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Sunset Hike to Muffin Rock

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Joshua Tree at Dusk, originally uploaded by SdosRemedios.

This photo was taken in the Joshua Tree forest in California, but it looks pretty much the same as Red Rock Canyon, (except the mountains aren’t red here). But I love this photo, because I think it really glorifies the strangeness and gorgeousness of the Mojave.

Yesterday at 1:00pm, it was super windy and threatening rain with temperatures in the low 40s. For the desert, a place that’s in the 80’s by early March and where rain only comes 4 days a year, I laughed and blamed it on Murphy’s Law that the day I had planned my first hike with the hiking group was the day the usually perfect weather would betray me. I decided not to let that stop me from going.

I could see fog and rain over the mountains as I drove into the canyon later that afternoon, but the clouds directly above me were breaking up and the late afternoon sunlight was coming through. I drove the meeting spot at the base of Cowboy Trail, a little old western riding spot with a hitching post and a corral full of horses. The ranch hands were gone for the day and the 30 or so horses were penned up, watching us hikers arrive.

I met the 4 other people who had decided to brave the weather for the hike. Three men all at least 10 years older than I, and another woman, who had an accent like sharp cheddar with a lilt, that could only mean she was from New Zealand. She brought two dogs with her, a chocolate labradoodle and a boxer.

At 5:50, when we were sure no one else was coming, we started crossing the quarter mile of desert that leads up to the base of the mountain, past the joshua trees and past the corral and past piles of horse shit, on which both dogs kept stopping to munch, much to our collective dismay.

We started up Blue Diamond Hill at a rather quick pace, stopping once or twice to catch our breaths. It was a relatively easy hike, but it was still a challenge for me, because I’m such a novice, and because it was incredibly windy, with winds reaching up to 30 miles per hour as we climbed. But of course this was my first hike with these people, so I had to prove myself. I was able to keep up with the group as we ascended, looking straight down as I walked rather than looking up to torture myself with how far away the top still seemed.

About 20 minutes up the hill, the view was already astounding. The clouds had almost all left, except for some gray swathes out to the northwest. Yellowy-green evening light washed over the valley, and we could see far into the distance, including many of the surrounding mountains and almost all of the Red Rock Scenic Loop.

It took us exactly one hour to reach the top of the mountain. At the top were some strange, roundish boulders, each about 15 feet in diameter, that one of the other hikers said were called Muffin Rock. I climbed on top one of the lower flat muffins, and walked to the edge to look down the other side of the mountain, into valley south, where we could see all of Las Vegas. Sun was setting pink and orange on the city, and it was a spectacular view. Wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have my camera, but that’s the last time I’ll make that mistake.

The trip down the mountain is of course easier on your calves, but brutal on your ankles, because they have to work so hard at balancing your weight. Plus the desert’s sandy dirt is slippery and you have to be careful. Still, though, it took us less time to descend.

We all hiked in a little line down a narrow trail that lined the edge of the mountain, with the dogs bounding ahead and back, frolicking in the remaining light, the setting sun illuminating the edges of their fur, which made them look like they had auras, it was neat. Out to the west, the sky was pink and purple behind the mountains, you should have been there.

As we reached the bottom of Blue Diamond Hill, it was almost completely dark. The twilight was silhouetting the joshua trees and the reddish sand took on a grayish tan color. The desert looks different at night, and it’s almost more amazing than in the day. I love the quietness of the desert, and I love the brightness of the stars, of which, in the desert, you can see billions.

As we walked the quarter mile back to the top of the ranch, I trailed the group of people, and enjoyed watching them walk and laughing at them shooing the dogs away from the tasty delicous horse poop. We passed the corral of horses and I walked over to the fence to take a look at them. Mostly white and black mares, with a couple of palominos and appaloosas, and a buckskin or two.

I smiled to myself, because 10 years ago, heck, even one year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d ever be coming off a mountain with a group of strangers in the dark here in Red Rock Canyon. With the night and the dogs and my aching legs, I had one of those moments, outside myself, where I realized realize that I was finally hiking, something that I’ve been dreaming about doing for a such a long time…I couldn’t have been happier.

Afterwards, one of the hikers split but the other four of us went out to dinner at the nearby Outside Inn, which set up to look like a lodge. It had a lot of wood and a really great mural of a forest/mountain scene covering one of the walls. We ordered beers and sandwiches. The other hikers were all talkative, they had known each other for perhaps years, and so we had a nice conversation. They did a great job making me feel welcome.

I hope to do it again next week, it was such a satisfying experience.

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Joshua Tree at Night, originally uploaded by Stealing Mirrors.

Currently listening to Ten Readings of a Warning by All Smiles


Written by pocheco

April 13, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Allmost unreal.



    April 14, 2007 at 7:55 pm

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