Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7 | High Sierra Topix  

Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

A forum that'll feed your need for exploring the limitless adventure possibilities found in "other" places. Post trip reports or ask questions about outdoor adventures beyond the Sierra Nevada here.
User avatar

Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby TehipiteTom » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:51 pm

Image


It was the best of timing, it was the worst of timing.

I've long been wanting to see Joshua Tree and Mojave NP, and this spring I finally decided to do it. The plan was to drive down Wednesday night, spend Thursday and Friday in Joshua Tree, spend most of Saturday in Mojave National Preserve, and head back Sunday.

I lit out around 8 pm Wednesday evening, stopped for a nap at the Buttonwillow rest area, and got into Barstow around 5:35 am. I was pretty drowsy when I got there, but breakfast at Denny's revived me.

Image


There was no traffic at all on 247, not much on 62, and I got to the Joshua Tree visitor center around 8:30.

This is where the bad timing comes in. Turns out lots of people take off the week before Easter (who knew?), and all of them go to Joshua Tree. All of the campgrounds were full except Cottonwood, the least scenic and most distant from the main attractions. I thought about trying Jumbo Rocks in case anyone was leaving, but when I got there I saw a couple other cars ahead of me with (apparently) the same idea. So I hightailed it down to Cottonwood where I had my pick of a bunch of empty sites.

Image


Here's where the good timing comes in. Just from what was blooming in the campground, it was clear Cottonwood was wildflower central that week. Desert Globemallow, Purplemat, Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose, Desert Pincushion, and one lone spectacularly blooming Mojave Yucca, among others.

After paying, and leaving enough gear out to let people know the site was taken, I headed down to Cottonwood Basin Wash (1.7 miles south of the Cottonwood visitor center), where the JTNP wildflower update had said the bloom was at its peak.

Image


They were not wrong. I hiked up the wash a half mile or so and saw a dozen or more species that were new to me. Highlights included Desert Bluebells, Sand Blazing Star, Bigelow's Monkeyflower, Notch-Leaf Phacelia, Desert Star, and (best of all) a lone Beavertail Cactus in full amazing bloom.

Image


After returning to the campsite and having some lunch, I headed down to Cottonwood Springs trailhead for a hike to Lost Palms Oasis. Wildflowers along the trail were abundant and gorgeous. Lots of Desert Bluebell and Sand Blazing Star, plus Pygmy Poppy, Mojave Aster, Scarlet Locoweed, and Calico Cactus.

Image


Early-to-mid-afternoon is a sub-optimal time for the hike, which has virtually no shade; I was hard-pressed to drink enough water fast enough to keep from dehydrating. Still, the destination was worth it: a canyon oasis, the largest grove of fan palms in the park.

Image


A quiet evening of pasta with green olive tapenade, a bottle of Fin du Monde, and Ragtime for reading material; then a well-earned night's sleep, after 36 or so hours awake. The wind picked up during the night, but miraculously (considering it was staked in loose granite sand) my tent held up.



User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:45 am

Image

Friday was my day for sightseeing; the plan was to spend the day up in the northern part of the park (where all the Big Rocks are) doing a few short-ish hikes and checking out the popular attractions. The morning was cold and very windy--no incentive to linger over my coffee. I put away anything I thought might blow away, and hit the road at around 6:45.

Image

First destination (after a quick stop at the Cholla Garden) was Keys View. Did I say it was windy at the campground? That wasn't windy. Keys View was windy. In the parking lot it was a steady 30-40 mph blast, and up at the viewpoint it was worse--so bad I could barely stand. I snapped a couple of shots and hurried back to the car to warm my numbing fingers. First tourist destination down.

Image

Next up: a hike into Wonderland Wash. Start at Barker Dam trailhead; head toward Wall Street Mill, take a left to the pink ruins, then left again into the wash.

Image

This is the quick & easy way into Wonderland of Rocks. It's not an official trail but the use path is easy to follow, and it's a big payoff for not an enormous amount of effort. I imagine it gets hot mid-day, but the morning was pleasantly cool.

Image

Also in Wonderland Wash: lots of Mojave Kingcup cactus, and lots of it in bloom.

Image

Back via the Desert Queen Well, and on to more sightseeing. An amble around the Hall of Horrors, a stop at Skull Rock, and then the 2-mile loop out of Split Rock picnic area. Rocks and more rocks; this one, a little southwest of the picnic area, I call Gorilla Rock.

Image

Next, the Arch Rock nature trail. When I got to Arch Rock there was a couple taking pictures; they told me that several other people had walked right past it without even looking.

Image

On the way back to Cottonwood, the Ocotillo Patch was in full flower.

Image

Smoke Tree Wash, however, was a little past its prime; there was still lots in bloom, but it was starting to dry up.

Back at the campsite, I discovered that my chair had blown over and a couple cookpots had been blown into the road. (A friendly Canadian in the next campsite had been kind enough to collect them.) I did a little more exploring around Cottonwood, enjoyed a bottle of Brother Thelonious, checked out a very interesting ranger talk (on the human history of JTNP), and again retired early.
User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:04 am

Thanks TT for the TR. Was looking at the wild flower update site this past weekend
and saw that JT was in full bloom, good timing. The "Smoke Tree Wash" looks great!
Was hoping for a miracle that after these rains Carrizo would all of a sudden have a
good bloom, but it's not going to happen. :\
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8039
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:21 am

maverick wrote:Thanks TT for the TR. Was looking at the wild flower update site this past weekend
and saw that JT was in full bloom, good timing. The "Smoke Tree Wash" looks great!
Was hoping for a miracle that after these rains Carrizo would all of a sudden have a
good bloom, but it's not going to happen. :\

Thanks, Maverick! You mean Wonderland Wash? Smoke Tree Wash wasn't much to look at--just a broad wash on a desert plain.

And yeah, I really did luck out with the wildflowers.
User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:24 am

Image

Saturday the plan was to see Mojave National Preserve, or at any rate as much of it as was accessible from Kelbaker Road, winding at a motel in Barstow for the night. It was a packed schedule: lots of driving, and lots of exploring to do. So I got up early and hit the road by a little after 6:30 am.

Traffic: not much of an issue. So even with stops in 29 Palms and Amboy to shoot iconic signage, I was in Mojave NP by a little after 9 am.

First stop was Granite Pass, and a ramble around the rocky foothills of the Granite Mountains. It's a classic granitic landscape with lots of cool outcrops, well worth an hour or so of exploration.

Image

Wildflowers: not so much. Some nice Panamint Liveforever, isolated paintbrush and Mojave Buckwheat, but not much else.

Image

Next stop was the Kelso Dunes, 45 square miles of sand topping out at 650' above the base. I wasn't sure when I started that I was really shooting for the top of the tallest dune. The sand slog was tedious and enervating, and as I approached the base of the steepest dunes I looked up at the direct route and thought no frigging way. But there was a nice angled route to a saddle that wasn't much higher than I was at this point, so I figured I'd just get to the ridgeline to see what I could see. ("The Bear Went Over the Mountain" was going through my head at this point.)

Image

And when I got there, I saw a path along the ridge to the high point--a path much easier than the one-foot-forward-two-steps-back way up the dune face. So I did make it to the high point despite myself. And it was well worth the (considerable) effort.

Image

The descent was a lot more fun, half-leaping and half-glissading down every slope.

Image

I headed on to the Kelso Depot, a 1920s railroad depot converted to headquarters for the National Preserve. In addition to exhibits illustrating Mojave natural and human history, there are several rooms preserved as they would have been when it was a working depot.

Also restored, and functioning: the old lunch counter. At the top of the dunes a young woman on a college geology trip recommended the fruit smoothies there, so I got myself a strawberry smoothy--very refreshing on a warm day.

Image

Back on the road, and another stop for a short walk in the cinder cone area.

Image

Then on to Baker. The freeway was a little jarring after a whole day of 2-lane desert highways, but I wasn't on it long before exiting for my final Mojave destination.

Image

Zzyzx was a 1940s-era mineral springs and spa, founded and run by a televangelist health-food nut. Now it's the CSU system's Desert Studies Center. Much of it is still intact, a wonderfully incongruous oasis wedged between dark desert peaks and a vast dry lake bed. Great place to spend some time wandering around.

Finally, off to Barstow for a shower, dinner, and a soft bed. I made it back to San Francisco in 6 1/2 hours the next day.

Full set of photos from the trip here.
User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby quentinc » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:07 am

Tom, great report. It's been a long time since I've been to Kelso Sand Dunes (1987 I think). And I always assumed the Zzyzx exit on the 15 was someone's idea of a joke -- never would have guessed there was actually something there!
User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:43 pm

I just love Joshua Tree. I used to go there three-four times a year when I rock climbed. I should make a point of going there just to hike also. I remeber many days walking to and from climbs in the Wonderland of Rocks. Indian Cove has some really nice stuff too and is warmer in the winter.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2608
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby BrianF » Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:18 pm

Nice photos!
I used to go there rockclimbing several times a year also, but now I mostly go to hike unless my son wants to climb. There are a number of great hikes there (as you can see from his pics) or just wandering around the Wonderland is a treat. The Boy Scout Trail (yeah, thats really it's name) from Indian Cove to the outskirts of the Wonderland is a nice hike through a variety of terrain and plant communties. Indian Cove also accepts reservations which is a bonus for staying there, even if it is a bit removed from the rest of the park. Most spring and fall weekends the campgrounds are full; back in my dirtbag years we knew enough climbers that we could always find someone there who would let us share a site, but nowadays I like knowing I have a spot reserved... less dirt in the bag now, I guess
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
User avatar
BrianF
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 283
Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 1:29 pm
Location: Santa Barbara,Ca
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Joshua Tree/Mojave, April 5-7

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:46 am

Thanks, all!

And I always assumed the Zzyzx exit on the 15 was someone's idea of a joke -- never would have guessed there was actually something there!

I remember reading about Zzyzx many years ago...read about it again when I was looking up MNP, and when I saw it was on my route I had to check it out. Very cool place.

I just love Joshua Tree. I used to go there three-four times a year when I rock climbed.

My first time, and I loved it. (Definitely not a rock climber, though!) It's a long way to go from where I am, but I definitely want to get back there.

Indian Cove also accepts reservations which is a bonus for staying there, even if it is a bit removed from the rest of the park.

I considered reserving at Indian Cove or Black Rock, but I didn't like the idea of having to leave the park to get anywhere else in the park. Cottonwood worked out okay, because of the wildflowers, but I would like to go there sometime when I can get a site at White Tank or one of the other central campgrounds.
User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Beyond The Sierra Nevada



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests