January Jaunt into Joshua Tree NP

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
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67
This was a three day camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park from January 9th - 11th, 2017. My younger brother is planning on joining my girlfriend and I on some of our camping and backpacking trips this spring/summer and with such little camping experience I thought it would be good to ease him into the camping life with this short trip. So my brother, my girlfriend and I set out to enjoy some desert scenery. It was a bit windy but overall it was a good way to start the new year.

Day 1
When we got into the park we set out for Hidden Valley to look for a campsite, unfortunately that campground is very popular with climbers and was full. We ended up settling for a nice little spot in the Ryan campground. Once camp was set up we set out for some bouldering and exploring of the old Ryan homestead just east of the campground.

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Whats left of one of the Ryan home structures.

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View from inside

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Ariel view from a nearby boulder.

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View towards camp

Day 2
After breakfast we set out from to the Boy Scout Trailhead from which we would head into Willow Hole, an oasis in the wonderland of rocks area.

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Joshua Tree at sunrise

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Snowy mountains from the trail

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Part of what is referred to as the Wonderland of Rocks

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Pool of water nearing Willow Hole

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After the hike we headed to Baker Dam to explore the area for some pictographs but were unsuccessful in finding any signs of habitation. NPS does a good job of hiding them apparently. Not sure what happened to the pictures I took of the area though.... mysteriously vanished.

Day 3
We ate breakfast and packed up camp before heading out to the Wall Street Mine and surrounding area. Unsure of what we would find out there we just look off down some wash and it ended up being pretty awesome. There was a great mixture of scenery, remnants of mining and mineral exploration as well as Native American habitation in the numerous rock outcropping.

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Approaching an old homestead

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Not sure what this stamp on the tile means but it was pretty cool

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Windmill that was the site of the Desert Queen Well

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All in all it was a fun trip but three days is not nearly enough time (those damn obligations are always holding us back). There is so much to see and do in Joshua Tree but like any National Park, the masses of people that clog up the road ways and pull-outs make it somewhat of an off-putting experience. However, once you look at the map and wander off-trail you are rewarded with the solitude and beauty that a lot of us seek in the desert.
 

Udink

Disappointed, passed over.
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
1,505
Nice report. :) I passed through Joshua Tree the weekend after you were there. Walked out to Wall Street and saw that bedrock mortar but missed the pictograph!
 

fox farm road

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Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
5
I am planning a trip to JTNP in March. I come from a much colder and wetter climate (Minnesota). How much water did you carry on your hikes? What other tips might you offer for someone who's never camped in a desert?
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
Messages
67
I am planning a trip to JTNP in March. I come from a much colder and wetter climate (Minnesota). How much water did you carry on your hikes? What other tips might you offer for someone who's never camped in a desert?
Well the park will probably be super busy in March and it might be hard to grab a campsite. Plan on arriving around 9 or 10 am the day you arrive and try to make that a Monnday or Tuesday. But always have a back up plan.
As far as water goes, I carried 1.5 liters of water to drink on a 8 mile hike and more for cooking. But it was not hot at all when I went so plan on bring 2-3 liters for a long hike, there will be no podable water sources along the way. Plus you are not allowed to drink the water in the backcountry, NPS says its "for the animals".
As for camping tips, it will take some time to adjust to the dry climate. Your scalp will flake and you will burn through your Chapstick. Bring more water than you think you will need, some form of shade and in case it is windy, make sure you have a decent tent that will stake out ok and not act as a parachute.
But feel free to message me with any questions or post your questions in the Trip Planning forum, there are plenty of people on here who have a ton of insight and are very willing to help you out.
 

fox farm road

Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
5
We reserved a site in Indian Cove as a base camp which I understand is in the park but need to exit the park by car, drive 15 mins to another entrance to get to some of the attractions. I think there's a few things we can hike to right from Indian Cove. Is that correct? Good tip on the wind. I will check guylines on my tent. Is there a locale outfitter you recommend? We plan to bring our own gear but need to buy a fuel cannister and food for the week. We'll hopefully miss the crowds as we arrive on a Tuesday and depart on a Friday. I will be hiking with my young kids (5 & 7 yrs) who are accustomed to backpacking in MN and can tolerate fairly long hikes. Any hikes in particular you recommend?
 

BryanG

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Joined
Jul 22, 2016
Messages
67
We reserved a site in Indian Cove as a base camp which I understand is in the park but need to exit the park by car, drive 15 mins to another entrance to get to some of the attractions. I think there's a few things we can hike to right from Indian Cove. Is that correct? Good tip on the wind. I will check guylines on my tent. Is there a locale outfitter you recommend? We plan to bring our own gear but need to buy a fuel cannister and food for the week. We'll hopefully miss the crowds as we arrive on a Tuesday and depart on a Friday. I will be hiking with my young kids (5 & 7 yrs) who are accustomed to backpacking in MN and can tolerate fairly long hikes. Any hikes in particular you recommend?

Perfect, sounds like you are going to have a great time! Nomad Ventures is a outdoor store in the town of Joshua Tree that is pretty awesome and worth checking out. They should have everything you need.
I would recommend hiking to Willow Hole, an oasis thats about 8 miles from the Boy Scout Trailhead just west of Hidden Valley Campground. It is a flat hike but walks right through the wonderland of rocks area and allows for some awesome rock scrambling. Baker Dam is pretty cool with a lot of history, Wall Street Mill and the surrounding areas are cool too. I would recommend just wandering off trail, you get less people and can stumble upon some cool things that are not on any maps. Plus you get the solitude. Walking off trail in the desert is a lot easier than walking off trail in the mountains.
In the park you are at a very unique transition zone, it might be interesting to drive to the south of the park to experience that transition for yourself too.
 

BryanG

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Joined
Jul 22, 2016
Messages
67
Rattlesnakes are the only concern but its very unlikely that you will encounter any. There are scorpions and spiders but they aren't really a concern. I usually keep by boots in the tent at night just as a precautionary measure (dont want any critters crawling in there) but its pretty unnecessary. I have found the biggest threats you face in the southern California deserts are dehydration and over-heading, but they go hand-in-hand more often then not.
 
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