Monday, 27 April 2009 (Continued from here):
We were a bit peckish after our pretty drive on Geology Tour Road, and Split Rock looked to have a picnic/day-use area, so we headed there. At road’s end is the namesake rock, true to its name with a big split down its center. We settled into some yummy sandwiches and chips and beer, then decided to walk the short trail indicated on our map.
We started hiking at 12:07 under mostly cloudy skies. Many climber’s trails shot off from our route. Some were signed, and many were not, making it a little difficult at times to discern which trail was the loop, and which just went to some enticing rock climb.
We quickly tired of trying to find the real trail, and decided to wing it – this proved a better strategy, and we have quite an enjoyable meander among the rocks.
A great many cacti were blooming here, but few flowers found this sandy soil to their liking.
Phainopepla / Phainopepla nitens
A Phainopepla teased me by flying away just as I attempted to photograph it, and I followed it around for some time before tiring of trying to get a good close photo in good light. These birds seemed quite skittish, so I settled with the two mediocre photos above, and we continued on our way.
The rock formations we walked among were unusual and striking – many made me want to scramble to the top, but a quick touch of the very rough rock made me put aside any such thoughts for lack of gloves.
Golden Prickly Pear / Opuntia chlorotica
A different type of Prickly Pear cactus caught our attention with its warm fuzzy appearance. A lookup later revealed it to be a Golden Prickly Pear Cactus, which, although we saw several here, we would see no more of on our trip.
I have NO idea what this flower is – anyone?
One little, low-lying flower grew in sparse mats in many places on our walk – despite much searching, and asking on Flickr’s ID Please group, I have not been able to figure out what is is. It almost looks like the flower of a Dudleya sp., but it was not attached to any succulent, and its stem grew mostly horizontally along the ground.
Me, in a cavelet
We walked and got ever so slightly lost, then found, and soon were back at the car after a short hour’s walk.
Our walk around the Split Rock area was short to be sure, but it was actually very worthwhile. Along with the lovely cacti, it was quite interesting walking among these many weird rock formations.
(sorry, no hike stats for this walk, as I left the GPS behind and wasn’t looking at my watch)
Dirt road through the park
The map showed another several-mile-long dirt road paralleling the main road, so we decided to take that and see what there was to see. We were glad we did, as it proved to be a beautiful drive, with no other vehicles. From there we headed back to the house and rested for alittle while.
More rocks & Joshua Trees
Come 5pm we went back to the park for a sunset walk at Hidden Valley, recommended by my colleague who had visited a few years ago.
Wonderland of Rocks
After admiring the excellent view of Joshua Tree Woodlands down a nearby valley, we headed out on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, a short ~1 mile loop.
Climbers at Hidden Valley
A group of climbers inched up a sheer rock face nearby. Here, like at Split Rock, there were signs for the various climbing routes. Many signs even listed the technical difficulty of the route. I was surprised to see that although the rocks are not particularly tall, many of the routes had pretty high difficulty ratings (5.10c is the highest I recall seeing).
Parry Nolina / Nolina parryi
Here, as elsewhere, Parry Nolina bloomed gloriously, its tall yellow plumes visible from some distance away. Many little interpretive signs explained the history of Hidden Valley, which became thoroughly un-hidden when a rancher dynamited an entrance into it so he could graze his cattle. The area is also rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers.
Climber atop a rock outcrop
We watched as a climber reached the top of a lump, then proceeded to gracefully swirl his long ropes into a tidy bundle. Despite the relative abundance of foliage here, I was surprised to see very few birds, even now near sunset when they’re usually more active. This is one of the most heavily used parts of the park, however, so perhaps they give it a wide berth.
As the sun sank, the landscape’s colors and forms began to change and morph, assisted ably by some patchy dark clouds above in the otherwise blue sky.
Hidden Valley Trail
Despite being a very popular walk (and climbing area), we saw just a handful of people during our stroll, which of course suited us just fine.
Silver Cholla / Cylindropuntia echinocarpa
A pretty Silver Cholla bloomed on the side of the trail, and I got a little more intimate with it than I should have while taking a photo – owww! Those suckers are sharp!
Valley full of Joshua Trees
About an hour after we’d started, we wound up back at the parking lot with a little while remaining until sunset. We decided to drive along the park road and find a less-paved place from which to enjoy the sunset.
Rocks & trees
I’ve said this about many of the hikes we did in Joshua Tree, but Hidden Valley is absolutely a must-visit spot for anyone going to Joshua Tree. It’s short, easy, informative, and beautiful!
(again, sorry, no exact stats, but it’s about a mile and took us about an hour)
Sarah at sunset
A few miles toward the town of Joshua Tree, we found a nice turnout by an outcrop of rocks, and decided that would be our sunset vantage. A short stroll across the woodland and a hop over a few rocks brought us to the edge of an interesting rock formation with a lovely view west toward the rapidly setting sun.
Joshua Tree / Yucca breviflora
Joshua Trees at sunset
I walked around for a few, photographing Joshua Trees and wildflowers, then Sarah & I enjoyed a beer as the sun descended behind the San Bernardino mountain range to our north-west.
Mimulus sp. / Sticky Monkeyflower?
As the sun faded and we headed back to the car, I was surprised to see a bushy monkeyflower. Anywhere else, I’d have immediately pegged it as Sticky Monkeyflower, but that is not supposed to exist in the Mojave, but then neither is any other yellow monkeyflower that I could find. A bit of a mystery!
Woodlands at sunset
This was a fun-packed day, and both Split Rock and Hidden Valley were two of the highlights of our trip. Back at the house, we retired early, as we’d planned a sunrise hike the next morning.
- Part I – Getting there, settling in
- Part II – Twentynine Palms Oasis
- Part III – Oasis of Mara, Noah Purifoy, Key’s View, Cap Rock
- Part IV – Lost Horse Mine
- Part V – Cholla Cactus Garden, Geology Tour Road
- Part VI – Split Rock, Hidden Valley<– You are here!
- Part VII – Barker Dam, Ocotillo Patch
- Part VIII – Mastodon Peak, Cholla Cactus Garden revisited
- Part IX – Big Morongo Canyon, AKA Birding Paradise
- Part X – Tahquitz Canyon
- Part XI – Living Desert, LA, and home