a hike that Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) and John and Pam (Oh, The Places They Go) have done and recommended. So the following day, despite being under another wind advisory with gusts over 40 mph, we drove to the trailhead which is 1.7 miles past the west entrance booth just before marker 24. It’s not marked but there is a small pull-off for about 4 or 5 cars.

We started out on the level North View trail, which quickly turned into a series of ups and downs through Joshua trees and rocks.




And views and more rocks.






Does anyone else see what looks like the dog Pluto?


There were a few flowers here and there.


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And more views and more rocks.




We then took the Maze trail through more rocks.





Then we turned onto the Window loop.


We could barely see the window in the rocks, but figured the loop would take us around to a better view. Funny, but we never could find it again.



At one point I thought I could see the dry lake bed near where we were camped. Jim used his super zoom and found that I was right.


There we are. Doesn’t look very appealing from this angle, does it?


And then more rocks. Good thing we never get tired of them.




Looping around all three trails made for a 7.5 mile moderately strenuous hike through some really amazing scenery. Unfortunately the wind beat us up pretty badly, especially over the last couple of miles. On the way home we drove through a brown-out of dust, and were concerned about how it might be back at our campsite. Luckily there was enough low vegetation that kept the dirt from blowing around, but we rocked and rolled the rest of the day and night. All part of spring in the desert.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

More Hiking in Mojave National Preserve


We’ve moved on to new vistas but I still have some photos from our last couple of hikes in the Mojave Preserve I wanted to post. All week we had been looking at Banshee Peak, a rock formation directly behind the visitor center. For some reason we never took a photo so I borrowed this from the internet.


It looked like it might not be too difficult to climb up so we asked the very nice volunteer who said he had just done it and gave us some directions. There is no formal trail but we were able to pick our way up the rocks without too much trouble. It was steep but we made it almost to the top.


Visitor Center from above.


Hole in the Wall campground and Table Top Mountain in the distance.


Almost there.


Although it doesn’t look like it, the last climb up was a bit too technical for us. We read that it required climbing gear to reach the summit.


So we turned around and walked out on the adjacent ridgeline.




There are several nice primitive campsites below but no Verizon signal there.


Getting back down was not as bad as we thought it might be.


But a few places required some butt-scooting. Suzanne demonstrating how it’s done.



Since we were close to the trail we then took the Rings loop again through Banshee Canyon, Jim’s second time and Suzanne’s and my third.



Each time it was a bit easier getting up the rings.


It was a beautiful day and there was some really nice cloud action going on.



For our last hike we had hoped to try climbing up Table Top Mountain, a 7 mile round trip hike with no formal trail. Again the volunteer gave us great directions and even copied a couple pages out of a trail book for us. It turned out not to be, though, as Saturday was extremely windy and cold, so Jim backed out. Suzanne and I feared our route finding left a bit to be desired so we just hiked the beautiful six mile Barber loop from the campground for the second time, which made our fourth excursion up the rings. We never did get up the nerve to reverse our direction and try going down them. It just looked too intimidating.


We really enjoyed our week in the Mojave National Preserve. While there we had the pleasure to meet Richard and Janet, fulltime RVers for 19 years. Hope to see you again one of these days!

Next up, rocks, rocks, and more rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kelso Dunes: Another Playground in Mojave Preserve

First stop was Kelso Depot, the Union Pacific Railroad depot built in 1924 which was renovated and turned into the Mojave National Preserve Visitor Center on Kelbaker Road.
It’s an impressive visitor center but the ranger we asked a few questions to was about the least helpful one we’ve ever encountered.
From there it’s another 10 miles to the 45 square mile Kelso Dune field, where of course we had to trudge 1.5 miles up the tallest dune, 650’ above the desert floor.
The sand was dotted with desert primrose at the beginning of the hike.
We started late in the afternoon and there were only a few other people around, but you can see by the footprints there we many others who went before us.
My favorite part of dune hiking is looking for tracks other than human in the sand.
And nature’s artwork created by the wind.
It was a strenuous hike, but we had a good excuse to stop frequently for photos.
There are limitless ways to get to the top but we picked what appeared to be the least steep way up.
It was two steps forward and one step sliding back down the sandy slope. At this point Jim seriously considered turning around but Suzanne encouraged him to hang in there.
The final climb was easier, along a ridgeline of sand.
I’m almost there.
My hiking partners in the distance.
Once he got to the top, Jim was glad he continued on. Had he not he would have missed the best part.
At the visitor center we learned that Kelso is one of a few acoustic dunes that produce a booming sound as sand grains compress and slip over one another. A silica coating on the grains that helps them stick together also resonates when they are moved. We got to hear this strange sound first hand as we ran down the steep side of the tallest dune.
Suzanne captured our elegant descent. I may have fallen down but it sure was fun.

It was another excellent day in Mojave National Preserve, despite being able to make our own dunes out of all the sand we had in our shoes!

Suzanne strolling down the slope.