13 December 2014

Mount Minerva Hoyt and Quail Mountain

Joshua Tree National Park

Locate the trailhead.

Bernard and I decided to head down to Joshua Tree to get in some guided wandering by joining the Hundred Peaks Section for their Holiday Hooplah. There is a choice of hikes on each day and a campfire and potluck to bridge them. For Saturday, we chose to do the hike to Minerva Hoyt, named for a woman who was instrumental in getting these desert lands protected. This was advertised as a 10 mile hike and was the longer of the two choices. We arrive a bit earlier than most at the Quail Springs picnic area and gathering my gear includes remembering the camera is still on the coffee table. I do have a backup, but it has a very low battery. Eventually everyone is gathered and signed in and we head out, aiming at a wash across the desert flat. We seem to be on a trail at the start even though this hike is completely across country.

sandy flat with Joshua Tres and background mountains
Crossing the brief, sandy flat on use trail to climb the mountains beyond.

The group moves steadily across the flat, but then we enter the wash. The canyon is surprisingly cold. Small obstacles slow the group down and some very tight constrictions require a short climb and nearly grind progress down to a halt. The narrow wash opens up and eventually the stream of people are traveling a easy path over a wide saddle and down into Johnny Lang Canyon.

up a constriction in the wash
Climbing up the wash, which has a number of narrow spots to navigate.

A short drop brings us to the bottom of the canyon, which should have an old trail climbing it to a mine. We can see a trail of sorts in the bottom of the canyon, but it is where erosion would clear it quickly so must be modern. Our leader ignores the trail and climbs in a more direct route toward the target peak.

Johnny Lang Canyon
Johnny Lang Canyon. Photo by Bernard Mines.

rocky slope
Climbing toward Minerva Hoyt. Photo by Bernard Mines.

mountains with flats in the background
Looking back over the way we came, we can see down the two canyons to the desert flats. Photo by Bernard Mines.

The footing is generally good as we climb up the rocky slope. We seem to be coming to the peak, but the mileage is far too short. Still, after the long clamber up the slope, people seem to be gathering on this peak and have even found a peak register to pass around.

people with papers in hand
Checking the maps and signing the book. I am trying to figure out where the mine is exactly. Photo by Bernard Mines.

The group has some lunch and finishes signing the log, then starts getting ready to head back. We are only 3 miles into our 10 mile hike and Bernard and I do not feel ready to turn around. Above us and only a mile away is Quail Mountain, the tallest in Joshua Tree. We decide to sign out early and continue on to its top. Polling the group just elicits a lot of responses along the lines of, "we have already been up that one." No one comes with us as we leave the group the follow the curving ridge up to the long peak of Quail Mountain.

Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain, an option for tomorrow. Photo by Bernard Mines.

We manage to make the trip we are told is a mile long to take 1.5 miles along paths that get more animal usage than people usage. There are footprints on the trail once our ridge joins another up from Juniper Flats. The top is long and flat with rocks jutting up toward the south, middle, and north. We are near the south side of the peak, so check out that first. There is a register and airplane debris scattered around the area. The register shows the footprints were left a couple hours ago by someone who could be persuaded to come to this peak, but by a different route. I still want to find the benchmark, which is shown on the map toward the north side of the peak and my HPS notes for this peak also direct the hiker north. We poke around the rocks in the middle as we pass and find the remains of a surveyor spotting tower at the north side where there is a benchmark and another register. This register is not in as good shape and has not been signed recently. To my judgement, it is the highest spot on the peak. The views are, of course, spectacular.

Army Corp of Engineers station marked JO
Station "JO", set on Quail Mountain in 1953 by the Army Corps of Engineers. Photo by Bernard Mines.

some of the view
Some of the view. Photo by Bernard Mines.

When we are good and ready, we head down roughly the way we came up, catching a trail along the side of Minerva Hoyt instead of climbing it again. Now that I have figured out where the mine should be, I can spot it as we make our way along the path made by the rest of our group as they came down. There is a structure and some digging apparent to show the exact location of the mine.

Lang Mine
Lang Mine, look for the dark brown along the farther part of the closest ridge line. Photo by Bernard Mines.

Some of the view with a road down it. Photo by Bernard Mines.

We keep following the footprints down, which start to intermingle with the footprints up. Eventually, we are back into the bottom of Johnny Lang Canyon, where route finding becomes slightly harder. We have to climb out in the right place and keep in the correct direction. The footprints to follow make this easier, but eventually we have to admit that they are going in the wrong direction. We decide to leave the footprints and make a way back to the route indicated by my GPS and, after passing a nearly intact backbone of a big horn sheep including the skull, start to find things looking familiar again. It is much easier and more comfortable to clamber down the narrow spots in the wash without competing with a big group.

Joshua tree in shadow
Joshua Tree on our way along the last stretch back to the car. Photo by Bernard Mines.

Once we are at the potluck, we find that the footprints we followed in the wrong direction were our group getting somewhat lost, even with leaders who have hiked the route before. It just makes the hike back take a little longer and makes it a little more interesting.

©2014,2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 January 2015

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