Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hike 2013.027 -- Barber Peak Loop, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Hiked Friday, May 10, 2013. Yeah, this was a long time ago. However, the fall Mojave National Preserve Conservancy service trip and star party is fast approaching. With the federal budget standoff temporarily settled and partial shutdown over, I'll be heading out this way again, soon.

The star party is Saturday, October 26, at the Black Canyon Equestrian and Group Campground. Amateur astronomers from the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers (myself, included) will be there with their telescopes a that evening, following the Conservancy's service work elsewhere in the Preserve.

Directly across Black Canyon Road from the group campground is the Hole in the Wall visitor center and campground. And, adjacent to the visitor center, is a trailhead for the Barber Peak loop and Rings trail.

In addition to hiking it in May 2013 (this write-up), I also hiked it at least twice before: In October 2010 (part of my original 100 hikes in a year) and October 2012. Could have sworn I also hiked this after one of our spring star parties before, but none popped up in a search of my previous hikes. It's likely I hiked it before I started my hiking blog, since we've been doing bi-annual star parties (and the Conservancy has been doing bi-annual service trips) for at least five years.

Because it's a loop trail, you can walk it either clockwise or counterclockwise. The previous times I've been here, I went counterclockwise. Just to give it a little variety, I decided to do it clockwise this time around. Oddly enough, I often notice how different things look coming than going, so I figured hiking "backwards" would let me see this hike in a different light.

The main difference I noted (and the reason why I think doing clockwise is backwards) is that the signage is not as good if you go clockwise. I lost the trail a few times going this way, which never happened when going couunterclockwise.

A second difference is that going clockwise means heading *down* Banshee Canyon and the rings at the start of the hike, rather than coming up the rings at the end of the hike. That may make a difference if you're more comfortable climbing up rather than down.

The final difference for this hike was that it was spring, and there are more flowers in the spring than in the fall. As it turned out, even in May, it was a week or so early for the Cholla cactus.

After exiting Banshee Canyon, the trail heads to the right (west), and begins its circum-navigation of Barber Peak. Because, afterall, this trail is called the Barber Peak Loop, not the Barber Peak trail. You walk *around* the peak; you do not climb it.

Following the west segment, then, your trail will turn to the north. After a short ascent, you pass through a gate that is used to divide grazing allotments. Descending the other side of this ridge, you'll soon be walking along the sandy bottom of a wash for most of the northerly segment. You'll also pass a nice outcropping called the Opelite Cliffs.

Since I've photo-graphed that outcropp-ing so many times on previous trips, it turns out I didn't bother taking any pictures of it on this trip. But you can see it on my previous Barber Peak Loop trail posts. Instead, all I have is this butte, the right side of which I think looks a little like an Elvis profile. (That's the butte two pictures up--the picture one up from here is the same butte from the other side).

Meanwhile, north of the previously-mentioned Opalite Cliffs, the trail splits. Bearing right (east) obviously continues the loop.

Going left, meanwhile, would take you to Mid-Hills Campground. I think I may try taking that route next time, just to see some different territory. I don't expect the scenery will be much different from what I've seen on the Barber Peak Loop, or my hikes to Table Top Mountain (also done twice, in April 2011 and May 2013. In fact, the Mid-Hills trail would pretty much parallel Black Canyon Road as you head north. Along the way, you'd pass Table Top Mountain, well to your east. Hence, walking the Mid-Hills trail really would be just to cover some new trail miles, without adding much in the way of new views.

The other two places I may try hiking in the Preserve would be Kelso Dunes, and the Lava Tube.

I was briefly at Kelso Dunes once before. I'd like to take a longer hike there. The problem is that I'd love to be there in the morning or evening, but the geography of where I will be and where the Dunes are make that impractical.

Meanwhile, the problem with the Lava Tubes is that a high clearance vehicle is recommended. So I'd either have to drive very slowly with my non-high clearance vehicle, or I'd have to walk quite some distance just to get to the "trailhead."

Another place in the area I'd like to visit Providence Mountains State Park. It's actually quite close to Hole in the Wall. The problem is that this particular state park has been closed for quite some time, ever since the state's own budget crisis, and remains closed "until further notice."

The other thing about hiking in the Mojave Preserve is that there just aren't very many developed hikes that are accessible by passenger vehicle. The only other one (besides those already mentioned) that I can access, I've also done several times Teutonia Peak.

At any rate, the Barber Peak Loop is about six miles around, with relatively modest altitude changes. The only complicating factor is the Rings section, where you will need some level of agility and/or strength to climb or descend the rings in Banshee Canyon.

1 comment:

  1. Well, disappointingly, the official star party has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 30. The Conservancy felt that the government shutdown didn't leave them with enough days to publicize the event. So we'll try again on November 30.

    In the meantime, the Preserve IS open, but some maintenance has been deferred. Some telescope owners may still be at Black Canyon this Saturday (October 26), as well. I myself have not decided what I'll be doing this weekend.