Second Week in Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs, CA

During our second week here in Borrego Springs we continued to enjoy some hiking, Jeeping, and golfing.  One afternoon we drove about 30 miles to the south to hike up Rainbow Canyon.  To get to the canyon we took Borrego Springs Road south and turned right on to Yaqui Pass Road.  That road ends at CA 78, where we turned west and drove seven miles to Scissors Crossing.  There we turned south on county road S2 for 11 miles.  At that point we turned around and parked in a small pull-out with Rainbow Canyon to our east.

Rainbow Canyon Trailhead

It was a short hike across the desert to the opening of the canyon.  Rainbow Canyon is not a difficult hike, but a number of pour-overs (12) requiring some scrambling to get up and over, make things interesting.

Colorful rock formations line the sides of the canyon.

We hiked about 1.5 miles to where the canyon opens up to a flat area overlooking the Blair Valley.  At that point we turned around and returned back down through the canyon.

A couple of days later we drove/hiked a short distance from our park to find a small bench sitting on a hill east of town.  To get to the bench we drove east on county road S22 to the turn onto the wash leading to Fonts Point.  At just short of 1.2 miles from the highway, we parked on the right side of the main wash near the entrance to a smaller wash to the west.

Entrance to the small wash

After hiking about half a mile west on the small wash we could see something sitting atop a hill that looked like it could be the bench.

Is this the bench?

We hiked up to the top of the hill and found our target, Burks’ Bench.

Dana Burks was a Palm Springs and Los Angeles real estate developer who saw the potential of developing Borrego Valley and purchased thousands of acres of land after the Great Depression.  The slow economic recovery following the Depression made him lose interest in the area.  His heirs still owned 1600 acres in 1974 when they decided to donate it to the state.  The bench overlooks the donated lands.  A plaque on the bench commemorates the gift.

Next to the plaque we found a small container with a journal book inside.  Visitors to the bench record their presence and often leave a message concerning their visit.

A young vagabond spends time reading the musings of earlier visitors

Every couple of days we enjoy a round of golf while taking in the fantastic views all around us.

One afternoon we joined Dave and Sue in their Jeep to explore some back roads in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  We headed east on county road S22 for about 16 miles.  There we turned south into the Arroyo-Salado wash, the same spot where we entered the desert the previous week with Jodie and Bill (On the Road Abode).  Our first stop was a small oasis called 17 Palms.

We’re not sure when this grove was named, but there are over 20 palms there now.  Maybe a few more grew up since Spanish explorers first came through the area.  There is a mailbox located between two of the trees with a notebook for visitors to sign.

Looking down at our lunch spot from a nearby hill

Following lunch we continued driving south a bit before turning to the west on what’s known as the Cut Across Trail.  After a few miles we came to a road leading north up into Rainbow Wash.  The wash goes in the badlands that are visible from Fonts Point, a high point in the desert we last visited the week before with Jodie and Bill.

We continued up into the wash until the road began to narrow and became very tilted and twisty (both terms used by professional Jeepers!).  At that point we stopped and continued  for a bit on foot.

The landscape all around us was very impressive.  The sky was partly cloudy so the colors changed as the sun went in and out of the clouds.

Colors in the shade . . .

. . . and in the sunlight

As we crossed over a small hill we almost stepped on two small eggs nestled in some rocks and twigs.   We have no idea who laid the eggs or how they would survive in this harsh environment.

 

Later in the week we took a ride south to hike up Pinyon Wash.  To get there we drove out Borrego Springs Road and turned right on to Yaqui Pass Road.  That road ends at CA 78 where we turned east and drove just over four miles to the wash entrance (marked with a sign).  A mile and a half up the wash we took the left side of a fork and continued for a little over four miles to where the road ends at a pile of huge boulders.  The trail begins on the right side of those rocks and goes up through them for a short distance before the wash flattens out.

Pam is standing in the center against the rocks to show the boulders size

After about a mile and a half we exited the wash into a large open area called Harper Flats.

We read that there were a number of large rocks with morteros (grinding holes) made by early inhabitants as they ground corn.  We searched the area but could only find one of those rocks.  An animal had left his scat in one of the depressions, reminding us of a recent presidential phrase used to describe some countries of Africa and the Caribbean.

A true s*** hole!

Looking back down the wash

A bit of scrambling was required near the trailhead

Did we mention that we’re enjoying the golf course?

An unusual twosome on the second green

With a bit over two weeks remaining in our stay here we have a number of sites to visit on our list.  More on these later . . .

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Jeep Roads in Anza Borrego

Borrego Springs, CA

We’ve continued to enjoy nice weather and fun activities during our second week here in the desert of southern California.  One afternoon we joined Dave, Sue, and Lewis for a visit to an interesting rock formation west of here near the town of Warner Springs.

Lewis served as our navigator

To get to the rock formation we took San Diego county road S22 west up steeply through the Montezuma  Grade to CA Rt. 89.  There we turned north to the small town of Warner Springs.  There is a three mile long trail leading from Rte. 89 to the rock formation.  But we learned from a post in Al and Kelly’s blog (Travel With The Bayfield Bunch) that the first right turn in Warner Springs on to Camino San Ignacio Road leads to a pull off where it’s just a short walk to the formation.  But there was one little obstacle to get there, a fence with a large gate.

A former gymnast who competed on the pommel horse climbs the gate

But we quickly made it up, over, or around the obstacle and headed out to the rock formation.

Lewis continues to navigate

The rock formation is called Eagle Rock.  We’re not sure where the name came from but some people apparently see the image of a bird in the rocks.

Lewis indicated that he didn’t see the resemblance.

On the drive back we took a detour to visit the little town of Santa Ysabel and their most famous business, the Julian Pie Company.  If you are in the San Diego area for any length of time, you will probably come in contact with one of these tasty desserts.  Be careful, they are addicting!

The next day friends Jodi and Bill (On the Road Abode) drove over from where they were staying in Thermal, CA for a visit.  After sitting at our site for a bit to get “re-acquainted” (we hadn’t seen them in a year) the six of us (remember, Dave and Sue are here, too) drove a short distance to Keslings Kitchen, a new restaurant in town, for lunch before heading out into the desert for some exploring.  Our first stop was at Fonts Point, a 14 mile drive to the east of Borrego Springs.

Jeep parking at Fonts Point

Fonts Point is a high area with great views of some badlands directly to the east and mountains to the west and north.

Sue and Jodie laugh it up while Tessa stands guard

A local philosopher (Bill) contemplates the message of the badlands

Breaks in the clouds paint the nearby mountains with sunlight

We left Fonts Point and drove further east on the S22 highway.  Five miles down the highway we turned south at the sign for the Arroyo Salada Campground and headed along a winding path through a series of washes.  We made a brief stop at a spot called Five Palms.  The name seemed appropriate to us.

Tessa leads the way

We then continued to follow the winding route through the desert until we came to a small field of bowling ball size rocks known as the Pumpkin Patch.

This unique landscape is the result of wind and water continuously eroding the surface soil and revealing globular sandstone concretions that look much like pumpkins in size and shape. The concretions are believed to be formed by the natural cementing of sand particles to a small object such as a piece of shell, a grain of sand or even an insect.

Jodee and Sue wander in the Pumpkin Patch

The empty, dusty parking area by the Pumpkin Patch seemed to be the perfect place for a dog to go a little crazy.  The normally calm Tessa recognized this and spent a few minutes entertaining us as she raced around in circles, kicking up a cool dust trail in her wake.

Who let the dogs out?

The sun was quickly setting in the west (as it usually does out here) so we decided we needed to head north back to the highway.  We have a very good map of the area and selected a route that would take us there.  But we were in a section of the Ocotillo Wells Recreation Area and the area is heavily used by off-road vehicles who often create their own roads, so following a trail on the map with numerous crossings with unmarked paths is difficult.

Needless to say, we took a wrong turn somewhere and, even though we could see a radio tower that we knew was on the highway, we had a bit of trouble finding a spot to drive up out of the washes to get to it.

The path we ended up on took us up and over some fairly significant mounds, but Jeeps handle these obstacles without any problem.  It turned out to be great fun.  We made it out just before dark, said our good-byes to Bill, Jodie, and Tessa and headed home after another great day in the desert.

 

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First Week in Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs, CA

After a month in San Diego along Mission Bay we headed east on I-8 on New Year’s Day.  The highway begins at sea level and quickly goes up 0ver 4,000 feet through the Cuyamaca Mountains.

After coming down the east side of the mountains we exited the interstate at the little town of Ocotillo and headed north on San Diego County route S2.

Beautiful colors along the S2

After about 45 miles we came to the intersection with Rte. 78, where we turned to the east.  We have driven this section of highway many times and usually find very little traffic.  So we were very surprised to find a steady stream of campers and RVs passing us as they headed west.

The road is a good way to go from the off road vehicle area of Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area to the east (and Imperial Sand Dunes even further to the east) and the urban areas of the Pacific coast to the west.  Apparently many people visited these areas during the holidays and everyone decided to return to the coast at the same time.

After about seven miles of passing RVs on Rte. 78 we turned left on to County Road S3 and drove over the Yaqui Pass to the quiet of Borrego Springs.

Borrego Springs in the distance

This is not the first time we have come to Borrego Springs after a stay in San Diego.  While we enjoy our stay on the coast, the traffic can be a bit over whelming.  That makes the quiet of the desert even more attractive.  Below is a photo taken one afternoon as we navigated I-5 on a return drive from Oceanside.

Contrast that with the photo below of the main street in Borrego Springs as we arrived in town.  The pace here is just a bit slower than along the coast!

Rush hour on main street

After a month sitting right along the coast, we were concerned about the impact of the salt air on the motorhome.  The RV park where we stay, The Springs at Borrego, does not allow washing of vehicles at your site, but it has a wash area near the park entrance.  So we took advantage of the opportunity and spent time washing the rig before proceeding to our site.

In an effort to speed up the task the nimble hiker even joined in the process, providing valuable assistance in both the washing and drying phases.  The prevailing sentiment is that her participation is a one time effort that will not be repeated in the near future.  She has enough to do maintaining the inside of the motorhome!

After completing the wash job we quickly set up in our assigned site.  Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) will arrive in a few days and set up in the site next to us.

Our first couple of days were spent riding our bikes around the area and completing a hike into a canyon west of town.

Heading into town with the bikes

Hiking up into Hellhole Canyon

The view east to Borrego Springs from Hellhole Canyon

Toward the end of the week Lewis finally arrived (Dave and Sue came with him) so we enjoyed some “chase the ball” time in our motorhome.

The throw rug always suffers during ball time!

One of the highlights of our stay in this park is the chance to golf on their beautiful nine hole course.  John and Dave plan on taking advantage of the course many times during the next three weeks.

There are many interesting places to visit and things to do here (beyond the golf) so we’re sure to be busy every day.  More on that later . . .

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San Diego Wrap-up

San Diego, CA

It’s been a while since our last post.  While we have been busy here along Mission Bay, we haven’t done much that would be “blog worthy.”  Since the traffic in San Diego can be a bit trying, we spent most of our time riding our bicycles around the bay to some of the nearby beach communities (riding 149 miles).  We did manage to join Steve and MonaLiza (Lowe’s RV Adventures) on a hike from their site in Sweetwater Summit Regional Park on the south side of San Diego.

Young hikers overlooking the Sweetwater Reservoir

One afternoon we went down to the San Diego harbor area to visit the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier permanently docked there and serving as a museum.

Side view of the Midway

The USS Midway was America’s longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, from 1945 to 1992. Approximately 200,000 sailors served aboard the carrier, known for several naval aviation breakthroughs as well as several humanitarian missions. It was the only carrier to serve the entire length of the Cold War and beyond.

The flight deck

A young sailor makes his way to his battle station

We spent about three hours touring the ship and still didn’t see everything.  Don’t miss it if you visit San Diego!

Sailors’ quarters – they had a locker and storage under each bunk

On Christmas Eve we drove down to the airport to pick up daughter Jessica and son-in-law Dan as they arrived on a flight from Baltimore.

The eagle has landed

One of the first things we did with them was to drive over the harbor to make one of the must do stops in San Diego, a visit to the old Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado.

Looking at the old hotel from the beach

The hotel is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort.  It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States (after the Tillamook Air Museum in Oregon) and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.  When it opened in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world.  It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities through the years and has been featured in numerous movies and books.  In fact, the night of our visit it was pictured in a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Upside down Christmas tree in the hotel lobby

It’s a bit warmer than Baltimore!

We wanted to share a desert experience with Dan and Jessica so one day during their visit we drove east about 80 miles to visit Borrego Springs and hike a slot canyon in the Anza Borrego State Desert Park.  We’re going to Borrego Springs for a month after we leave San Diego but thought the young couple from the east would enjoy visiting it.  Our first stop was at the Calcite Mine Slot Canyon.

This is a great little hike if you don’t have a great deal of time but want to experience hiking up a slot canyon.

Next we drove out to Fonts Point for lunch overlooking the badlands.

Lunch with a view

Our lunch spot looking west at Borrego Springs

One afternoon we played tourist while visiting a couple of beach towns and a couple of craft breweries.  Our first stop was in nearby Ocean Beach where we enjoyed pizza at Pizza Port.  They had some craft beers on the menu but none of them sounded good to us, so we saved our tasting until after lunch.

Clear skies and palm trees in late December. What’s not to like!

After lunch we walked a few blocks to the newly opened Belching Beaver tasting room.

We enjoyed a flight of beers, but our favorite is still their Peanut Butter Milk Stout.

Jessica and Dan with the Ocean Beach Pier in the background

A busker with bagpipes was on fire!

Next we drove north along the coast for a visit to the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.  The Children’s Pool is a small beach partially protected by a seawall. The original intention was to create a fully protected swimming area, but in recent years sand has filled in much of the area inside the wall.

The pool has become a popular viewing area for harbor seals.  Seals and occasionally seal lions haul out on the beach to rest year round.  The Children’s Pool Beach is closed to public access during harbor seal pupping season, Dec. 15 through May 15.

Coastal view looking north from La Jolla

For dinner we drove east of La Jolla to Mirimar for a visit to the Ballast Point Brewing Company.

A celebrity waits by the door for his table

We enjoyed tasting some of their many craft beers and enjoyed a delicious meal.

The nitro milk stout was our favorite

After a great visit, Jessica and Dan headed back to the east coast, and we headed east to the desert of Borrego Springs for a month of golfing and hiking.  Dave and Sue (Beluga’s  Excellent Adventures)  will join us so we get to have some pooch time with Lewis.

More on that later . . .

One final sunset over Mission Bay

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First Week in San Diego

San Diego, CA

We’ve been settled in at Mission Bay RV Park in San Diego for over a week now.  The park is basically a large, paved parking lot with lines designating the parameters for each site.  Our site backs up to the bay, giving us a nice view with some beautiful sunsets.

A walking path behind us

Mission Bay from behind our site

The day after our arrival we were treated to a visit by our friends from England, Neil and Lindsay.  Lindsay follows our blog, and we have met up with them at a number of places during our travels, the last being  December 2016 in Cortez, FL.  The four of us loaded into the Jeep and drove a few miles to the south for a visit to Cabrillo National Monument, located on the highest point at the tip of Point Loma on the north side of the entrance to San Diego harbor.

Neil and Lindsay with San Diego in the background

The park commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542.  This event marked the first time a European expedition had set foot on what later became the west coast of the U.S.  The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the highest point in the park and has been a San Diego icon since 1855. The lighthouse was closed in 1891, and a new one opened at a lower elevation because fog and low clouds often obscured the light at its location 422 feet above sea level. The old lighthouse is now a museum, and visitors may enter it and view some of the living areas.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Just below the lighthouse is the entrance to the Bayside Trail, which runs for a bit over a mile down the side of the point.  We hiked down about a mile enjoying the view of the water and the San Diego skyline in the distance.

Once back at the top we watched as the USS Decatur, a destroyer built in the late 1990s in Bath, ME, head out to sea.

Leaving the monument we drove a short distance to Sunset Cliffs to check out the tide pools, since there was suppose to be an extremely low tide.  There was little to see in the way of tide pools when we arrived but the surf was very high and we enjoyed watching some of the many surfers taking advantage of the big waves.

We finished the day with a nice meal at a nearby restaurant, Dan Diego’s, before saying good-bye to Neil and Lindsay as they faced a long flight back to England the next day.

The beach is just an easy bike ride from our park so we often ride there to enjoy the view.  One day while sitting on a low wall separating the beach from the biking/walking path we heard someone loudly saying “hello” over and over again.  It turned out to be an old fellow named Chief.

He was a friendly guy who even walked over to get a bit of affection from a local girl sitting on the wall.

The Jeep has been making a tapping noise the past few months, indicating a collapsed or sticking lifter.  So we made an appointment with Rancho Chrysler Jeep, a dealer only a few miles from the park, and took it there the Monday after our arrival.  Since we were not sure how long the repairs would take we went across the street from the dealer and rented a car.  It’s been a long time since we drove around in a full size, four door sedan so it seemed strange to ride in a new Chrysler 300 for a day or two.  It is a nice vehicle but we think it would have trouble navigating some of the mountain and desert trails we take in our travels!  Our repairs were completed the next day so we only had the rental for a short time.  It felt good to return to the Jeep (without the annoying ticking from the bad lifter).

The same day we took the Jeep in for repairs we had a visit from friends Laurel and Eric, who were staying north of us near Poway.  They brought their bicycles with them so we could enjoy a nice ride around Mission Bay.

Laurel, Eric, and John

Late that afternoon we met them again at Liberty Station to do some sightseeing before joining a large group of friends for dinner.  Liberty Station is a mixed-use development  on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego in the Point Loma section of San Diego. When the Navy closed the base in 1997  the city took it over.  Since then it has been developed into several distinct districts: a retail and commercial district, a promenade focused on nonprofit activities, an educational district, a residential district, a hotel district, an office district, and a park/open space area along the boat channel.

The four of us spent about an hour roaming through part of the development enjoying the holiday decorations.  Cool temperatures added to the holiday atmosphere.

Ice skating in Southern California?

We then walked over to the Stone Brewing Co. where we had dinner reservations for ten.  The stars lined up here in San Diego and brought five full time RV couples together for a night.  We spent the evening enjoying a meal, an adult beverage, and great conversation as we caught up with each couple’s travels.

MonaLiza, Pam, Laurel, Lisa, LuAnn, Terry, Hans, Eric, John, and Steve

The next day we rode our bikes to Ocean Beach for lunch at Wonderland Ocean Pub, a nice bar on the second floor of a building with a great view of the Ocean Beach Pier.  We visited this pub a few times during our stay here two years ago and loved the Belching Beaver  Peanut Butter Stout and Pozole (Mexican soup with homony) they offered.  Unfortunately, neither were being served that day, but we did enjoy a stout and a cup of Clam Chowder while watching the surfers near the pier.

At the end of the week Hans and Lisa rode with us up to a point between Del Mar and Torrey Pines where we met Steve and MonaLiza for a little “urban hiking.”   San Diego is a unique location that is build on areas of land separated by undeveloped canyons.  So you can hike for a while in what seems to be wilderness, then climb up and find yourself in an urban neighborhood.  Hans and Lisa are former residents of San Diego and know a number of interesting hikes here, so they acted as tour guides.

Steve, MonaLiza, Hans, Lisa, and Pam at the trailhead

We parked along Torrey Canyon Road and headed north into an area that is part of Torrey Pines Park Reserve.

This is a classic urban hike.  For the most part we were down in a rough canyon that led through some narrow erosion channels.

Then we would climb to the top of the canyon and take a sidewalk through a neighborhood.

Exotic vegetation along the way

Great view of Torrey Pines State Beach below

After our hiking adventure we returned to our site to enjoy a happy hour at sunset.  This group is very cooperative for a group photo as long as you shower them with compliments.

But just ask them to pose without giving any compliments and you get a quite different reaction!

Hans told us about a Saturday evening happy hour at Humphrey’s Backstage Live on Shelter Island, just past Liberty Station along the San Diego waterfront.  Half price drinks and food with a band playing mostly oldies and no cover charge sounded great to us so off we went.  We had a nice meal while enjoying the music, and we were home at 7:00.  Wild times for sure!

We’re only about a third of the way through our stay here so more adventures are sure to take place.  More on those later . . .

The sun sets over Mission Bay

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A Visit to Hemet, CA

Hemet, CA

As we make our way toward San Diego for the month of December we had a week to explore somewhere new.  It is about 160 miles from our last stop in Twentynine Palms to San Diego so we decided to split the trip in half.  We looked at a map and found the town of Hemet, CA almost exactly at the half way point, so we reserved a spot there in the Golden Village Palms RV Resort.

Hemet is a city of over 80,000 people located in what is called the Inland Empire.  We spent a relaxing time here, doing some cleaning and minor repairs to the motorhome.  But we did find time for a couple of decent hikes near the city.

Just a few miles to the south is Diamond Valley Lake.  The lake is one of the largest reservoirs in California and one of the newest, completed in 2003.  The water for the reservoir is pumped from just north of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River along the California – Arizona state line, over 200 miles away.  A number of hiking trails go around the lake.  We decided to hike the North Hills Trail about 2.5 miles up to a viewpoint overlooking the lake.

The trail goes up and down over a series of small hills before it turns to the south, going  around a water tower, then steeply uphill to the overlook.

Going steeply up toward the vista

As we climbed the steep trail the lake came into view behind us.

Near the top of the hill is a flat area with a picnic table.  We continued past it and headed further up the next hill behind the table.

At the very top of the hill we had a great 360 degree view of the lake to the south and Hemet to the north.

The view south across the lake

Walt Whitman ponders his next poem

The city of Hemet to the north

Hemet sits on the western base of the San Jacinto Mountains.  One day we drove almost 30 miles up into the mountains to the town of Idyllwild, where we found our way to Humber Park located at 6,100 ft.  The small park located above the town serves as the trailhead to a couple of trails.  We went there to hike on the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail (Maxwell founded the town’s newspaper).  Towering over the parking area for Humber Park is Lily Rock (also know as Tahquitz Rock, part of Tahquitz Peak), a popular spot for climbers.  The rock is said to have a lily white appearance, which might account for the name.  Another theory is that it was named for Lily Eastman, who was the daughter of one of the founders of the nearby city of Riverside.

Lily Rock looms over Humber Park

Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trailhead

The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail goes slowly down the side of a hill for about 2.7 miles for a 675 ft overall descent.  We hiked about two miles before stopping for a snack and returning back up the trail.

At one point we caught a glimpse of Diamond Valley Lake to the west.

Manzanita Trees lined the trail

Nice view of Lily Rock from the trail

Just to our north we could see Suicide Rock.  According to legend, the name of Suicide Rock comes from a story of a Native American princess and her lover who, after being ordered to separate, instead committed suicide by jumping off the rock.  It is speculated that this story originated in an attempt to boost tourism to this area in the late 19th century.

Suicide Rock on the left

Driving back down to Hemet we enjoyed some great views of the valley below.

After a pleasant week in Hemet we will now complete our journey south to San Diego where we will be spending a month in Mission Bay.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking in Joshua Tree NP – Part 2

Twentynine Palms, CA

About half way through our week-long stay here we drove back into Joshua Tree National Park to hike the 6.7 mile Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail.

Lost Horse Mine Trailhead

We hiked the loop in the recommended clockwise direction.  That put us at the mine after hiking about two miles.

Heading to the mine (white arrow)

The history of the mine dates back to a rancher who bought the claim for $1000 in 1890.  This mine was very successful, producing more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 of silver in 37 years of operation.

Remains of a stamping machine – it crushed rock to get at the gold

With the creation of Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936, Lost Horse Mine came under the protection of the National Park Service.  During the last 15 years, the 500 foot mine shaft, with horizontal tunnels at each 100 foot level, began to collapse. The combination of unstable mine workings and earthquakes created a sink hole near the mill that eventually threatened the entire structure.  Even the cable netting and concrete caps, that were installed to protect visitors were consumed by the ever expanding hole.  In 1996 a new technique for capping mineshafts was tried.  A plastic foam product similar to the material used for home insulating was injected into the hole to provide a stabilizing plug.  The plug was then covered with fill to protect it from UV damage.

Continuing on the trail past the mine we came to a great view of Pleasant Valley to our west.  The black hill in the distance is Malapai Hill, formed by eruptive activity sometime between 8 million and 100,000 years ago.

Pleasant Valley

Continuing along the trail we crossed the most difficult section of the hike, going down a long, steep, hillside and back up the other side.  Soon we came to remnants of the Optimist Mine bunkhouse scattered along the southern side of the trail.  Over 300 mine sites were established within the current boundaries of the park. Optimist Mine is an example of the failure the vast majority of mining operations encountered within a few years of being established.  A stone chimney, broken bed frame, and assorted pots and cans are all that remain. It’s interesting to consider how just a mile away,  partners of the Lost Horse Mine were making up to $3000 a day on their mine while places like Optimist struggled to even get going.

Remains of the bunkhouse

After passing the bunkhouse remains the trail goes over some small hills before entering a sandy wash.  The trail follows this wash through a long, wide valley filled with Joshua Trees until returning back to the trailhead.

Hiking the sandy wash

Driving back out from the trailhead we stopped at the dirt road’s junction with the main road to look for an interesting marker.  On the west side of the paved Keys View Road, almost across from the entrance to the dirt Lost Horse Mine Road, lies the grave of John Lang, one of the original owners of the Lost Horse Mine in 1890.  When Lang was found to be stealing from the profits he was forced to sell his share in the mine.  During one of the mine’s dormant phases, he returned and set up residence in the cookhouse.  In the winter of 1925, sickly and unable to walk out for help, Lang died of exposure along Keys View Road.  Two months later, a local resident found his body and buried him across from the access road to the mine.

An interesting side-note: Grave robbers struck in the dark of night in 1983. They dug up Johnny’s grave and made off with pieces of his remains, his skull included. They were never apprehended.

The next day we drove 22 miles west on CA 62 to the town of Yucca Valley.  From there we turned south for just a few miles and entered the Black Rock Canyon Campground, just inside of the national park.  At the southern end of the campground is the trailhead for the Warren Peak Trail, a 5.5 mile round trip hike to the 5,103-foot summit of Warren Peak.

Warren Peak trailhead

The trail to the peak is a slow, steady climb up through two sandy washes.  There are three forks in the trail that are well-marked, directing you to take the right fork each time.

As we made our way up the final, narrow wash we could see the peak directly in front of us.  The climb looked to be quite challenging after the steady uphill hike through the sand.

The summit comes into view

A small arrow on the post marks the final turn in the trail

We established a base camp half way up the steep section and enjoyed a snack before beginning the final assault on Warren Peak.

At the top without supplemental oxygen!

Yucca Valley is in the distance

Looking west to the San Bernardino Mountains

Lunch with a view

A young hiker meditates at the peak

Hiking poles save the day during the steep descent

Cool patterns along the way

Once back at the Jeep we made a quick stop in Yucca Valley at one of those chain coffee shops.  During that respite the nimble hiker had a great idea (she has those often!).  Since the main road through the national park is right on our way back to Twentynine Palms, why don’t we take that road and stop for a visit at the remains of the Ryan Ranch.  What a great idea.  After a tough hike through the sand with a steady elevation gain to a high peak and back again, why not stop and hike for another 1.5 miles!  Did we mention that the sun would set during our visit to the ranch? Do we want to hike back out in the dark?

Ryan Ranch trailhead

The ranch was established by the family of J.D. Ryan, the later developers of the Lost Horse Mine.  The six room house was built as an adobe residence in 1896 with later wood frame additions.  It was destroyed by fire August 12, 1978.  We managed to get to the ranch and back just before it became really dark.

Adobe walls are all that remain of the ranch house

Our final hike in Joshua Tree NP was a three mile round trip trek to the 49 Palms Oasis.  While not long, there is no shade on the trail and it goes up 300 feet and back down (in each direction).

There are strong warnings at the trailhead about carrying enough water, especially during the summer months.  The day of our hike (Thanksgiving Day) the temperature was about 80 and we needed to drink quite a bit of water.  We can’t imagine hiking this trail when the temperature is around 100 but many do it!

A long set of steps begin the hike

At the high point we could see the palms below us (little spot of green in the center)

According to our count there were at least 49 fan palms growing at the oasis.

The view looking north toward Twentynine Palms

Winding trail with the parking area in the distance

That winds up our stay outside of Joshua Tree NP.  The Friday after Thanksgiving we left Twentynine Palms and headed west to the town of Hemet, south of Riverside, CA in what is known in Southern California as the Inland Empire.  We’ll stay here for a week before heading south to San Diego for the month of December.

The nimble hiker has been looking at some nearby hiking trails so we may have a post or two from here in the near future.  More on that later . . .

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