Sunday, December 20, 2015
Joshua Tree - Crown Prince Lookout - December 20, 2015
The amazing beauty of Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) always exceeds my expectations in providing superb hikes. It’s been one year since I’ve discovered JTNP and this hike to Crown Prince Lookout is my sixth hike in this incredible high desert landscape. Previously I’ve hiked to an oasis, climbed two 5,000-foot peaks, experienced a wonderful nature trail, and enjoyed a cross country scamper to a massive boulder pile.
A visit with my daughter this weekend in Twentynine Palms for some Christmas festivities yielded one three-hour window for a hike. I needed something short and close so I turned to my three books, and On Foot in Joshua Tree National Park by Patty Furbush detailed an ideal hike: 3 miles rounds trip, road-trail/cross-country, 181 feet in elevation change, a destination of a 4581-foot boulder mass, and less than 20 minutes from the house.
In fact, most of the plants out here can inflict pain. Aside from the cold, I’m really enjoying myself. It’s so peaceful. I crest a slight rise and the rocky mass of Crown Prince Lookout strikes a full profile from the desert floor. I see some tiny figures up ahead and soon I realize it’s a couple with two young girls heading back. They are all bundled up and seem to be enjoying themselves.
My rocky mass gets bigger and looks intimidating with boulders the size of cars and small houses. At about one mile from the start, adjacent to a large outcropping on the left, the route splits. I take the one to the right heading south. In a few minutes I approach the base of my destination. A use path curves around the east flank of the boulder mass. I’m feeling a little anxious because the massive boulders seem to forbid guests from climbing to the summit, and I’m still humbled by being rejected by Mount Mel a year ago. But the guide says, “A short scramble up (ten vertical feet) the rocks leads to a more obvious trail.” So I’m banking on it. The trail reaches a gentle ridgeline projecting east from the rock pile providing a splendid panorama south.
I decide it’s time to put on my third layer and a beany and gloves. Why not be more comfortable?
A crease jutting to the right behind a rock face appears to be what the trail guide describes. Up I climb. It’s not bad. I’m thankful for long legs and gloves. At the top a clear path heads west toward the top. I’m relieved and excited. The huge boulder pile is basically flat on top and so my gentle route takes me toward the highpoint. The views are amazing. A vast desert sprawls out before me. In about 150 yards I reach the top.
It’s too cold to mess with getting my maps out to see if I can identify landmarks. I recognize Ryan Mountain (5457-61’) silhouetted to the west. I climbed it a year ago as my first peak in the park. To the southwest I recognize Malapai Hill (4280), a volcanic dome rising sharply from the floor of Queen Valley. I’m guessing that highpoint on the northern horizon is Queen Mountain (5677’). I walk toward the northern edge and soon am greeted by a jumbled assortment of huge boulders between me and the northern rim. I attempt to find a manageable route but soon realize that it will take some serious bouldering to get over there. So I’m content with where I am.
I shoot photos in all directions. Then the sun on the western horizon dips below the cloud layer and relights the whole setting. I have to shoot the photos all over again, now in wonderful lighting. If it was warm and I had more time, I could easily spend a long time up here. The desert beauty is spectacular.
I wander off trail some to photograph amazing rock formations from different angles. The sun creates wonderful lighting. Wispy clouds add beauty to the sky. I’m so intrigued by the surreal landscape. It’s so different from my San Gabriels. The moon, high in the southeast sky, stands stark against a deep blue backdrop.
I look back over my shoulder often to see to Crown Prince in different lighting. The surrounding beauty mesmerizes me. I take a number of shots of the disappearing sun and hope I get something that captures the beauty of a desert sunset. The sun vanishes at 4:31 and immediately the lighting is dramatically different.
4:42 - End hike.
See Crown Prince Lookout on Peakbagger.com
See Joshua Tree hikes at Dan's Hiking Pages
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