Don’t Go Climbing Waterfalls

Boy Scout Trailhead to Juniper Flats via Smith Water Canyon
(16 miles, +2,000/-1,000 feet).

Once more, into the breach!  After a crazy cold trip to Joshua Tree last week I agreed to do it again with MixMaster and Sobo Baggins.  This was Sobo’s first overnight trip, so I thought I would pick an easy route….  But as it turns out it would require several miles of cross-country and a 10 foot vertical climb up a slippery waterfall!

Oops!

We had fun anyway.

A quick drive up through the eastern LA Megalopolis and we were at the Boy Scout Trailhead not too long after sunrise.  Unlike my trip last week, we had plenty of blue sky for some lovely pictures of the desert.

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A big rock pile near the start of our hike
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A lone Joshua guards the ridge
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Turning the corner, we proceed over easy flat terrain
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More Joshua Trees line the route
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MixMaster and Sobo in the Joshua forrest

After about 3 miles we made it to Samuelson’s Rock.  This pile of boulders right in the middle of the plain had bizarre inscriptions on it, left by a Swedish immigrant who homesteaded this area.

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View of the Joshua forrest from Samuelson’s rock
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Why.?.
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Ooh, haven is a place on Earth

Oddly enough, Samuelson had to flee California after killing two men at a dance in Compton.

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Two more brothers straight outta Compton

After Samuelson’s Rock, we headed cross country up towards Smith Water Canyon.

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Entry to Smith Water Canyon
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Dodging boulders

Soon we came to the base of a 15 foot waterfall.  Amazingly, there was water flowing over it due to all the rain we’ve been having in Southern California this winter.  The pictures don’t quite do it justice, but it was tricky getting up and we had to work as a team, passing packs up and giving each other a hand.

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Base of the waterfall
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Slippery six foot steps
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We made it!

I didn’t get any picture of us climbing the first waterfall because it was somewhat intense (it was definitely class 3 and we considered turning back).  But there were a couple more easy waterfalls above that one that give some perspective.

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Wait, we have to do this again?!?
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Look what happened to the last guy in this canyon

Eventually the canyon leveled out, though it was still challenging to bushwhack through the narrower parts at times.

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I thought you said this would be an “easy” hike
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Beautiful pink seams in the rock

After a couple of hours we made it through the canyon and emerged on a plain where we needed to find the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

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Where’s the trail?
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It’s a mad, mad world

With the help of the GPS we found the trail and headed south.

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Whee!  This is easy
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Mini-cactus
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Life from death

The trail took us up towards 5,000 feet above sea level, where there was still just a dusting of snow left from the last storm

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That white stuff in the hills is snow
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Almost to the top!
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We made it!

We took a nice long break before heading down the other side to walk on a part of the trail that followed the crest of a long ridge.

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Break time!
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Beautiful ridge trail riding off into the distance
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Here we go
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That’s a big one
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Heading down down into the valley
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This one is just right

Unfortunately, I misread the topo map and told my hiking buddies there would be no more uphill.  Instead there was another 800 feet to climb!

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We are pooped!

We crested the last ridge to get over into Juniper Flats where the sun was setting and we started to look for a place to camp.

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Beautiful evening light on the Joshuas
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The sun slowly disappears
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Two Joshuas hugging good night

We got our tents set up and sat down for some dinner.  (I am still trying to eat all the crackers I bought for our last party!)

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Sobo blowing a bed
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MixMaster missing a head
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I’m ready for some stargazing!
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Another glorious sunset
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