Thursday, August 9, 2012
Hike 2012.054C -- Hidden Valley Loop, Joshua Tree National Park
After getting off the tram, we headed east, across the Coachella Valley, and in search of CA-62, which runs through Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley before reaching the village of Joshua Tree. At Park Blvd in Joshua Tree, you make a right and continue on to the park boundary.
After reaching Park Blvd, it's about three miles to the park boundary, where I flashed my America the Beautiful Pass and picked up the map and newsletter that allowed our friend to do a quick read to decide which of several possible short trails we'd take. We settled on Hidden Valley.
The trail leaves the parking lot and begins a slight climb as it heads into Hidden Valley. The entrance to this hidden valley was blasted away by the private land owner, creating the pass we walked through. Undoubtedly, fencing and other "improvements" had been made in the past, and I'm pretty sure I saw evidence of that past fencing and blasting. Still, if you didn't look to closely, it looked pretty wonderful.
Plenty of adventurous souls wandered off-trail and climbed the rocks, mostly without any sort of technical equipment.
When your cherry-stem trail reaches the loop portion of the trail, the arrow points left, to put you on a clockwise path. I suppose that's so you don't pass as many people, and helps spread the crowds out and give you a greater sense of solitude on this short little trail.
As with the Barker Dam trail of last week, I really enjoyed this little hike. I'm glad I did this one, too.
After we got back to the car, we grazed on the assorted foods that had survived the day. I had a surprisingly large collection of Power Bars and Cliff Bars that had collected in my day pack over the past month or so. We also had a few more Mandarin oranges and bananas, as well as diet sodas and the last of the Powerade that I brought with me up to San Jacinto State Park. Also, a can of Pringles. Ah, the food of champions. ;D
My Sirius mount has been really poor with gotos the past few years, and, as a result, I hadn't even bothered with trying an alignment for a year or more. I just use it as a tracking equatorial mount. Nonetheless, this night, with the car battery providing a strong and consistent power source, I went ahead and did a two-star alignment.
The results were mediocre, but good enough. With the relatively wide field of my 100ED (compared to an 8" or 11" SCT), the gotos were close enough to put the object in the eyepiece if it was close to one of my alignment stars (Vega, which meant M57 and M27), or inside the field of view of my finderscope for things further away (M17 and M31, for example). It helped speed us through a very quick tour of a fair selection of summer objects: planetary nebula, globular clusters, open clusters, emission nebula and a galaxy. Then we packed up and headed home.
Hidden Valley is an easy one mile loop (tougher in the summer sun, of course), with options for rock climbing all around. There's a slightly gain of altitude (I would guess no more than 20 or 30 feet) near the start, and a few other gentle inclines along the way. Not a lot of shade unless you're hiking very early or very late, though.
It's not a destination all by itself, but it's a nice place to stretch your legs, and one of many 1 to 2 mile long nature trails scattered around the park. After the drive to Joshua Tree, I figure most folks would want to take at least a few short walks, and this one would be a gentle introduction to the park.