Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hike 2014.013 -- Pine City, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, March 15. This was over a week ago, and, therefore, six hikes ago. I'm falling further and further behind in my posts. In fact, I noticed a few weeks ago that I still haven't blogged my first hike of the year. Still trying to catch up. The good news is that part of falling behind is due to my going on so many hike recently.

I can't even remember the circumstances of this one, other than thinking that it would be a good chance to see if the wildflowers that had come to Saddelback Butte by this time had also made it to Saddleback Butte had also come to Joshua Tree. Of course, this now being almost two weeks after the fact, it won't serve as a very useful update.

The short answer is, "no."

There were definitely a number of wildflowers to be seen on this hike, but the vast majority were just in the road cuts. On the trail I took, at least, there were rather few. In fact, ironically, the densest wildflower blooms I saw were right at the start of the dirt road that leaves Park Blvd and heads towards the Pine City trailhead.

At the trailhead, a sign says it's 1.2 miles to the end. Meanwhile, the infor-mational kiosk says it's 1.5 miles. It certainly feels longer than 1 1/4 mile, and even more than 1 1/2 miles, but that's probably just being in lousy shape.

Once on the trail, the going was easy and the trail well-defined (with one exception). Shortly after starting, I saw the snow-capped Mount San Gorgonio to my left, and I shot several pictures.

This was one of my earlier trips with several new additions to my photogra-phic arsenal. I had my 35mm and 50mm fixed focal length lenses, and the 70-300mm Tamron. The Tamron is much sharper than my old 55-200mm zoom, while the 35 and 50mm ones seem at least a little sharper, and are obviously several stops faster, which will come in handy when shooting in low light, especially for astrophotography. Haven't tried shooting the sky, yet, but it's on the agenda.

This trail has a constant incline that you don't really notice until the return route. It's also a mostly sandy, which adds effort to the hike. Still, I got to a split in the trail soon enough. What was not obvious was, where to go, next? I bore to the right and admired the stacked, weathered rocks. I shot with my prime lenses, trying to capture their texture.

The trail, however, had not clear destination once it reached the rocks, so I eventually backtracked back to the main trail. In fact, I think that's what you're supposed to do. The "right" trail does simply peter out.

Once back on the main trail, I continued heading more or less to the north. Eventually, at a rise, there was a sign announcing this as the end of the maintained trail. Having not really studied the trail map ahead of time, and being unreasonably tired for the distance traveled, I was ready to turn around, anyway.

Still, I shot forward, backwards, and to the side. Right near this "end," there was a large depression in the landscape. Not sure if there's a story behind that or what. There's also supposed to be mining remnants in the area, though they were not immediately visible to me.

The return walk seemed much shorter than it seemed on the way in, which is why I figured I must have been gaining altitude on the way in. Soon enough, I was back at the car.

I returned to the main road the way I had arrived, which seemed to be about 1.5 miles over dirt. The road was cut into the dirt, meaning there were pretty high berms on either side. This meant it was effectively a single lane in parts, with no room to pull out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Fortunately for me, I encoun-tered only a few cars on the way back, and always near a place where room did exist.

Once I got back to Park Blvd, I crossed over and parked in the large lot near the start of the Geology tour road. This was so I could return on foot back up the road I just drove.

As noted earlier, the start of this dirt road was where I had seen the densest floral displays of my day. Verbena was everywhere, and thick. Desert marigold was mixed in, as were a number of what I assume to be dune primrose.

After shooting here for probably 30 minutes, I turned and headed towards my car.

Looking to the north from here, I was surprised by how rugged the rocks up near what I believe to be Hidden Valley looked. Great lighting, too. And, obviously, plenty of Joshua Tree in the foreground.

Once in the car, I considered stopping at Hidden Valley on the way back, both as another short walk and because of the chance there might be some flowers there. However, I decided against that. Not sure if I was thinking with my stomach again, or not. In any event, I drove directly towards the West Entrance.

Along the way, I passed some floral displays, but, again, mostly just along the road cuts. But as I approached the West Entrance, the flowering seemed to peak. So I parked in the spaces just inside the park and walked back the way I came, camera in hand. More desert marigold and dune primrose, plus plenty of desert dandelions. Also, some Mojave pincushion.

Spent another 30 minutes or so along this 1/8 mile of road, just shooting wildflowers along the side of the road (and obviously keeping an eye on traffic). As I returned to my car, I fired off several shots of the entrance station. I wanted a shot of the cars, Yucca Valley in the distance, and, of course, a fluttering American flag.

The wind wasn't cooper-ating, however, so the flag never fully unfurled. Oh, well. It was still a pretty sight.

I then drove down into Yucca Valley and stopped, as I suspected I would, at Santanas for a fish burrito.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed. Either they've gotten smaller, or I've been spoiled by the burritos at another place by my work. It was still tasty, though, and plenty large enough to fill me up.

From Yucca Valley, it's still about 2 1/2 hours back to my home. Long drive. Not feeling all that tired, though, so the drive was pretty easy.

Overall, the day was fine. I mean, any day I can go hiking is a good day, right?
However, the wildflowers were a bit less than I had hoped. Still got plenty of flower pictures, so there were plenty of specimens. But, compared to Saddleback Butte the week before, I guess almost anything would be a let down.

Many, many hikes since this one. I'm now up to 19 for the year, which is on pace for another 80-ish total. I'd still like to get back up to 100, with more mid-week hikes once the school year finishes. One hundred is a tough target, though, especially with the hours I'm working. Speaking of which, gotta run! Work awaits.

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