by Bob Sparrow
Anyone that tells you they slept like a baby in a sleeping bag in a tent on a windy night in a public campground is lying, or the baby was colicky. The night passed slowly, but I knew I’d feel better in the morning after a cup of coffee and a nice warm shower. I settled for a cup of coffee, there were no showers.
We’ve got three key destinations planned for the day, so we set out early for the first one, The Hall of Horrors. ‘The Hall’ is a natural tunnel through a large rock formation, that is not easily found, but once found, is spectacular.
Here is a video of our trip through the Hall of Horrors as found on YouTube – it is really cool.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3NuhY3oN7c (click on or copy and paste into your URL)
Our next hike was the loop to the Lost Horse Mine. To quote the parks literature on the mine, “the story of the Lost Horse Mine if filled with cowboy gun fights, cattle rustlers, horse thieves, the lure of gold and some sticky-fingered miners”. Surprisingly there were a lot of gold mine in the Mojave Desert, over 300, but most were very unproductive, the Lost Horse Mine was an exception. Over 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver (worth about $5 million today) were mined between 1894 and 1931. We had perfect weather for this 6+ mile hike and found the history of the mine and the area around it fascinating.
Our final destination for the day was Keys View – thank goodness it was drivable as we were low on water, but had plenty of wine; so we drove there before sundown, snapped the neck off a bottle of Pinot Noir and enjoyed the view. There was an interesting picture on a plaque at Keys View showing what the view would look like if it were smoggy – I guess Southern Californians are used to seeing things that way, so they didn’t want to disappoint anyone who made the drive up there and found that the air wasn’t something you could sink your teeth into.
Our view on this day was crystal clear. To the south we could see the Salton Sea, and beyond was a mountain at the US-Mexico boarder. In front of us some 5,000 feet below was a very visible San Andreas Fault, running the length of the Coachella Valley, from Palms Springs to Indio. In the distance you could see Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio, both over 10,000 feet and snow-capped at this time of year. Finally, we could see the bottom of our wine glasses, which meant it was time to head back to camp for a hot shower and dinner. Oh yeah, just dinner.
Dr. Chuck Wagon had prepared a delightful repast featuring cooked-over-the-fire chicken and his ‘special potatoes’ . . . and some more wine.
Hiking affords one a lot of time to just walk and wonder, not bothered with interruptions or to-do lists. Hiking in the desert is particularly inspiring as one sees this abundance of flora and fauna and wonder why and how they manage to not just survive, but thrive in this environment.
To me the desert is amazing; it is so desolate, yet filled with so many wonders. No one made the Indians, miners and ranchers stay in the desert, but many remained and managed to carve out a living in this seemingly god-forsaken place. The reality is that it’s not god-forsaken, there are an amazing number of things living in the desert.
We sit around the campfire as the sky turns incredibly black and the star shine literary like diamonds. We can hear some critters in the distance and the popping of the logs on the campfire. It was a good day . . . no, it was a great day!
- Camping fee: $10 a night
- Entrance to the park: $15
- Sharing stories around the campfire with Trail Boss, Greeter, Sparky and Chuck Wagon: Priceless