A Weekend of Peakbagging in Joshua Tree National Park
Leaders: Joe Young, Jim Fleming
Heavy rains and snow at low elevations have wreaked havoc with HPS outings recently, so it was great to complete an outing and bag all advertised peaks.
Seven hikers met at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms Saturday morning. Joe asked one Park Ranger about the condition of the roads along the Geology Trail which we drive across to get to Little Berdoo and Bernard, and she said that it was very muddy. Another Ranger said that the problem was blowing dust in the area. He also said that 4WD vehicles only were permitted along the Geology Trail.
After paying the $10 per car entry fee, good for one week, the group caravanned to the turn-off from the paved road to the Geology Trail. The seven of us consolidated into two 4WD vehicles which then headed off to the peaks. It turned out that the condition of the road was excellent - little mud, little dust. We drove about 0.2 mile past the route 1 roadhead because there was more room to get the vehicles completely off the road. We began our hike to Little Berdoo at 9:30. Joe led back up the road, then west cross country until he spotted the main wash. He proceeded up the main wash, pausing briefly to check out tributary washes until he found the fork in the main wash described in the peak guide. Joe wanted to bag Little Berdoo first because both peaks would be pathfinder routes for him. Joe led up the left wash all the way until it topped out, then proceeded southwest over one bump to the summit of Little Berdoo. This had taken about 1 1/4 hour.
After a brief snack, Jim led the group over to Bernard, which took about 1/2 hour. After examining the very old register on Bernard (both it and Little Berdoo had registers going back over 25 years) and another brief snack, Jim led a quick descent down the fun ridge heading south from the summit. After he arrived in the main wash downstream of the fork, Joe led the group out. Joe passed by the spot in the wash, marked by a large duck, where he had entered it earlier in the day and followed the main wash all the way out to the road. He led the group back up the road for about 0.3 mile to the cars, noting that there were numerous places to pull off the road near where the road crosses the wash. The group arrived at the two vehicles at about 1:30 PM.
We drove back out to the paved road and unloaded passengers. At this point Joe had to leave the group so he could drive to Compton to participate in a meeting. Jim and deputized assistant Sherry Puraty led Ryan, Lost Horse, and Inspiration.
The hike to Ryan, via the slightly steep trail, was done at a moderate pace and we summited in about 45 minutes. There were six participants. We had to do Lost Horse rather quickly, as the route to the mine is signed for "Day Use Only" - closed between 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM! We pushed hard to the summit, arriving in less than an hour and enjoyed deepening shadows across the desert with fine views of snow clad San Gorgonio and San Jacinto to the west. We had 5 participants for this hike. At dusk we began our final ascent of the day - Inspiration - with four participants. The Park Service has built a trail to the first false summit (a bit steep) and a climbers use trail leads over to the second (which Jim mistook for the true summit briefly until he checked his map and write-up). The return to the cars after bagging Inspiration was conducted by flashlight.
Jim then led the caravan to our reserved group campsite at Indian Cove. Several folks opted for dinner at Arturo's Mexican Restaurant in Joshua Tree along the way (food fair, large portions). It was now getting fairly late in the evening. Judy Ware and John Connelly happened to be here as well, so it was a fortuitous choice! They would join us on Sunday.
After dinner those camping at Indian Cove were unpleasantly surprised to find that because our vehicles were parked in the dirt that we would be fined $50! The Park Service citation indicated the violation to be "Off Road Travel"! We must be careful to learn about their regulations!
The next morning seven hikers, five holdovers from Saturday plus two new hikers, met at Quail Springs Picnic Site. The hike of Quail began at about 8:35 AM. Joe led the group southwesterly across the desert floor, up a wash, over a ridge, down to another wash, then northwesterly over another ridge, across another wash, all the while attempting the find hiking route 1 as shown on the peak guide. He was unable to find this route. After conferring with Jim and others, Joe decided to head westerly up a ridge which tops out at 4680', then southwest to a saddle, then south toward peak 5405' located east of Quail Peak. That portion of the hike traversed the best terrain we were to find. We contoured around peak 5405', then headed west, then southwest to catch the main ridge reading northwesterly to Quail. It had taken us 2 hours 50 minutes to reach the summit. We were chagrined to find no register on the summit, only a damaged ammo can. The summit was cool and occasionally breezy, with skies partly cloudy.
After a brief lunch Joe led back to peak 5405', then followed a ridge easterly to peak 5041', from which point Joe headed north down its face, again attempting to find evidence of hiking route 1. Again, there was no evidence of such a route. The terrain became rougher, with large boulders and cliffs. We worked northeasterly, finally meeting a dry wash, which we followed for a ways. There were numerous waterfalls to descend in this wash. When Joe felt he was even with the ridge he had earlier led the group up (the ridge leading to 4680'+ west of the main wash), he decided to go east, straight up the hill to the top of a ridge from whence he could see the picnic area where the cars were parked. Joe followed another ridge east which ended in a dry wash, then followed the wash, with another couple of waterfalls, out to the desert floor. Joe then headed northeast, then east, finally meeting the dirt road north of the picnic area.
We arrived at the cars at approximately 2:30 PM. It had taken us about six hours to complete this hike of Quail. The peak guide says that hiking route 1, which involves 9 miles, all cross country, should take 3-4 hours! This implies that a group should be able to sustain an average speed of 3 mph on cross country terrain. No way, José! The peak guide also says that route 1 involves 2250' of gain. There is enough up and down to gain well over 3,000' on this outing. [Route 2 is probably just as inaccurate.]
Recommendation: If you're interested in pathfinding on a navigation noodle type outing, try hiking route 1 for Quail. On the other hand, for a direct, straightforward ascent begin your hike at Hidden Valley picnic area and head westerly across the desert floor, and ascend Quail via the ridge southeast of the peak. It may still take 5 - 6 hours to complete, but it's a much simpler trip.
At this point only four hikers wanted to hike Queen, so we consolidated into two trucks and proceeded to the trailhead for Queen Mtn. Joe led an uneventful hike of Queen which took 2 hours and 50 minutes round trip, including a brief snack on the summit. The driving directions on the peak guide for Queen are precisely correct. The hiking directions are obsolete and inconsistent. The standard route for Queen involves 4 mi rt on trail and ducked route, with 1,200' of gain. The directions should say: From the cars hike about 1 mile up a dirt road to its end. From this point follow an obvious and ducked trail leading eastward, and upward, where the trail meets up with a wide gully. From this point a ducked route heads upward, generally following the west (left) side of the gully. Follow the ducked route as it tops out above the gully. The summit is to your left at this point. Follow a use trail as it contours around the east side of the summit. The route curves around to the north side of the summit, then heads south to the summit block.
After returning passengers to their cars at Quail Springs Picnic area, the four hikers drove out to Yucca Valley and dined at the Carrows Restaurant.
Thanks to Jim Fleming for pinch-hitting for Maggie Wilson who had a conflict this weekend. Jim led or co-led all seven peaks this weekend.