What a great day! After breakfast we hopped on the motorcycle and headed in through the park to explore the portion that we bypassed yesterday.
Our first stop was Split Rock – it’s a picnic area with a hiking trail. We scrambled up a big rock that had a sheer face down to the sand below. It looked like a popular climbing spot, hinted at with the bolts installed in the top of the rock next to us.
Then, basically across the street, was the Jumbo Rocks stop and the Skull Rock trail. We strolled down the trail, reading the signs and learning more about the desert flora and fauna around us. We thought the trail was a loop, but it stopped at a nearby campground. We turned around and headed back to check out Skull Rock before moseying along the road.
The big hike of the day was the 3 miles up to the peak of Ryan Mountain. We climbed about 1400 feet, so it was a bit strenuous – we aren’t used to being back up around the 5000 mark anymore – but not bad. And definitely worth it! We had a fabulous view of the mountains around us and across the desert. We enjoyed said view while eating lunch on a rocky outcropping just off the main peak.
Our next stop was a quick overlook at Keys View. We could see the Salton Sea and Signal Mountain (in Mexico). Definitely worth the drive up to the point.
On the way back down from the point we stopped to admire the Joshua Trees growing among the boulders.
On to Hidden Valley. Inside a ring of boulders is a little micro ecosystem. It’s lush, for a desert, filled with plants. It’s also a climbing hot-bed. We saw at least 4 groups of climbers in different areas. Kind of interesting how such an intensely individual sport is also so public. It seems that everyone who climbs in an easily accessible public area is guaranteed to be watched, photographed, and frequently called out to. It wasn’t our intention to explore the trail through the valley, but it was just too interesting and pretty not to keep following our way around the whole loop!
After hiking we headed down to the picnic area and snagged a table tucked under the rocks and trees for an afternoon coffee. We just finished a few miles on the motorcycle and after this it’s going to be a long ride back to the RV and coffee will be a nice warm treat before a chilly trip.
Once the coffee’s finished we head into the town of Joshua Tree, over to Twentynine Palms for a gas fill-up, and then back into the park for our trek down to the south entrance where home currently is. We’re both pretty disappointed with the sunset. It’s dusk as we enter the park and, based on the last few nights the sunset should at least be decent and we’ll get to enjoy that color change set behind the mountains as we head through the park. Alas, it merely turns dark – no color change that we noticed at all. The road is pretty empty and we zip along fairly quickly, but it’s still a bit late when we get home.
While supper is cooking we have a delightful chat with Mom and Gary, make plans for the next few days and our foray back into civilization to visit Bill and Carol, and look at other trail options just inside the entrance to the park for tomorrow’s fun.