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Joshua Tree NP, CA
mini location map2013-01-05
50 by photographer avatarglutz
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Joshua Tree NP, CA 
Joshua Tree NP, CA
Hiking avatar Jan 05 2013
Hiking20.00 Miles
Hiking20.00 Miles   10 Hrs      2.00 mph
20 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Johnnie had been wanting to get back to Joshua Tree National Park for some time now, and since we both had 5 days off after New Years we figured now is as good a time as any, besides we didn't want "gummo" to have the corner on the market for Joshua Tree National Park PhotoLogs. Johnnie and I set out New Years day for the "Jumbo Rocks" campground located in the Northern part of the park.

We left Gilbert, AZ @ 8:00a and arrived at the park around noon. We traveled via I-10 west and entered the park from the southern Cottonwood entrance. It is about 250 miles from Gilbert to the "Jumbo Rocks" campground...the largest of the JT-NP campgrounds. The ranger @ the Cottonwood station indicated that the majority of Campgrounds were full, but we were arriving at a good time, as checkout was 1:00p. We headed to "Jumbo Rocks" and began scouting a site that could accommodate 2 tents and had some protection from the wind. Finding a suitable camp site @ 1:00ish that day was fairly easy as many parties were leaving when we arrived; however, by evening the campground was again full.

After setting up basecamp JT-NP, we headed out to the "Wonderland area" and proceeded to traverse the Barker Dam/Petroglyphs loop trail, about 1.5 miles of level easy hiking. Whilst hiking this loop we noted several hikers with large rectangular "backpack like" contraptions on their back. These piqued our curiosity but we were never able to catch up to anyone to inquire about these strange looking backpack/tents...

Johnnie and I wanted to continue our endeavors @ night photography, but this night was too windy, cloudy and cold. It got down to 28 degrees, thank goodness for the 20 degree mummy bag.

Next morning saw us up @ sunrise, huddled in Johnnies tent sipping hot apple cider around the coleman stove (don't try this @ home kids, but the warmth from the stove was very welcome). We then headed out around 7:30a for the "Wall Street Mill" site. This is also a very level hike of about 4 miles, depending on how many side trips you take to various structures, vehicles...

We finished the hike and picture taking at the Wall Street Stamp Mill around noon and headed east on the dirt Queen Valley road to the Queen Valley Mine and Pine City area. We hiked the 1/2 mile to the Queen Mine overlook, but did not feel enthused to wander around the trail for another 3 miles to get to the bottom of the canyon.. besides the Pine City hike which starts from the same area sounded more interesting. Thus @ 2:00p ish we set off in the back country to the Pine City area. This ended up being a 4 mile hike on level terrain, very scenic, but the "destination: Pine City" was not marked and we just guessed as to its whereabouts via GPS distance. Rock formations, dead Joshua Trees, Pinon Pines, Granite boulders made for a very scenic hike. Oh yeah forgot to mention on the drive over to the Pine City trailhead we saw the only mammal fauna in the form of 2 rather healthy looking coyotes. We also saw several birds: hawks, ravens, blueish jay types, but no reptiles...we guessed it was just too cold for them.

We arrived back @ camp around 6p after twilight and made dinner...afterwards we were treated to a cloudless sky, minimal wind, temperatures in the we headed over to the "Hall of Horrors" for some night photography. Moonrise was 10:00p Phoenix time, 9:00p CA time, there was much confusion as to time, given some of our "smart devices (GPS receiver, iPad, BlackBerry, atomic wrist watch, iPod touch, a second GPS receiver..." indicated 9p, some devices 10p and we struggled to remember which ones had GPS and automatically adjusted time for location, as well as which ones had Daylight savings time turned on/off, ahh modern technology. We were able to capture some nice starry sky shots with boulders and Joshua Trees in silhouette. We headed back to camp shortly after moonrise.

Upon arriving back @ JT-NP basecamp @ Jumbo Rocks Campground, I was pleasantly suprised that as dense and crowded as the campground was, it was very quiet...apparently the temperatures had convinced everyone to head in doors.

Turns out the neighboring campsite occupant, had one of these rectangular contraptions with them... so we inquired about it and learned they are "russian camp packs"..actually, not, but apparently that is a standing joke amongst rock climbers to the uninformed masses...basically these rectangular contraptions are folded 8" thick foam pads that the rock climbers put down to land on should they lose their grip and let gravity do its thing! The climber we talked to indicated these foam pads are good for about a 25' fall. When asked how they "aim for the pad"...and he told us that if you are fortunate enough to have diligent spotters, they will "guide" the falling party onto the pad during his/her fall..interesting.

This night only saw lows in the 34 degree range. Again up @ sun rise, hot cider and noodles for breakfast and we headed off to the NW corner of the park via National Park Blvd. Stopping along the way for several Photo ops with boulders, Joshua Trees and snow capped peaks.

We exited the park @ Joshua Tree township, and re-entered on the Covington Flat area. Joshua Tree NP has a nice gift shop/welcome center complete with a viewing area for a video of the park. We headed west on Alta Loma street about 3 miles to La Contera, then headed south on La Contera about 3 miles, eventually you will come to a sign indicating you are entering Joshua Tree NP. but there are no signs @ either of the 2 turns (Alta Loma or La Contera). It was noted that this area was anywhere from 300 - 750 feet higher than the other areas we were in the park. This was notable as we recognized that this area was much greener and the Joshua Trees appeared to be healthier and greener as well..we surmised this was due to increased rain fall. We followed this road to the end, turning to the west/right about 7 miles from the Alta Loma turnoff, and following the brown sign with the icon of a camera on it...that's gotta be good right?! Turns out this took us up to Upper Covington Flat (we later learned we had been on Lower Covington Flat)@ the Y we headed south (left, right goes to Eureka peak). We ended up at another Back Country Kiosk...although the Crest trail sign indicates it is 2.1 miles, we ended up hiking about 3.8 miles. possibly the 2.1 mi. referenced one way? At any rate we were greeted with sights of some very large Joshua Trees, very green, much more so than those around Ryan, Skull, and Jumbo Rock areas. Also, the Joshua Tree density in this area was much greater than we had seen in other parts of the park. The terminus/culmination of this hike was, as the name implies, the crest overlooking the city of Indio, some 3,200 feet below us. Nice views of the city and surrounding snow capped mountains, although you can not see the Salton Sea from this vantage point like you can from the Keys View parking area, which I neglected to mention we visited our first day in the park. That day @ Keys view was quite Scenic but it was very windy and cold...although I did get the obligatory "long lens" shot of the Salton Sea. Upon exiting the park, we stopped @ the "Cross Roads Cafe & Tavern" and enjoyed the best burger and belgian white brew in a 100 mile radius!
Opting for a different way back to Phoenix, we headed east on Highway 62 toward 29 Palms and places east toward Parker. Very desolate and unimpressive land :(...who in their right mind would settle here...oh that's right..NO ONE!...rather than heading up to Parker, we turned right at the intersection with Highway 177, and ended up back on I-10 @ Desert Center and on our way back to the valley. For the future, I would opt to drive back through the Joshua Tree National Park, even tho' the speed limit through the park would get to back at about the same time, but the scenery through the park beats east of 29 Palms.
Joshua Tree
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