08 December 2019

Fortynine Palms Oasis

Joshua Tree National Park


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I wanted to be sure I stopped by an oasis while around Joshua Tree, so made my way to Fortynine Palms. The trail outside of Twentynine Palms starts just inside Joshua Tree National Park, but does not have an entrance fee. Again, there is a sign detailing the statistics of the hike and stressing that it might be too strenuous for you. Here it gets particularly worried about the passers by because part of the trail on the way out is uphill. Mounted on the side is a huge thermometer so people can know exactly how hot it is out. Today, that isn't even all the way up to 60°F.

trail with signs
Signs at the start of the trail.

The first bit of the trail is climbing. It doesn't actually start in the canyon with the oasis, so has to climb up and over to the correct canyon. Twentynine Palms comes into view below, stretching far and somewhat obscured by fog.

upturned rock layers, or so they look
The desert terrain to hike through.

large rocks, small rocks, foggy city, and mountains
The rocks take on odd shapes. This looks over the foggy city to the mountains beyond.

bunch of people and cars
There's quite a few people on this weekend day with the lot more than half full.

Someone behind me spots a tarantula. The big hairy spider causes a bit of a stir. One of the pair behind me says she's glad she passed before it was noticed, but eventually goes back to see it. I try to look for another as I go, but it seems I should have gone back too. There aren't any more being suitably obvious.

07 December 2019

Ryan Mountain

Joshua Tree National Park


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The second hike I signed up for was originally going to be Mineral and Tip Top, two on the far northeast side of San Bernardino National Forest, but there was a report that the road was more impassible than usual after the recent rain. Instead the group decided to do a loop over Ryan Mountain and Lost Horse Mountain as a shuttle. I'd been trying to get some interest in doing this as a loop on Sunday, so that worked out for me. Well, discounting that I'd have liked to do both. Again, the $30 entrance fee is taken care of by flashing a senior pass belonging to someone else in the car. Then we're off to the Ryan Mountain Trailhead and setting up the shuttle. Then we're off! Almost. We have to jog over from the "Indian Cave" trail we actually end up starting down. We're a little eager.

Indian Cave trail
The trail to the "Indian Cave", which seems to be the rocks resting with a space between up ahead and not a cave.

There's a more elaborate sign at the start of Ryan Mountain Trail to say that it is quite strenuous hiking at 1.5 miles each way and over 1000 feet climb. The climb is immediate once we're on the right trail. It quickly grants us views of the surrounding rocks as reward for the work.

a few rocks from the rocks
Just a few rocks at first and those from among other rocks.

steps on the trail
The trail is serious about climbing and includes steps.

rocks and mountains
Not just rocks out there, but other mountains.

We pass through a small inner valley before gaining the ridge with its own rewards of the new view including Queen Mountain. Well, Queen is to the north, so it was a little bit there before too. The stuff out to the east has a little different character than the western stuff we have been mostly looking at.

06 December 2019

Queen Mountain

Joshua Tree National Park



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I decided to be social and signed up for some hikes going on as part of the Holiday Hooplah. This is an annual party put on by the Hundred Peaks Section of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club with hikes in and around Joshua Tree National Park. I've been to a bunch already, so am running out of new peaks to climb. (For more Sierra Club outings including these past Holiday Hooplahs, click the "Sierra Club" tag.) Today, I am up for Queen Mountain and Mount Inspiration in two separate hikes. I get to save the $30 entrance fee because I can sit in a car with someone with a senior pass. First is Queen Mountain, which is going to be a little bit further than usual because the roads were closed after the recent rains. Parking is at an interpretive turnout instead of the usual small loop of dirt at the end of a road.

Queen Mountain past a lot of flat full of Joshua Trees
We can see Queen Mountain right away. It is a lot of flat and a deceptive amount of up. Of the two taller bumps, the high point is on the left and the benchmark is on the right.

We cross the flat desert to the road we meant to be driving, then keep on going along it to the loop. Joshua Tree isn't the only place that got precipitation. Poking above the nearby hills, we can first see Mount San Gorgonio then Mount San Jacinto covered in white stuff. Those tall peaks probably won't be giving it up until spring.

San Gorgonio covered in white snow
San Gorgonio and some of the lower peaks to the east all sporting snow.

San Jacinto a little less completely covered
San Jacinto doesn't look quite so completely covered, but that might just be a trick of the light.

closed road
Found the road to walk in on. It doesn't look flooded to me.

29 November 2019

Granite Mountain

Quartzsite area BLM


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There's lots of Granite Mountains around and this one probably isn't a very impressive specimen. It certainly isn't as grand as the various other things I went after while I was here last. It's still an excellent excuse for a walk with a little challenge along the way. I could probably drive a bit closer, but then I would miss some small sites along the way and it's really too close to camp to bother with that. Anyway, it would only get the easy flat stuff out of the way and the sky is quite beautiful after the rain yesterday. Best to stretch the legs and enjoy it.

mountain at the end of a lot of flat
The goal, obscured a little by the desert vegetation.

black diamond above the rest of the peaks
Ibex does still make itself known on the other side of the valley.

bulging mountain
Signal is some 20 miles away, but I think that might be it anyway.

The first part is easy and flat and quick, but that is deceptive. As small as Granite is, it does have some foothills. Among the closest of these are some marked petroglyphs by a mine and a wash. The geocachers have helpfully pointed out some mortars on the far side of the wash and some fellow explorers point out the mine. Today the wash is running like a wide muddy river. I guess I could have got away without having to cross that, too, if I had driven around, but the petroglyphs and mine are on this side of it and the mortars and mountain are on that.

big wash running for the short time after the rain
Tyson Wash is running the day after the rain. It is a little less than knee deep now, but it won't last long.

25 November 2019

Medlar Mesa and Crater Mountain

Prescott National Forest


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I stayed at Powell Springs Campground, which is a free campground deep in some ponderosas that only exist in the canyon area. Outside the canyon, the area is chaparral. A trail heads out the back of the camp and I plotted out a loop of travel along it and some connecting trails, then increasingly large roads. The last little bit to the campground road would unfortunately be paved, but most the roads are rough and narrow and unlikely to see much traffic. There seems to be no parking specific for the trail, just a small loop for turning around. There's also no sign for the trail, just the suggestion that road once went further.

end of the road as the start of trail
No markers for the trail at the end of the campground, but if road once went here it should be easy to find.

Road did go further, and is pretty obvious as it crosses the creek and continues along it on the other side. The campground is surrounded by a fence and where the road encounters it, there is a slot to hike through and a ranch gate for horses. Then there is general confusion. One steep route goes up to a flat north of the creek where there is old road around the edge of the fence and some cairns that don't seem to actually be marking trail. There's something that looks like trail just a little up from the creek where the Forest Service map indicates it should be, but it ends abruptly. There's more old road around the outside of the fence heading south. I can't sort it and decide to head up the creek bed and see the spring at least.

mystery cairn
Cairns at the top seem to be marking game trail that goes nowhere. Perhaps they needed more investigation?

There's hints at a trail sometimes along the creek. I go up one side that seems to have trail, only to have it close up on me. I go up the other and find a pass through cut in a log. Mostly I'm just in the bed where it is sandy and there is only one little rock scramble and a few low bridges of vegetation to duck.

easy walking in this bit
Much of the creek is easy walking with very little mild obstacles.

I decide to climb out to the right where the trail is supposed to be and see what I can find. There do seem to be some candidates for trail, but all a little bit wrong. Actually, walking through this chaparral is rather easy. I pick one that seems most likely and go for it. It passes near a big and old manzanita that has never had a branch cut. That seems unlikely for a manzanita so close to a trail. This is definitely not it. Still, I get to look at more than the low valley of a dry creek.

Crater Mountain
Crater Mountain, on my list to maybe visit toward the end of the hike.

23 November 2019

Woodchute Mountain

Prescott National Forest


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I am off to a later start than expected. I had looked at the icy road just past where the snow plow stopped and found a parking spot, but a chat with a pair of women had managed to dare me onward. They had not even questioned my manhood or anything. They were simply encouraging. It didn't help that they were playing with their own 4WD and crawling up the hill in front of me, but for all I know that just meant I was a little lower down when everything started to slide backward. Then the poor Forest Service employees dealt with a little more than they bargained for when simply trying to clean the toilets and I was parked even further away in the picnic area across the highway. This location has the advantage of not being along the side of a road clearly marked tow away zone even if my parking had been well off of it. A little extra walking is no problem, especially when compared to trying to direct a short trailer while sliding backwards on a curved, icy road.

end of the plowed road
The end of the plowed road. It looks tame enough here, but it drops after this, then climbs again, and those parts have been in shadow.

The pavement ends for a nice, large graveled parking area with the aforesaid toilets. After this, dirt road continues on to the actual trailhead. This particular road is not recommended for low cars, but even in the wet mess that it is now, a few have made it. Most of those I see on the road are ATVs and judging by the bumper stickers and license plate holders of the trailers that brought them, they're a search and rescue crew out for an exercise in the first real snow of the season. They're definitely not working, at least not in the sense of bad news for someone.

soggy dirt road
Three trails start from here. Woodchute is still 0.7 miles off and the other two are two miles off.

tank of water
The tank in Powerline Meadow is still liquid.

actual trailhead
The real trailhead, which has some small cars parked nearby. They made it by not being too overloaded.

The trail is getting a bit of use through the snow, so it is clear of the stuff and a little bit muddy. It isn't bad. The Powerline Trail, missing from the sign because it's too new, breaks off quickly and encourages any bicycles to go that way because Woodchute is heading for wilderness. I'm just generally gleeful for snowy vistas and not wet toes, even in my trail runners.

22 November 2019

Dams of Stone and Steel

Kaibab National Forest


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The map says simply "Steel Dam Fishing Site", but the geocacher says it's the oldest and largest steel dam in the world. I resolved to go and see it and sorted out a looping route from exit 149. This does let me wander a piece of "Route 66", but I really should have used exit 148 for my starting point. The geocache description even says as much. From there, the dam is drivable in a sufficiently sturdy vehicle although all bets are off once the road gets wet as it is now. I wouldn't be driving it anyway.

an abandoned segment of former US-66
A piece of what was once "Route 66". Is it everything you expected?

prickly pear stretching into the asfault
The desert is taking back US-66.

southern hills
Flat Mesa and other points southeast.

There's supposed to be a mountain bike trail along this segment of US-66 with a second piece that drops off it near the edge of the forest, but I don't see that segment. Maybe they just like riding the old highway to bother with the other piece. I'm not long on the road because I'm looking for a dirt road going north. One map says it'll take me right where I want to go. The other says it'll split and neither section will go anywhere in particular. The pessimistic forest map wins as it comes to a power line and is marked as following that, but has a second piece that wanders in another direction. Neither goes particularly far. All of it is difficult to walk, which doesn't seem to have prevented someone trying to drive it. Maybe it was yesterday when it wasn't quite so wet yet.

Fortynine Palms Oasis

Joshua Tree National Park Click for map. I wanted to be sure I stopped by an oasis while around Joshua Tree, so made my way to Fort...