Iowans Conquer California High Desert

joshuaDuring the week of Thanksgiving 2011, we traveled to the southwest to vacation. After an over night in Vegas, we drove to Ridgecrest, CA, to visit friends for two days. On one day we were taken on a mountain climb. We drove an hour north up the Owens Valley on 395. , We were told it was a small range and would be a leisurely climb. We are from Iowa. Anything above 800′ elevation gets us into the thin upper reaches of the stratosphere. See the slope behind those Joshua trees? The first leg was a 700′ elevation gain from 5100′ on a slope just that steep and with no trail. We made it, last in a party of eight.

We are headed for the ridge way up there.

Once on the ridge, we reached the first peak at 6020′ without as much heavy breathing. There, we paused for water and a snack before heading along a ridge toward another peak at 6400′.

After another hour of rocks, loose sand, gravel, pricklies, burro poop, snow, mud, etc, we faced the final ascent. We were way behind and out of sight of all but two people in the party. I yelled for them to stop. I told them we are not going up there.

We waited among some nice boulders in the sun and had a rest and ate our lunch. We watched the rest of them reach that peak and have their rest and lunch. We enjoyed the scenery and peace as we waited for them to recover us on the way back down.

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We were told to beware of the Joshua tree spines.

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A sample of the dried plants while we waited for the return of the others.

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Someone called this Mormon Tea.

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This might have been a pretty flower at an earlier time of the year. Our host said they have about 3-4 weeks of green in the spring and then it all dries up.

The descent want not much easier than the ascent. We had no hiking poles, the things that look like ski poles. They add stability in the loose footing. So, we had to be more cautious. We were last again.

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On the way down we saw a large two foot wide boulder with a dished out top. There was a pool of water about 6″ across in the dished out area. Submerged was this rock and these 1/2″ long pellets. They were soft. Maybe animal droppings?

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