Tag Archives: desert

Ladders and Painted Canyons Loop Hike

MECCA HILLS WILDERNESS

Activity: Day Hike

4.5 miles, 820′ elevation gain, 2.5 hour duration, rated Moderate

Date: 1-29-23

I did this hike with fellow outdoorsman Loren, whom I refer to as the “Trail Boss”, because of his Off-Roading expertise. Not long ago we had an Off-Roading trip in Anza-Borrego, not too far from where this hike is, with a group of friends and he planned it all out and kept everyone on the straight and narrow. Well, none of the canyons we drove were straight but they were narrow, lol.

Ladders Canyon and Painted Canyon Loop Hike is not unique in the beauty found in some of our South West Canyons, but it is certainly at least on par with some of the best. What is unique, I have discovered, is the Ladders Canyon portion. It is literally a canyon full of ladders. Without the ladders you would need to be a rock climber to do this hike as it is well passed scrambling, although there is still a bit of that as well.

The adventure begins with 5 miles of driving on dirt- ending up in a wash. When you exit the asphalt there is a sign saying “4 Wheel Vehicles Only”. It was nothing at all for my 4Runner TRD Pro, but we did see a few regular cars bouncing along slowly on the bumpy road taking a beating on the washboard track.

We arrived at the trailhead mid morning and I guess we were not the only ones that heard that this was one of the Best Hikes in Southern California. Of course I will say that I am spoiled as I try to do my hiking during the week, but in this case that was not an option for my workaday friend.

As soon as we reached the first ladder there was a bottle neck of people. We were informed that was nothing compared to the 50 or more stopped-up a little further ahead. So we regrouped and decided to take the loop counter clockwise. This meant that we would do the ladder portion last going down the ladders instead of up. Seemed like a fine trade off.

Bottleneck at the first couple ladders forced us to rethink our endeavour.

During the counter clockwise route we first walked in a wash, a mixture of packed sand, and pea gravel. The Painted Canyon walls were stunningly beautiful and throughly rugged. The trail led up top to a view of the desolate surrounding desert hills, far off snow capped mountains and we could peer over the side down onto the canyon trek we had completed earlier.

This ladder ended with a rope assist and scramble to the next level.

We scampered up to a high spot on a hill overlooking the trail for a break. Not so much because we needed one, but it was nice to stop and take in the surroundings. Our reason for the pitstop was over the far hill hikers appeared like army ants swarming the trail. Apparently that bottle neck of outdoor enthusiasts had made their way to the mid point of the outing, so it was a good time to take a few steps off the trail.

In this area there seemed to be more than one route, we even got off course for a bit before rechecking our GPS trek and then doing a little cross country traverse down a rather steep, stoney hillside to get back on track. Between the start, where we turned back away from the crowd, and getting off course we added about a mile to our day, no biggy.

Most of the trail is pretty easy. Going down into the slot canyon portion was a bit more rugged, heed caution in this area. Watch your step as it is steep with some loose footing. After this point we got into the slot, wow was that cool. Love slot canyons and this was a good one to be sure! Narrow, winding and the rock changed in it’s texture and color. It was pretty amazing.

We were now in the last quarter of the hike and it was ladder time. A series of ladders are maintained by the Coachella Valley Hiking Club, I understand. That is very nice of them. The ladders are in okay shape, perhaps a bit rickety, so certainly look them over including the placement. I saw a couple of people that needed to take a breath before tackling them, but they really aren’t that bad. It was pretty fun as the only ladder I remember being on during a hike was at Arizona Hot Springs where it was quite rickety and slippery down a waterfall of hot water. Most of the ladders are just like you placed them against your house. One leads down into a tight hole, and another required a rope to assist you with a bit of a scramble as a means to reach the next level. All very doable, so not to worry.

Ladders Canyon and Painted Canyon Loop Hike was tremendous. We throughly enjoyed it. Keep in mind that it is pretty popular so if you can adjust your time to that different then most folks that would probably be preferable.

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“Nature can bring things back into perspective and that is important…
No essential. At least every so often it is crucial to get out
and un-shoulder some of that burden that accumulates as part of life.”
– Roger Jenkins, Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Thanks for joining Trail Boss Loren and myself as we found ourselves ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ on ladders in a painted canyon. There are more adventures to be had. Stay with us by doing some or all of the following: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. The menu above is chock filled with ideas and inspiration for your own adventure into Nature, something that we all need to balance out our busy lives. Each location or activity is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. If you like the hat and shirt that I am wearing I have a full line of top quality Adventure Wear with the PBTA Logo and Mantra at SHOP APPAREL for your purchasing pleasure.

Happy Trails-

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Peak Bagging Soda Mountain

MOHAVE DESERT

Activity: Peak Bagging, Trail Blazing, Scrambling, Camping

Distance: Approximately 8 miles, altitude 3661’, prominence 1,781’, 2,168’ elevation gain, duration 7 hours, rated Hard

Date: March 4-5, 2020

While not particularly high in elevation at 3,661 feet above sea level it is all about the prominence with Peak Baggers. That is why the few, the adventurous, the Peak Baggers are interested in this location. Otherwise it is a lonely, desolate, rugged place and there is nothing particularly fun about the trek, and there is no reason anyone would climb Soda Mountain other than because it is there, and the ‘Prom Factor’.

Prominence

  1. A position of exalted widely recognized grandeur.
  2. A natural land elevation that stands out above it’s surroundings.
  3. The vertical distance from which the summit rises above the lowest point between two summits.

In many ways prominence, as an alternate measurement of a peak or mountain, is more interesting than it’s elevation.

I joined Hall of Fame Peak Bagger Keith Christensen once again seeking some life balance in this otherwise crazy mixed up world, in other words we found ourselves ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ in the Mohave Desert. This was day two of our excursion and I invite you to checkout day one: Cave Mountain. After completing our quest to stand atop Cave Mountain we headed toward Soda Mountains. It required some 4 wheeling to get to the wash that would serve as the closest thing to a trailhead. Hint there is no trailhead in the middle of the frick’n desert when you are hiking an area no one would go to, to climb a craggy, jagged, rocky mountain that no one would climb… no one except a Peak Bagger. I will tell you what, on these desolate desert peaks there are only a few peak baggers there a year. So when you stand on top of Soda Mountain, you are one of a small number that has ever set foot there, which of course is part of the allure. Peak Baggers aren’t here to recreate they are here for the hard-core.

After a backpacking dinner, we enjoyed the twilight and the silhouette of the mountains against the ever darkening desert sky, and then called it a night to get an early start in the morning.

It was a cool morning, but with the rising sun it was quickly warming up. We headed out along about 3 miles of sandy wash and canyon area that had many twists and turns to it such that we really did not get a look at our objective until we were right before it.

Hiking through a wash toward our destination Soda Mt High Point.

Now we would be picking a route, looking for a way up, ascending the steep incline of broken rock. During the climb my foot became trapped between a proverbial, and I assure you quite literal, rock and a hard place. It was only all those workouts I have been doing that kept me from a full face plant as I caught myself in a push up position with my nose to the grind stone.

In a section where we were doing a bit of scrambling Keith surprised a large lizard about the size of a chipmunk, which is exactly what I though it was at first. The fleeing reptile was headed right at my face until he saw me and ducked into the rocks. We think it was a Chuckwalla, but there are Gila Monsters in the Mohave as well.

Photo of Chuckwalla credit to NPS.

Hands worked, bloody shin, tired feet and all I arrived at the summit with a smile. While I surveyed the desert scene from aloft Keith checked out the register in an old can to see how many names he might recognize.

Summit of Soda Mt.

The view from the summit was quite amazing with a pretty diverse landscape. On one side was canyon with pale colors, in another direction black mountains rising out of golden sand, and yet another mocha chocolate hills. After a snack, a drink, and a little reflection it was time to head down.

As I carefully picked my way down the rocky slope I became separated from Keith who with a quicker pace had dropped down out of sight, and had taken a right under a large rock outcropping. Not seeing this I continued down the chute. I whistled to find his location, but heard no response. I was thinking he can’t be that far ahead, but he had wrapped around more to the right as I was still going down the chute. After signaling every so often I finally hear a hoot and after awhile we reconnect. He had not heard my previous whistles. There was a point that I thought I would be hiking back to Keith’s Jeep alone.

Another successful summit by the intrepid explorer Peak Bagger Keith Christensen as he heads down with the desert wash below.

One side note that I will mention about this outing was that it took place just before that Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis. After 2 or 3 months had gone by I went to Keith Christensen’s Peak Bagger Page to see if he had continued to bag peaks since I had last seen him. While I had continued to go on hikes and even a little peak bagging I saw that Keith had not slowed down one iota. During this time frame he had bagged almost 60 more peaks. That is simply amazing.

“The road less traveled is the road to adventure!”

This type of an adventure is pretty amazing and rather unique. Not your everyday trek, which makes it pretty cool, and hiking with my Hobie Cat Champion sailing friend, Keith Christensen, who just happens to take part in this craziness of Peak Bagging, and at a very high level I might add, is always an adventure! Thanks for joining us ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ while peak bagging hidden away desert mountains. Take a moment and LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW, and SHARE. You may or may not be excited about Peak Bagging in the middle of the frick’n desert, but I am positive you can find a hike that will get you off the couch with all of the locales that PBTA ventures to- just review the menu above. Each location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. Checkout my cap in the picture. Like it? Want one? Click here: SHOP APPAREL.

Happy Trails, (Well in this case there was no trail, but you catch my drift…)

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Lava Tubes

Mojave National Preserve, California

“Bathing in His Light”

Activity: Spelunking (sorta)
Date: April 17, 2019
Distance .05 Mile, 62’ elevation change, rated Easy

I had not been to Mojave National Preserve before, but after my trip there I can tell you it will not be my last.

The Lava Tubes are off of paved road, but the final 5 miles is rough washboard dirt road with some volcanic rock thrown in a couple places for good measure. Once you park it is a short distance to the Lava Tubes.

I suggest that you bring a head lamp as you crawl into a hole in the ground, the dark portion isn’t very long, but a little light goes a long ways in making you feel more comfortable. There is a low spot where you need to crawl on your hands and knees. So when you hit your head it won’t be that bad because with the light at least you can say oh yeah I knew that was there.

When you enter the cavern with the light beaming in it is truly a feeling of am I really seeing this? I have never seen light do this except in an art gallery, and I will tell you the pictures I saw on my hiking app were no where as cool as what I saw and the pictures you see here. So I don’t know if I was lucky or just there at the right time. You need to be there around noon for the light to shine through the sky light openings just right.

I can’t say it was a spiritual feeling, because there were other people there probably about 8 of us on a weekday enjoy what was undeniably an amazing sight. But looking at these pictures now it’s definitely lifts the spirit.

The map shows the Cinder Cone Lava Beds and Lava Tube under the title Mojave.
This map shows the proximity of the lava tubes, which is the large two tone dot under Mojave Wilderness, and Baker, CA. There is paved road from Baker, but the last 5 miles to the Lava Tube is rough dirt road.
Heavenly Light
Ladder going back out from the lava tube.
“The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.” – Paulo Coelho

The Mojave National Preserve is a fun place to explore, and the light in the lava tube was a Life Experience. Thanks for joining me ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure.’ There are sister sites categorized by area in the menu above (each needs to be followed individually). Lots of adventures, lots more to come, so please for the sake of your Balance: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW, and SHARE. If you would like to support PBTA then check out the fine SHOP APPAREL for top quality adventure wear.

Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins, Pursuing Balance Through Adventure