About a month ago I went to Joshua Tree National Park with my brother and my cousins who live in Ridgecrest. We hiked the California Riding and Hiking Trail (weird name, I know) to Quail Mountain from the Juniper Flats staging area.
I consider Joshua Tree to be my “home court” so-to-speak. It’s the closest national park to where I live in Orange County, and I’ve been to it more times than any other. I’d like to say that I know the park well, but the truth is I don’t. Up until this most recent trip I was always visiting as part of a larger group. These outings were fun, but I never had the chance to hike very far from the crowded parking lots in the northern district.
My relationship with Joshua Tree is similar to my relationship with my cousin and his wife (This analogy is a bit of a reach, but bear with me).
Ryan and I have hung out at countless family get-togethers, and I’ve chatted with his wife, Melissa, at about a dozen of the most recent ones. Similar to my casual familiarity with Joshua Tree, we knew each other often rather than well.
Our backpacking trip changed all that because out on the trail, among the rocks, wind, and wildflowers, we had time to talk about more than just the basics.
This is Ryan. The California Riding and Hiking Trail roughly paralleled the dirt road pictured here.
This is my brother, Bryan. Best guy I know.
The wildflowers were incredible. I’ve never seen such variety or density in the desert – It was flat out remarkable.
There were times when it felt like walking through a well maintained garden.
We hiked about a half mile off trail north towards Quail Peak to set up camp. After a quick power nap we started cross-country hiking up Quail Peak before picking up an unmaintained trail on its eastern ridge and summiting shortly thereafter.
At an elevation of 5,800 feet and with a 2,290 foot prominence above the surrounding area, Quail Peak is the highest point in Joshua Tree National Park. Ominous clouds marched towards us from the northwest, but despite their threatening appearance they never did more than lightly sprinkle.
The wind kept us from staying too long.
We signed the summit log book, slugged a single swig of whiskey each, and trotted back downhill.
The next day’s weather was much better, and we were back to our vehicles in the early afternoon.