Riding with Rangers

Upper Covington Flat to Black Rock Campground
(8 miles, +800/-1,600 feet).

The last time I hiked with my friend Jay, we were in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  On that trip, he said he’d be happy to go again some time, but he wanted something at a lower altitude where it’s a little easier to breathe!

A Joshua Tree winter backpack was a natural choice, not only for its scenic beauty, but also for it’s (relatively) low terrain between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.

Although Joshua Tree is always gorgeous, we got really lucky today because of the dramatic weather we experienced.  We could feel a storm brewing, and the skies were full of heavy gray clouds the whole day.

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A cloudy start

We parked at Upper Covington Flats and headed northwest.  Soon, we were surrounded by the Joshua Trees we had come to see.

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Jay and JimmyJam, with Joshuas
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Joshua Tree

The trail headed very gently uphill towards Eureka Peak.

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A gently climbing trail
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Time for a snack
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Jay strikes a pose
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Dr. Seuss Land
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Group photo
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Trailside Joshua Trees

About 12:30pm we reached Eureka Peak at 5,500 feet, where the sky roiled in anticipation of a storm.

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View from Eureka Peak
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Eureka Peak panorama
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Eureka Peak selfie

It was all downhill from there to the campground at Black Rock Canyon.

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A perfect Joshua Tree

About a half mile before we reached the campground, a cold rain began to fall.  When we turned around to look at the hills where we had just been, we saw a dusting of snow!  We must have been just above the freezing line, though it was quite cold.

At the campground, one of the bathrooms was heated, and we found ourselves lingering in there a lot longer than we would otherwise.

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Snow in the desert

Given the weather, we thought it might be nice to get a cab into the town of Joshua Tree to get a warm meal before we bedded down for the night.  When we asked the rangers about taxis, one of them said she was about to finish her shift and was headed into town if we wanted a ride.  Yay-uh!

Just minutes later we were downing pizza, wine (Jay), and beer (me) at Pie for the People, a fine establishment that likes all the holidays.

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Hanukkah!

A short cab ride later we were back in our tent and ready to sleep.  Alas, our car-camping neighbors kept us up until 1am.  Jay went to say something to them, and they quieted for awhile, but eventually got loud again.  It reminded me of why we should have made the effort to walk the mile back into the wilderness to camp on our own….

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