Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hike 2014.001 -- Wall Street and Barker Dam Trails, Joshua Tree National Park

Hiked Saturday, January 25. I'm don't recall any more why it was that I wasn't able to blog my first hike of the year back in January, but it never happened. So, here we are, in mid-November, posting about my first hike of the year.

So I don't know for sure, but I was probably pretty optimistic at the start of the year that I'd manage my third 100 hike year. I was concerned about gaining weight, and wanted to reverse that trend.

Unfortunately, it's *still* very hard to manage 100 hiking days when you're working 50-60 hours a week. Also, it's unfortunate that I got out of my "hiking as default mode" attitude.

There's this idea that you need to do something regularly, then it becomes a habit, and easier to follow or harder to break. During my first two years, I not only had a lot of "free" time (because I was unemployed, and no matter how many jobs you're applying for, you still don't go on interviews every day, and you're mostly just waiting for the phone call). So I easily surpassed my 100-hike goal that first full year.

During the second full year, I became employed in July for a job starting in mid-August. But, complicating that was the need to plan for a temporary move half-way across the country. On the positive side, it also opened up some new hiking areas, both on the drive each way and at my new destination. So I just barely made my 100 hike goal that year.

Then, upon returning to the L.A. area, I soon managed to have both a full-time and a part-time job, and that kept me pretty busy.

About mid-way through that year, picked up a third part-time job. Much of my next few years was then working 5-6 days and 2-3 nights a week, with frequent weekend shifts. After a year of that, I decided this was wearing me out, and I cut back to working just three nights a week, in addition to my regular day job.

Finally, this year, I decided to cut my work load down to just 2-3 part-time shifts a week, in addition to the full time job. Yet, even that, with my hiking still happening, but it no longer being habit, it's been tough getting even decent-length hikes into my schedule. I keep trying to change that, but there are always other things coming up, now. Sometimes, it's a sick cat. Sometimes, it's family obligations. Sometimes, I've got a cold. Sometimes, it's the weather. Still, I want to keep hiking, because, when I finally do get out there, it makes me feel good.

In any event, somehow I managed to make it 26 days into 2014 before I got out on the trail. I did manage my second hike the next day, but it was definitely a weirdly late start.

It was also a late start that day, when I finally decided to go down to Joshua Tree, with my telescope, try to squeeze in a short hike, then set up the telescope for some reasonably dark-sky viewing.

Both the Wall Street and Barker Dam trails are down near the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree, sort of the middle-west of the park. I used to visit Hidden Valley frequently for star parties, so I have an affinity for the area. Yet, I never managed the Wall Street Hike (and only managed the Barker Dam hike once before).

From the West Entrance (Park Blvd), you reach the Hidden Valley area in about 9 1/2 miles. Just after that, but on the left (east) side of the road is the road to the Barker Dam and Wall Street trailheads. From what I think of as the "main" lot there, the two trails start out about 20 feet from each other, but head in different directions. The Barker Dam trail heads more due north, towards some large rock outcroppings. The Wall Street trail heads to the east, paralleling the paved and dirt road for a bit before eventually heading away from the road and into the desert.

One of the things you pass along the way is another parking lot and restroom, and a bike rack. Later, once you're out in the desert, you pass a windmill.

As you walk further from the parking area, you pass additional evidence of past habitation--wrecks of old motor vehicles, mining and mine processing structures, and the like.

After having my fill of the mining remnants, I'm pretty sure I went back the way I came. As I neared that starting point, there was a side trail that ran to an old home. Fractured walls remained, but no roof.

Once back to the main parking lot, I then headed right back out on the Barker Dam trail. This one is even shorter than the other one, and ends at Barker Dam. When I was there, virtually no water was impounded behind the dam. It also appeared the lower end of the dam was supposed to be off-limits. It wasn't obvious, but I think that's what they wanted. I wasn't sure at the time why, but, apparently, since early last year, there's been a serious graffiti problem at Barker Dam.

The trail to Barker Dam passes some impressive rock outcrop-pings, which, of course, people walk upon. Conveniently, they provide a nice scale by which to appreciate the size of these rocks.

On my previous visit to Barker Dam, I was lucky enough to see a desert bighorn walking in the area behind the dam. As one of the few reliable sources of water in the area, it's a magnet for wildlife.

After snapping pictures of the reservoir (such that it was) and the dam, I headed back to my car. I then drove to the Boy Scout Trail trailhead (about two miles north of the Barker Dam and Wall Street parking areas, also on Park Blvd) and set up my telescope. I did some observing there, sharing my telescope views with some hikers and rock climbers that were returning to their car as the sky darkened.

I also took a number of 30-second or so exposures of the sky with my dslr on a tripod. While not nearly as dark here as at other locations (because you're now not all that far south of the towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and 29 Palms), it is still relatively dark, and the skies are quite impressive compared to what you can see from town.

I had posted these night sky photos a while ago, but never got around to posting on the hike. Until now. :D

About 3 1/2 miles for the day, plus a lot of telescope observing. It was a good day and a good night.

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