Thursday, June 2, 2011

#181: Road Trip to Joshua Tree

Itching with wanderlust, Brad and I headed out last Saturday on a mini desert road trip. After 2.5 hours, we found ourselves among the monolithic rock heaps of Joshua TreeOn our hiking itinerary: Wonderland Wash, Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill.

Wonderland Wash

Checking in at the visitor's center, I told the ranger that we were interested in hiking Wonderland Wash, a playground of animal shaped rocks that enchant the imagination. He gave a huge smile and said that the Wash is his favorite hike in Joshua Tree. He suggested that we buy a guide book for directions because the Wash is not a popular or advertised hike, but being the cheap-os that we are, we decided to just rely on our scanty internet directions. Wrong choice. Our first attempt at Wonderland got us going in a totally wrong directions. Undeterred, we went back the second day and found our way.

The Wash is a 2.1 mile out-and-back hike. Along it you get to see the gigantic Whale Flipper:

high five!
and the Astrodome:

The hike through the Wash is level and mostly unshaded. For most of the time you are walking in sandy gravel.

Directions to Wonderland Wash:

Start off at one of the two parking lots for Wall Street Mill. The first lot is a large paved one that is shared with Barker Dam. The second one is smaller and is accessed via a dirt road just past the paved lot. Go on the dirt road and take your first left when it forks. Keep an eye out for that fork because we missed it the first time--it's not too far! Parking at the second lot will make your hike shorter by .6 miles.

Next, follow the small sign pointing to the right towards Wall Street Mill. Very soon you will see a small unmarked dirt path to your left. Don't take that one--it will take you into the brush. Take the next one:

Take the one on the left!

Go down this path until you see the pink ruins of Wonderland Ranch:

To the left of Wonderland Ranch you will see this thing:

See the path on the left?

Take that path through the low boulders into the wash:

Go to the right. You will come across this rock wall in .3 miles. This was an old dam used by the cattle ranchers.

Go over the wall and keep following the path. On your right, you'll pass by the Whale Flipper.

Rock scramble up to see it from the other side. It's amazing (and much larger than it looks in this picture)!

The whale flipper turns into a claw on the other side

In another .3 mile, you'll spot the Astrodome:

Once you reach this point, you can turn back the way you came.

Barker Dam

The flat trail to Barker Dam is easy to find and follow. This popular hike is a 1.5 mile loop.

Wall Street Mill

We encountered a lot of people who got lost trying to get to Wall Street Mill. They actually ended up at the pink Wonderland Ranch house instead. The park service needs to put up more signs here because there are so many unmarked forks.

Remember that trail that we started off on to get to Wonderland Wash? Instead of taking the left fork, keep right and just keep going straight. This is an out and back hike that is 1.6 miles from the second parking lot (the dirt one). The trail is level and unshaded. You'll know you're heading in the right direction because you'll pass this windmill in .3 miles on the right:

Have you been to Joshua Tree? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!

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