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.
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