Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rattlesnake Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park

My entire body aches.  I went out for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park today and it was more like a scramble than a hike.  My arms are sore from climbing up and over rocks.  My skin hurts from all the various scrapes and scratches.  But despite my sore and battered body I am exultant; I had a great day.The day would have been perfect but I forgot my camera at home--again.  Thankfully, I have my phone and while the pictures certainly aren't as good as a regular camera they'll have to do.  My friend, Cameron, came along and took some pictures.  When he sends me a link to where they're posted I'll put that up.

Rattlesnake Canyon is a boulder strewn crease on the northern edge of the park near the Indian Cove campground.  It's a bit too cool yet for rattlers but there are plenty of other hazards to be found up there.

We barely get into the canyon and find there's quite a bit of water flowing.

Cameron, who's an expert rock climber brought his 19 year old daughter, Charlene, along.  It's obvious she got his genes because she has no difficulty negotiating the many boulders we are required to climb in the canyon.  I am not quite so young and lithe.  

There is no trail in Rattlesnake Canyon.  You have to find your own way among the boulders and make sure you pay close attention.  If you misstep it's a long way down.

Besides climbing over the rocks it is sometimes required to squeeze through a few.  I'm a bit too large for this gap so I go around.

The hiking, at least at this point, is fun, walking along big boulders along the stream.

The geology here is amazing.  How did this boulder end up stacked on three little rocks?

We pick up a couple of stray Marines from Twentynine Palms who are looking for a cave.  Cameron offers to show them but it's too far up the canyon.  They come along so Cameron can show them a challenging shortcut back to the parking area.

A delicate little arch.

Here's the shortcut--called the Gunsight--that the Marines are going to take back.  Good luck, guys.

The canyon is a place of many wonders and the weather is perfect today, about 72º.

Another tight squeeze.

This rock reminds me of a Picasso sculpture.

We spend a good portion of the day out of the direct sun but sometimes it cuts through the boulders.

But there are some places the sun never shines.  We head into the cave that the Marines were looking for.  There's not much to see in here.  It's dark.

We get up to the head of the canyon and decide that rather than going back the way we came we'll do a little cross country travel and make a loop.

The going was rough to get here but it's nothing compared to our trip down.

The way down is much steeper than the way up.

The going is slow and arduous but still fun. 

Cameron scouts ahead to find a way down. 

There is not one easy step going down this gully.  One moment of inattention could bring about another scratch, a bad fall or death.

Cameron coaches through some tough sections just to make sure his baby girl is safe.  He says he's feeling tired and we'll have to start heading back.  She does not know he's joking and almost has a coronary.  

We just negotiated some incredibly interesting and difficult terrain.  In over five hours we went a little over three miles.

We are finally almost down.

Thank you, JESUS!  It never felt to good to be on solid ground.


  1. Oy! Awesome hike, Hal. Love the "sculpture," a perfect Year of the Rabbit shot! Please send that one to me, would love to have it.

  2. Had a great time, let's work the trails at the base of Rabbit soon, Roy's in.

  3. We were out there saturday also at quail mt and spent sometime discussing your route. Did you finish and end at Indian cove? And did you actually make it to Willow? If possible would love to see on a map your route

  4. We did not go up to Willow although we could have. We continued up Rattlesnake and then headed north and then east back toward the campground. I'll try to put together a map and post it.

  5. This is roughly the route we took. I think.