Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hike 2013.024 -- Lost Horse Mine Loop, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, April 13. Over two weeks ago. My hiking has struck another lull, but I still haven't had the time to write-up the old ones!

Lost Hose Mine Loop is on the road towards Keys View. From Park Blvd (the main road, that runs from between the West and North Entrances), turn south on the road towards Keys View, and travel about two miles. The dirt signed road to Lost Horse Mine will be on your left. The pavement is only at the intersection. It's dirt the rest of the way (about 1/2 mile), but passenger vehicles will have no difficulty, provided you go relatively slow and watch for oncoming traffic.

At the parking area is a vault toilet and room for about a 15 cars. It's a loop trail, so you can leave either from the south end of the lot ("forward," in the direction you were driving) or the north end of the lot. Most people head south, so I headed north. The sign above is the one I saw when I started on the trail.

Almost immediately, this trail curves to the west. With a bit of a rise, you've got an easy view of the paved road, 1/2 mile behind you, crossing to from north to south, on its way to Keys View.

Several volcanic remnants are around you as you start, but none of them are Lost Horse Peak. Joshua Tree are also common, though their blooms are somewhat pale. Far less common but much more dramatic were the reds of the Mojave mound cactus, which I had also seen on my Ryan Mountain hike, from the previous week.

Much of the outbound hike is in a wash, so the going is somewhat slow. I kept waiting for the point where my southerly path would turn to the east, then back to the north, signaling that I was on my way back.

When that finally happened, I had a slight altitude gain to make. Then, not long after that, the remains of a chimney. It, along with the springs of a bed, were the last artifacts of a home that once stood here.

But that was not the Lost Horse Mine. I passed several excavation sites, here, and over the next mile, which also were not the Lost Horse Mine. Some nice views to the south and east were had, however.

Finally, the trail crested another ridge, and I could see the structures that topped the Lost Horse Mine, off in the distance. That's it, three shots up from here.

Fire obviously swept though here within the past few years, and there were lots of tree and Joshua Tree skeletons. Fire damage is also sad, but it's particularly sad in a desert, where you know recovery may be scores of years in the future, if at all.

Finally got back to the parking lot as the sun began to sink towards the horizon. 6.2 miles for the loop.

Most folks do the loop clockwise, so I passed lots of hikers coming the other way. Nearly all asked how far to the end, as they apparently had little idea of the path or the distance or how far they had traveled. I'm sure my estimates are often off, too. But the trail is well-defined, so getting lost should not be a problem. Having sufficient water on a hotter day would be an issue, however. So, if you go, know the distance, and have enough to drink. If you're not sure if you can handle the full 6.2 mile loop, it's only 4 miles out and back to the mine, if you leave from the south end of the lot.

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