The next day dawned hot and cloudless. We got an early start on account of the coyote howl alarm clock, but you can never really start early enough when you’re hiking in the desert. Early in the day, we climbed up a jumble of rocks to get some good views back at the Wonderland of Rocks that we were leaving behind- and the road we were approaching.

J-Trees and Rocks

Looking Back at the Wonderland of Rocks

Yes, a road. Our route brought us out to a parking lot filled with screaming kids, car radios, and soda pop. The strong desire to flee was shared between us, and we quickly hiked along the road a short stretch before reaching a picnic area with more people. This was a rude shock after being alone in the desert. Outside of yesterday’s day hike and this short stretch near the road, we saw nobody for the rest of our hike.

As we left the picnic area behind, we entered a stretch of open desert, hot, dry, and almost free of trees. The granite of the Wonderland was replaced with lava outcroppings. And the sun just got hotter and hotter…

Lonely Tree in a Hot Desert

We had a very long lunch huddled under the shade of a solitary Joshua Tree. “OK, now we’re just stalling,” was the rebuke that I used to get us moving again. The unmarked trail slowly dissolved into a collection of washes and stands of long-dead trees. As we passed a small peak, we entered the place, I dubbed “Quail Valley”, named after the dry spring on one valley wall. We left the fragments of the trail behind, following animal paths leading in the general direction of a canyon up ahead. At this point, I re-entered tera cognito– I had day hiked here a few years ago. Tired and hot, we dropped our packs and wandered around before finding a good spot to pitch the tent. We didn’t bother pitching the tent, rather we pitched our packs on to the ground and slunk into the shade of another Joshua Tree. We hung out there for hours- reading, dozing, moving around the tree to stay in the shade.

It was late afternoon before we dared leave the shade to set up camp and go for a short hike. We climbed to some peaks on the opposite side of the canyon, climbing up into the shade and the wind.

Me atop Peak overlooking the Quail Valley

After the peak, we explored an interesting wash, finding plenty of sheep scat, but no signs of actual sheep. We did, however, disturb a flock of quail at dusk. Another long but rewarding day in the desert.

Sunset in Quail Valley