Monday, June 24, 2013

Joshua Tree NP - North View & Maze Loop Trails

Joshua Tree NP – Day Five – 3/23/13 - North View Trail & Maze Loop Trail - 6 Miles

Soon after we hit the sleeping bags last night a couple of Spanish-speaking guys fired up their camp stove on the site beside ours and enjoyed a good long loud chat with their late night snack.  Despite the delayed sleep, we woke up and started packing up before 7:00 a.m.  Today was our last day in Joshua Tree and I know I was ready to move on.  As we broke camp we noticed a couple of cars driving around the loop.  One car stopped and the occupants asked us if we were leaving and could they have our site.  Seems that every single campsite in Joshua Tree NP was full and these two had slept in their car the night before.  We said sure, and they had their tent pitched the moment ours were pulled down.  Then they left to buy provisions in town as we finished packing the car. 

David had prepared a hot breakfast every morning but yesterday he ran out of fuel, so today he faced a cold start.  He tried to sell the idea of a quick jaunt into town for breakfast before our last hike.  I was used to eating granola bars and Jeff said he had everything he needed already, but this was supposed to be a fun vacation, not an endurance contest, so we drove into town for a cup of coffee (and a bacon-and-egg sandwich).  Thus fortified, we hit the trailhead for our last hike.

The beginning of our finale hike is just a couple of miles from the West Entrance on Park Boulevard.  Multiple trailheads come together in a tangle here and we were careful in looking at the signs, reviewing our map and using proper squinting and head-scratching techniques to get us going in the right direction.  And we weren’t even looking for the Maze Loop yet.

All week I had been praising the National Park Service folks for their wise placement of nature trails in Joshua Tree NP, sweet little loop hikes with interpretive signs that lure the average Park visitor who wants to see some desert stuff but is not necessarily well equipped for desert hiking.  The short loops ensure that the visitor gets a good dose of the environment with minimal chance of getting lost.  the snarl of trailheads today so close to the Park entrance, literally one of the first pull-offs the casual visitor will encounter, kind of set that praise back a little bit.  However, from what I’ve read online since returning home, it’s a lot better than what it used to be.

Anyhoo, our brave trio set out on North View Trail and we were not disappointed.  Although the total assent is just a few hundred feet, the ups and downs of the first two miles were enough to make us feel like we had done something. 

In between the stacked boulders we could see down into the town of Joshua Tree spread out in the valley.  Jeff and David took the side trail up to a viewpoint of Copper Mountain while I chilled out with a view of my own.  (When I turned on my phone to take a photo here, it surprised me by ringing!  It was the tech at the computer repair store in Charlotte with the sad news that my laptop could not be resurrected.)

From the high points of the bare rocks the trail descended down a wide ridge and dropped into a gulch and our not-so-favorite thing: a series of sandy washes.  Trail signs were few and far between here and following footprints were not always a good clue, as many people have taken detours as the washes split apart.  Just keep following David. 

At last the Maze Loop, which also has a loop on either side of it, so check your map!  We opted to skip the Window Loop since it goes around one big pile of rocks with a hole in it and we could spot it from the Maze Loop.  See it in the upper left?

A closer look at the Window

 The Maze was not very maze-like, rather a flat walk along the valley floor.  I had a little fun with my Liberty hat along the way.

As we walked along in the sand with the boulder mountains surrounding us, I experienced that feeling of being in a place that I will probably not see again.  I realized that I should slow down and savor the last mile back to the trailhead, the car, the road and the exit from Joshua Tree National Park.  I told David that I felt like I was rushing.  He looked at me very soberly and said, “You look more Czechoslovakian to me.”  Priceless.  Still makes me laugh when I think about it.

I did slow down, the guys passed me, and I enjoyed my last opportunity to find that perfect Joshua tree.  If you are looking for a peaceful escape from the East Coast with an other-worldly landscape and serenity everywhere you look, take a slow stroll in Joshua Tree National Park.

Civilization was just a few miles away via the California interstate system and a hotel room in Los Angeles was ready for us.  The restaurant next door had an excellent bar with massive margaritas.  How had I gone so long without one? 

Anybody who says the scenery gets old is not paying attention.”  ~ Cecil Rowe, oldest person to complete Smokies 900 (age 78)

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