I have some astronomy outreach events coming up, so I wanted to get some late-summer practice locating objects with my dob. So the plan was to drive up late, take a short hike, get back to the car, drive out to Ryan Mountain trailhead, set up my telescope as the sky got dark, and locate some objects.
I looked at my Trails Illustrated / National Geographic Society map for Joshua Tree, and noticed a short pair of trails it showed, leading to "John's Camp." Maybe 3-4 miles total, so that seemed like an idea.
One of the other times I had tried hiking a trail on this map that wasn't mentioned by the NPS was to the Contact Mine, just inside the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. That turned out to be a success, but also easy, since that trail was well-defined, and, a few short years later, now that hike is prominently mentioned in Park hiking lists.
I also used this approach to figure a cross-country route to Samuelson's Rocks, which I hiked a few years ago, but still haven't gotten around to blogging.
The hike to John's Camp (or Johns Camp; the apostrophe seems to be inconsistent in usage) was shown as starting from either of the first two roadside parking areas, if coming from the east, at Pinto Wye (I'm pretty shure this simply means the "Y" where the road goes one of three ways: Either north, towards Twentynine Palms, south, towards Cottonwood Springs, or west, towards Jumbo Rocks, and eventually, Yucca Valley).
I picked the first one, just because it was first, and also a little longer, which was fine, since the hike was going to be so short. Amusingly, there was some guy in a faux space suit, having his friend take photos of him among the desert flora. They left by the time I got organized around my car and ready to strike out.
Not much of a trail, here. I assume the goal would be to just head down tot he bottom of the wash, then head left (uphill; I was going to say "upstream," but there's only water in here duirng actual flooding events, I think!).
I ended up leaving the wash too soon, then taking a cross-country route, over a ridge. Should hae just been more patient, but I was unsure of my route, at the time. The scale of the Trails Illustrated map is too small to determine if you are supposed to go around or over fairly large rises.
By the time I got over that rise, I was ready to call it a day. I even started walking back, before deciding that the camp must be further upstream. So I continued, staying in the wash. The first indication that I was getting close to something was a rusted can, which had presumably washed down from the camp. The second indication was the large white "tailings" hill, to the right in the fifth picture of this post. I saved that photo in a larger file size, so you when you click on that one, it will be substantially larger than the other photos, and you'll be able to see the white mound.
I continued past that tailings, because I wasn't sure where the "main" archeological ruins would be. Where the wash split, I first headed to the left, through a narrows (sixth picture), and saw nothing immediately beyond. I then backtracked briefly to the main wash, and headed up that way. It quickly ended in large boulders, which I could work my way around if I wanted to, but seemed an unlikely barrier to need to get to the mine ruins. So I decided the tailing pile was the place to go, and headed back down the wash.
Evidence of mining was widespread here, but I did not see any mechanical implements or engraved rocks that I had seen in some on-line posts about this location; I don't know if that means they've ben removed, or if I did not find the main camp, or if erosion has significantly changed the remains. I didn't spend that much time wandering around the area, so there may have been more ruins, not too far away.
I saw some stone walls, some concrete-filled cans, a concrete slab, some unnatural-appearing slabs of rock, and a mine entrance. Not sure what the concrete cans were about; sort of looked like maybe they held up temporary sun shades to work the mine.
The ruins were not nearly as extensie as at the Contact Mine, nor at Golden Bee or some of the other mines in Joshua Tree I've visited. But, for what I wanted (a short hike to loosen up after the long drive out here, and before my evening astronomy), it was perfect.
Given my late start, it was already pretty dark by the time I got back to my car. In fact, this required some walking along the road, in the dark. I just step further off the road when I see oncoming traffic.
This night was just four days after full moon, and three days before Third Quarter. What this means is that the moon rises somewhat after sunset, but well before "mid" night. So, as planned, this meant I'd hae about 90-120 minutes of pretty dark skies to do my locating before a relatively large moon would rise to wash away the dimmer faint fuzzies of the night sky. Ideally, I'd have waited until the next week, but my first major dark sky outreach event of the "summer" was September 15, meaning if I didn't go this weekend and next weekend got clouded out, I'd have no opportunity to practice before the event.
Although, to be fair, I had done a very brief outreach event back in the spring with my 10" dob. But the sky's completely different five months later, as we're now nearly on the opposite side of the sun, and the things you can see at night are similarly changed.
In any event, my lesson from the short practice session was that, yes, I can find things. But, because of the telescope's design, objects near the horizon place the telescope's eyepiece really low to the ground, so probably not the best for public observing. So I've decided I'll take my C11 on this next outreach event, after all. The collimation (lens and mirror alignment) on the C11 is off and hard for me to get right, but it's not too serious an issue at low magnifications, so if I keep powers low, it'll be fine.