by Bob Sparrow
Now that the rainy season in Southern California (2 days in January, maybe just one this year due to the draught) is over, it’s time to hit the hiking trails. Spring’s first trek takes us back to Joshua Tree National Park and to Mecca Hills Painted Canyon and Ladder Canyon for the first time.
(For new subscribers or for a re-visit, here are the two links to our Joshua trip two years ago: https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1506 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1534)
Patrick ‘Trail Boss’ Michael, my Nepal trekking buddy along with hiking novice, Marc ‘Swizzle Stick’ Webb, who stirs up all the neighborhood parties with his wit and enthusiasm make up our hiking trio. Patrick, the engineer and Marc, the salesman, invariably look at almost everything from two completely different perspectives. I felt like I was watching an episode of the ‘Odd Couple’ all weekend. The banter between them was constant and hilarious on virtually every subject.
Pat & Marc disagreeing about something
We leave Orange County, Friday morning in Patrick’s Avalanche truck, which is pulling a 25’ camper – so we’re not really roughing it this time by sleeping out under the stars. As Marc’s wife, Lisa says, “You guys are going glam-ping”. We arrive at Cottonwood Springs campsite inside Joshua Tree National Park around noon and set up camp, which entails winding out the awning on our camper, unfolding our chairs and cracking open a beer.
Lost Palms Oasis
Lost Palms Oasis
This hike was about an 8 mile round trip trek over a series of ridges and valleys and after reading the brochure’s description of this hike, below, we were very excited about the hike and having lunch at the oasis.
Large boulders, pools of water, intermittent streams, willow thickets and sandy beaches make this a delightful spot to pause.
That description of the oasis turns out to be a verbal mirage, as there were no pools of water, no streams, not even intermittently. There was sand, lots of sand, but no beaches – I think water is a requirement for a beach. We did find some moist ground in places, so perhaps it once was as the brochure described, but thanks to the California draught we ate our lunch in a dry riverbed. But the hike was not without its redeeming features.
Banana, bacon French toast
Those who think of deserts as just brown mountains and sand would have a hard time imagining all the beautiful flowers, robust plant and animal life and beautifully colored rocks that are abundant here. When we realize how the flora and fauna in the desert gets by with so little, we almost feel ashamed wolfing down our banana, bacon French toast and New York steaks, but not ashamed enough to eat lizards and cactus instead.
Back at our campsite, dinner cooked under a billion stars and wine enjoyed around the campfire was all the stage that ‘Felix’ and ‘Oscar’ needed to continue their discussion of things like Patrick’s list of ‘trailer cleanliness tips, campfire protocol and bathroom ‘Dos & Don’ts’ – no matter the rule, Marc managed to ignore them all.
This was the more interesting hike of the two – much more interesting! However, while researching this new hiking destination, we found the following . . .
“The geological formations of Mecca Hills are among the most unusual of their kind in the world and were formed by the convergence of the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate along the San Andreas Fault, which is overdue for a large quake.”
Which is what?!! ‘Overdue for a large quake’! Well isn’t that special.
We also should have read this other not-so-subtle admonition about the hike . . .
“Wear proper clothing, have proper equipment and follow these hiking tips or you may pay with your life.”
‘Pay with my life?!! Wow, I guess we should have read those hiking tips!
So, if you’re reading this and it ends suddenly in mid-sentence, you’ll know that the hiking tips were more important than we thought or ‘the big one’ hit.
We set out with the hope that the tectonic plates in Ladder Canyon were feeling very comfortable just where they are. The canyon is so named because the walls of the canyon are so steep in places that ladders are needed to get up and down the trail.
The Trail to Nowhere
The hike is incredible; the canyon walls get to 50+ feet in height and as narrow in places as shoulder-width – not for the claustrophobic. Once through the canyon, we were supposed to continue the loop around through Painted Canyon, but we took the ‘Trail to Nowhere’ and had a view of Painted Canyon, but not a way to get down into it, so we ended up having to double back through Ladders Canyon to get home.
The day ends with another beautiful evening around the fire and another episode of the ‘Odd Couple’ discussing their opposing views on campfire flatulent etiquette.