01-12-2017 Rain in the desert, and another canyon hike

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

Raining.  Yes, at the moment it has been raining for several hours.  I’m not complaining, the desert and the state of California needs rain in general.  I am not complaining, because even with the rain, we have escaped the deep snows and epic cold that have gripped both our home town of Klamath Falls and our new home town to be, Grants Pass. 

I am not complaining, because in the midst of the rain storms and chilly weather, we have had a few nice sun breaks, and temperatures in the high 60’s.  The photos from the last post when we hiked the Indian Canyons proved it.  Yet, somehow, when the rain is coming down, it is easy to forget all that lovely sunshine that lasted for a day here and there. 

A day or so after we arrived, Mo put out the patio rug and the chairs, and on one lovely day actually sat in the chairs and read while I worked on photos and the blog.  Nice day.  The winds started up after that, and the rains once again so the rug got staked down and the chairs folded up and put under the rig to stay dry and not blow away.  Winter in the desert.  Not always, but often enough that if you plan to escape your cold winter climate, you need to be prepared for times like this, when the wind blows, the rains come, and the skies are gray.  It happens.

Yesterday the predictions were for 20 percent chance of rain, holding off till late afternoon.  Taking advantage of that prediction, we headed east on Dillon Road all the way to Indio, and then toward Mecca and east to Box Canyon Road.  Al, of the Bayfield Bunch, has talked of Box Canyon Road many times on his blog, being their route of choice when they travel I-10 west from Quartzite heading for Anza Borrego.  In fact, I am sure that several of the bloggers that I follow have talked about Painted Canyon, with some of you actually squeezing between the slot canyon walls of Ladder Canyon. 

Maybe later I can look up your stories, but in the mean time, if you are reading, and you have hiked Ladder Canyon, pop a comment in here and let me know where to find your post about it?

The skies were gray as we turned onto the graded dirt/gravel road that leads to the entrance of the lovely canyons that are within the wilderness area boundaries.  We knew we could take Mattie on the main canyon, but also knew that she wouldn’t be able to climb the ladders on the side canyon, appropriately called “Ladder Canyon”.   We will save that one for another time, and maybe a time when I am a bit more narrow, so when I turn sideways I can still fit between the walls?

The main trail through Painted Canyon is wide and nearly level.  I found the narrow and steep trail that leads into Ladder Canyon, and was glad that Mattie was along to give me an excuse to not try it on this day.  Lots of rock climbing and scrambling involved in that one, and I needed to be in a different mood with a happier knee to do it.  Next time.

The trail to Ladder Canyon isn’t easily visible unless you are looking for it.

We walked the length of the main canyon, meeting a large hiking group and sharing the space with some young guys who somehow missed the Ladder Canyon trail.  We saw four young lovely girls taking off that direction and when we told the guys how to get there and told them about the cute girls, they burst into a trot to get back to the “right” trail.

At the end of the main canyon, there is a large rock pour-over, graced by a couple of metal ladders leading up to the next level.  Mattie, the rock climber, attempted to leap up those rocks, but couldn’t quite make it to the top.  Instead, I stayed behind with her while Mo explored the ladders, hollering down from the top to me, “It gets level again up here!”. Well, neither of us was about to carry Mattie up those ladders, so again, we will save that one for another time as well.  It is always nice to have something new to try for the next time, minus the dog, who thank goodness is willing to wait at home when we need her to do so.

The colors of Painted Canyon were somewhat muted and subtle, partially because of the muted daylight and cloudy skies, and partly because they are a bit muted and subtle anyway.  This canyon is not like the canyons in southern Utah, without the brilliant red orange sandstones of Navajo and Wingate. The drama comes in the contact zones, where the break between layered sediments and highly cooked metamorphic rock  is incredible. In this photo, that light zone at the top of the cliff is not a light difference, it is the contact between dark metamorphic and light sedimentary rocks.

Here, in the Mecca Hills, the graded dirt road crosses the San Andreas Fault, and the vertical uplift of sediments that were once old lake and sea beds is dramatic, as are the contact zones between all the different kinds of rock, jumbled, cooked, and twisted by the forces of faulting and uplift.  It is a geologist’s dream place to visit. 

Leaving the canyons, we drove back out to Box Canyon Road and turned north toward where it intersects with I-10 at the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.  We boondocked near the entrance a few years ago, read about Box Canyon Road, and it has been on my list of places to explore for some time now. 

The canyon is interesting, winding and full of eroded sediments and soft rock that make for complexity and lots of sandy washes.  There are boondocking sites all along the canyon, and interesting side 4 wheel drive trails to explore.  However the canyon walls enclose the views, and when in the desert, we prefer those long vistas that are such a part of boondocking in the desert.  We might not choose to camp here, although we did see several folks settled in to nice spots.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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