Queen Valley Solo Camping Trip In Joshua Tree NP

I had a hankering to do some cross country hiking and solo camping in Joshua Tree National Park last month (April, 2012) and decided to head out into the beautiful Queen Valley area of the park.

I parked at the Geology Tour Road backboard and headed West on the California Riding and Hiking Trail that bisects the park. It’s an easy to follow path that I often use as a jumping off point for my backcountry trips.

camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
The trail is easy to follow

 

After hiking about three miles I veered off the trail to the North and started making my way cross country through the scrub and brush. I had no set destination, I just wanted to wander about a bit and camp when I found an area that just “felt right”. I often find my best camping sites this way, just kind of let my primal instincts take over and guide me. Of course I had a compass, GPS and map, plus I had left word (and a map location) with friends and family as to the general location I was going to be hiking through.

camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
I love just heading across open desert sometimes

 

After a few hours I came to a fairly open section of desert and decided to find a place to pitch my “bug hut” and settle in for the night. Selecting a small stand of creosote bushes to bed down next to, I dropped my pack and got ready to set up camp.

camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
Nothing spectacular, just a nice stretch of open desert

 

This trip out I was testing two new pieces of gear: my new Leki trekking poles and my REI Pro 2 “Bug Hut”. I’ll do extensive gear reviews on these two pieces in a separate article, but suffice it to say I was VERY happy with both. The poles did help take pressure off my knees and back, and the bug hut was big enough to keep all my gear inside with me (as opposed to when I use one of my bivy bags and have to leave stuff outside exposed to the insects and elements).

leki trekking poles camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
The Leki trekking poles leaning against my surplus SA army rucksack

 

The REI “Bug Hut” is just that – a two man tent made of just light insect-proof netting that is great for fair weather camping. It has no rain fly so I was counting on using my rain poncho for protection if weather did come up. I love it because I can see all around me and also look at the stars as I lay there without the bother of having the myriad collection of desert insects that inhabit the land crawling all over me as I sleep.

- A quick note – many people ask me if I’m not scared at night sleeping alone in the desert and the answer is no, as long as I’m not IN a tent where I can’t see what’s around me. I often sleep without any tent up on rock formations, but if on the desert floor bedding down with the scorpions, ants, snakes and tarantulas I want some netting to keep them off me. Sure sometimes you’re spooked by some strange noise but as long as I can see what’s around me, it’s no big deal. Being “blind” in a full tent scares me.

(And for the record, most noises in the desert at night are small animals going about their business of survival, most big predators keep quite silent as they stalk)

rei bug hut camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
The REI Bug Hut is light and easy to set up

 

The night was delightfully still and quiet, and I have to say I spent one of the most restful sleeps ever. I had planned on getting up during the darkest hours and try doing some spotting with my night scope, but once I hit that bed with the cool night breeze and gentle chirping of the crickets I was out like a light.

dawn breaks camping in Queen Valley, Joshua Tree NP
Dawn in the desert and time to get moving

 

With the breaking of the dawn I got up, ate, packed up and got moving back cross country toward the CA Riding and Hiking trail, then South to head back to the backboard and my jeep. I always get moving early in the desert as once that sun is up the temp starts climbing fast. Ever wonder why most animals in the desert are only active at dawn and evening? They’re no dummies!

Arriving back at the jeep I shucked off my pack, had a drink and dried my shirt (soaked from sweat after the brisk six mile hike) then headed out to home. If you want a nice easy hiking area to explore and camp in, I suggest the Queen Valley area, it’s at about a 4500 foot elevation so the nights are usually nice and cool even in the middle of summer, my favorite time for solo camping in Joshua Tree NP.

Get out and enjoy the desert, even if alone, just let someone know where you’re going and pack LOTS of water!

JTCamping

Article and pictures copyright JoshuaTreeCamping.Com all rights reserved.

Ryan Ranch In Joshua Tree NP

Up in the Queen Valley of Joshua Tree National Park, near the Ryan Campground lies the ruins of the Ryan Ranch. An actual working cattle ranch from the 1890′s to about 1919, it’s now a silent reminder of days long gone when cowboys herded cattle and fought off rustlers in the high desert.

Found just off the main park blvd a quarter mile past the Ryan Campground turnoff, the ranch trail is identified by a sign located in a handy parking pull-off.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

The trail is an easy half mile stroll through the cactus scrub, Yucca trees and bushes to a group of large boulders that mark the entrance to the old home site.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

Upon turning the corner where the gate once stood, one is brought to the faded and sun-bleached adobe walls of the actual Ryan ranch house. Talk about cool!

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

Nestled amongst the picturesque boulders, the old adobe walls look like something out of an old Hollywood movie set, but these are the real deal! The Ryan family were a hardy bunch of pioneers who tried ranching cattle in the Queen Valley back when rustlers and thieves still roamed the desert. In fact, down the road is the Hidden Valley Campground, which was a secluded little rock-enclosed area that rustlers used to pen cattle stolen from the lower Coachella Valley back in the 1800′s!

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

There are numerous remnants and reminders of the cattle business still laying about the ranch. Here is a large water trough for livestock.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

The large prop/fan from the windmill that pumped the water from the parched ground still lays half-buried in the dirt.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

The base of the old windmill tower and storage tank nearby.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

But there are also reminders of people that came after the Ryans had given up ranching and left the area after it proved too hard to make a go of it by the 1920′s. This old tractor engine lies rusting in the hot desert sun.

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

In places you can still find posts and strands of barbed wire that enclosed the ranch site and small outbuildings (a few which still stand dotted about the hills behind the main ranch house).

ryan ranch in Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re out and about in the Queen Valley area of Joshua Tree National Park, you owe it to yourself to take an hour and visit the Ryan Ranch, a vivid reminder of the days when hardy souls dreamed of making the desert pay and fought the elements for basic survival.

Enjoy!

JTCamping

PS – If you’re camping at the Ryan Campground the ranch is located a short walk to the East of the camping area on a well-worn dirt trail. It makes for a nice stroll around sundown during “magic hour”.

Article and pictures copyright JoshuaTreeCamping.Com all rights reserved.

Solo Night Hike In Queen Valley

It was near the full moon in Sept and time for another solo night hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

This time I was going to hike the roads that circle the Northern side of the Queen valley.

Solo Night Hike In Queen Valley

Arriving at the Pine City Backboard at dusk, I parked and readied my gear. I usually take a small Camelbak hydration pack (mine’s the “H.A.W.G” available from this site – see the CamelBak ad on the home page left side) filled with a snack, first-aid kit, fleece shirt and a nylon tent fly – I use the fly for a ground cloth if I want to stop and picnic under the full moon.

The Pine City Backboard sits at the apex of two dirt roads – the Southern leg of the Geology Tour road (the left road in the pic below) and the Eastern end of the Queen Valley road (the right one in the pic). Conveniently both my starting and ending points!

Solo Night Hike In Queen Valley

Heading out in a clock-wise route I started down the road as the sunlight was fading and the night was coming on. The moon was at 80 percent and already up so there was no real twilight. I was able to take one more picture (below) before it was too dark for my iPhone.

Solo Night Hike In Queen Valley

The route I took this night was South on the end of Geology Tour road – then West on a small paved section of Park Blvd – then North on Big Horn Pass road connecting to O’Dell road – then East on Queen Valley road to end up back at the Pine City Backboard after a hike of about 3.5 – 4 miles.

The night was warm and calm with no wind. I stopped and had an excellent snack/picnic under the moonlight. A few sips of wine from the flask, a cigar and I started off again.

As always I had plenty of water in my CamelBak and had left my location/plans with others just in case.

If you love the full moon in the desert as much as I do, get out and try it sometime!

JTCamping

Article and pictures copyright JoshuaTreeCamping.Com