While planning my move back to Arizona from the San Francisco bay area, I wanted to break up the drive and see someplace new. The two options I toyed with were climbing Mt. Baldy and staying in a hotel outside of LA or camping and hiking in Joshua Tree. I chose the latter for a couple reasons. I could hike in the afternoon, camp under a full moon and do a quick trail run in the morning before getting back on I-10 for the remainder of my trip through the desert.
Arriving late afternoon, I quickly assembled my tent at the Ryan campground with my sights set on hiking Ryan Mountain for what was setting up to be a spectacular sunset. Reaching the 5,457 foot summit didn't take long as the trail was only 1.5 miles one way. The view, however, was fantastic. A true panorama of the park with San Jacinto and San Gorgonio visible to the South was enough reason to stick around for a while and take it all in. At dusk I headed down to camp eagerly awaiting the moon to rise over the mountains to the East. The park took on a whole new perspective as the boulders lit up and trees seem to create a cast of spooky characters lurking in the dark.
In the morning I didn't waste any time getting up and onto the trail. I started with a quick hike on the Barker Dam trail to see the desert oasis and an interesting set of petroglyphs. The hike turned into a run as I ventured out to the Queens Mine and then over to the Wonderland of Rocks. I felt as though I took a trip back in time with all the history in the area. Most of the mining equipment is still in tact as well as the old vehicles parked near their operation. Eight miles later I returned to the car ready to pack it up. As always, time gets the best of me and I had to make my departure. Luckily, the park is just four hours away from Phoenix so it won't be long until another visit is in order.
I was surprised, though it wasn't surprising given this remote desert region, water is only available at the NW and SE entrances of the park. Be sure to bring ample amounts of water for your camping and hiking needs. I'll have to find more trail information on the park as it's rather expansive and many running options may be possible.