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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hike 2013.020 -- Hike to Henninger Flats

Hiked Sunday, April 7. Over two weeks ago, I hiked Henninger Flats. It was my first time up there this year, which seems just completely amazing, since it's usually among my most frequently-hiked paths. But I'm just not getting as much time for hiking as I have in past years, and I've been doing a larger proportion of the hikes I do take further afield than usual.

Plenty of descriptions on how to get here elsewhere, so I won't bother with any description, except to say it's about a 100 minute roundtrip hike if I'm just walking, and closer to two hours if I stop for lots of pictures. On this day, it was closer to two hours.

The two-hour mark is important, because if you park on Pinecrest on a weekday, you're limited to two hours parking. You can't park there at all on weekends. At least you can't park legally, although the last time I was there, there were about five illegally parked cars right near the gate, and none of them had tickets. So how rigorously is this parking restriction enforce? I have no idea. And I don't tempt fate.

Not a lot of flowers along the trail, because it's been a dry winter and spring. The one exception was the trees within a U-shaped bow in the trail. Another was near the top, where the wall held many lupine, and fair amounts of chia, sunflowers, vetch, and assorted other flowers. They were quite dense there compared to elsewhere.

It's about 5.5 miles roundtrip from Pinecrest, with a pretty substantial altitude gain. The whole way is either paved (the first 1/8 mile, until you cross the bridge) or a dirt road, as wide as a two-lane road.

There's one small area with a bunch of daisies. I'm pretty sure they were planted there after the road was reopened following a multi-year closure. The daisies are slowly expanding each year.

Canterbury bell are common.

Sage, too, of course.

Don't recognize this flower.

Lupine, of course.

Common vetch. Sometimes, they're kinda purple. Sometimes, they're kinda red.

Sunflower, but they also call the petals a corona, I think. See how that ties into astronomy?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hike 2013.023 -- 49 Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, April 20. Man, my hike posts are getting way out of order! Just realized I haven't blogged my Henniger Flats hike from two weeks ago. I'll have to try to get that one done, too.

This was my second time on the 49 Palms Oasis trail. My last visit was almost exactly two years previous. But the difference was quite dramatic: This hike was on a busy weekend, after a dry spring. Unlike last time, I saw essentially no lizards along the way, and very few flowers.

The trailhead is south, off of US 62, in the western part of the town of 29 Palms. If you're coming from the west, you'd turn on Canyon Road, right in front of the big blue sign of a VCA Animal Hospital.

Follow this road on up until it deadends, and 1 1/2 miles later, in a fairly large parking area. There's a pit toilet there, but no running water, so if you're hiking, make sure you filled your canteen or water bottle before you left 29 Palms.

The trail heads off to the southwest, climbing rather swiftly and giving a view back down on the parking lot, with 29 Palms in the distance. After about 1/2 mile, you've reached the first crest, and may be able to see the tops of palm trees in the distance. They're in a "V" where two drainages meet. The picture above is a crop of the one above that one, and shows the tree tops.

From that view, your path takes you a bit to the west of your target, then back east as it descends into a wash. I guess nearly every trail in Joshua Tree eventually descends into a wash.

I passed some dried remnants of flowers, so it's possible there was a modest bloom a few weeks before I got there. Almost everything was dry by mid-April, though.

Once at the oasis, I boulder-hopped to where I could see some scummy pond water. The grasses were thick, there. I heard no toads this time, unlike my last visit.

From the oasis, I looked up the ravine at a very large drainage. Then I returned the way I came. Three miles roundtrip. Easy, provided it's not too hot and you've got something to drink. Undoubtedly tougher in the heat of summer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hike 2013.019A -- Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park

This one doesn't count as a hike by itself, since it's only about 1/2 mile - 3/4 mile roundtrip. However, it, along with the little Bajada Nature Trail, were enough to add to my other structured hikes of the day to make me feel I did six miles for the day, or two separate "hikes," total. That's my arbitrary 3-mile rule for a hike to count towards my annual total.

Keys View itself is pretty much a drive-up, with a concrete walkway to take you to the overlook.

After walking around the overlook, I then hiked up a use trail to the rise just north of Keys View. It's definitely quieter here.

Sad to see evidence of a somewhat recent fire here. It's distressing how much of the Mojave you see evidence of wildfires, which didn't used to happen.

Snapped a few shots there before others came up the use trail, and my private revelry ended.

After this, I drove on down to a flat area and planned to set up my telescope. However, I inadvertently left a vital part of my mount at home, so I did no astronomy on this day.

Thankfully, the many hikes of the day made the trip worthwhile, even without any telescope observing

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hike 2013.019 -- Ryan Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, April 6. Yep, I'm again two weeks behind in my blogging. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), I didn't get any hikes in since last week, so I'm not falling any further behind, but I sure would like to go hiking, again!

Ryan Mountain is roughly equidistant from either the North or West Entrance. Both entrances are access from US 62. The West Entrance hits US 62 in the town of Joshua Tree, while the North Entrance hits US 62 in the town of 29 Palms. From the West Entrance, follow Park Blvd south out of town, enter the park (paying a $15 entry fee, or showing your America the Beautiful Pass), and stay on the road you're on, avoiding all turns. About a mile after passing Ryan Campground, the parking area for the Ryan Mountain trail will be on your right. There's a pit toilet there.

Ryan Mountain itself is not visible from the trailhead. Your trail takes you almost due south, up into the hills. Looking back, you'll see the parking lot for quite some distance.

Finally, the trail bears to the west, and you'll see some dramatic rocks. They make Ryan Mountain an easy place to spot from other high points to the west (including the Lost Horse Mine loop).

In several spots, dark igneous rocks stand in your foreground, with cinder cones in the distance. One to the east (which you don't see until you cross over to the east side of Ryan Mountain, a mile or so into the hike) looks an awful lot like Amboy Crater, but minus the crater.

Great views in all directions from the top. Mount San Jacinto, on the other side of the Salton Sink, is easy if the sky is moderately clear.

It's listed as a three mile roundtrip, though it may be a bit less. Steep in parts, and definitely dry. If you're hiking when the weather is even moderately warm, be sure to bring something to drink.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hike 2013.018 -- Mastodon Peak

Hiked Saturday, April 6. That was a week ago last Saturday. Since then, I've done six additional hikes, and may try to squeeze one more in this afternoon.

I hiked this area once before, so I'm a little confused as to how I managed not to pass the Mastadon Mine remnants. Don't remember seeing the sign there, or maybe I just wasn't interested in seeing the mine. Either way, I did something wrong.

Hiking the loop adds a little bit of mileage to the direct hike east from Cottonwood trailhead. The loop more or less parallels that path along other washes, but also continues a bit west of the trailhead before turning north, then back east to the parking area. It's designed to link with a trail that leads from the Cottonwood Campground.

Oddly enough, the wash closest to Cottonwood Springs was closed. Not sure what that was about, but you did not have the option of hiking down that path this time as I did last time.
The trailhead itself is at the end of the road that branches east, off from Cottonwood Spring Road, which itself runs on down to I-10. The small parking area at the end of the road was full, so I had to park about 100 yards down the road. It turns out this was right next to the other end of the Mastadon Peak Loop, however, so I had a small directional sign from the very start.

As noted above, from this western terminus of the loop, the trail starts off heading further west, away from your destination. That's why the loop is longer than a straight there-and-back hike from the parking lot trailhead.

After about 1/4 mile of slow trudging through the sandy wash bottom, the trail heads north. It briefly runs along another wash bottom before heading up and to the east. However, I continued a bit further up the wash. Concrete ruins of and rusted steel pipes were scattered along the wash rim and down near the base, as well.

A very small pond of water was also down there, where birds and bees gathered their hydration. A small cottonwood/palm stand of trees was also ahead. However, because I didn't want to keep the birds away from their watering hole, I did not go past the water. Of course, a family diverted off the loop and plopped themselves right near the water hole about a minute after I left, so the birds weren't going to get any water, after all.

Canterbury bells were mixed in among the sand, as were some smaller white and purple flowers I did not identify.

After getting back on the trail and climbing out of the wash, I headed east. Of course, you're in another wash, but this one's broader. Joshua Tree were in bloom, and Canterbury Bells were hidden in the shade and sand, scattered about.

Mastodon Peak soon appears before you. It looks less mastodon-y coming from a clockwise direction than it did from the counter-clockwise direction. On the other hand, you do walk right by the mine entrance from the clockwise direction.

Made my way on up to the top. The last bit requires a brief class 3 scramble.

Nice, expansive views from the top (including the Salton Sea), but I only took a few shots before my camera battery died. Fortunately, I had a portable charger in the car, so I could charge the phone after I got back to the car for my hikes later that day.

Descended, then finished my loop.

It's still pretty cool in Joshua Tree--probably mid-70s last week. But it is also dry, so even with the lower heat, you'll start feeling thirsty quicker than usual. I couldn't drink anything on this hike, though. Turns out I left the water bottle in the trunk. Found that out about 3/4 of a mile out. No biggy, though. For a hike this short and with these temperatures, water would have been nice, but its absence was far from life-threatening.

It's about a 2.5 mile loop, not long enough to qualify as a regular hike. However, before I took this hike, I stopped and took the short Bajada Nature Trail, down near the south entrance. The ocotillo bloom at the top of this post is from there. I also took a short use trail up near Keys View. Between those two shorts hikes, I'm willing to count both the Mastodon Peak Loop and the Ryan Peak hike (not yet blogged) towards my annual tally.