12 November 1988
By: Minor White
Leaders: Minor White, Ron Jones
Saturday morning by 8:30AM, the full roster of eighteen "desert rats" showed up at the Quail Springs Picnic Area in Joshua Tree National Monument. The cars had to then be shuttled to the Keys West Gate Backcountry Board.
With that legal necessity out of the way we had a nature lesson on the uniqueness of the Joshua Tree and its relationship with the Yucca moth before venturing out among the desert plants to study the flora first hand. The first leg of the hike went across the desert floor where we stopped to learn more of the Joshua Trees, their age and the reason for their grotesque shape. Also the group was made aware of the accursed cholla and the hazard of their spines.
Midmorning we arrived at the old homestead of the "Bitter Scribe of Quail Springs". The group spent an hour hunting for the many odes "writ-in-rock" that expressed his philosophy. We were surprised to meet another tour group at this obscure corner of the Monument, led by Rangerette Maria Gillett. She was equally surprised to see civilians in this section of the Monument. However, we got along fine with each other bonded by the common love of areas off the beaten path. From here, we set off to find the remains of the home of Johnny Lang, one of the early prospectors of the Joshua Tree area. Cutting cross-country towards Johnny Lang Canyon, we found one of the old wells used for watering cattle when grazing was legal in the area. Up the canyon apiece we found the flattened base of Johnny's home littered with barrel hoops, rusty tin cans, rotten ladder and other remains of his existence.
Our next goal was Johnny Lang's retirement mine further up the canyon. By the time the mine was in sight the group preferred to go directly to campsite and to visit the mine on Sunday. Base camp was made on a saddle between the mine and Quail Mountain. We made camp at 3:30PM. Everyone scouted for their little piece of ground, some on the saddle itself, others in the privacy of the neighboring rocks. Tents went up, campstoves lit and those who cooked enjoyed a hot meal.
With everybody fed and darkness falling upon us early, we gathered around the camp flashlights for the songfest. Campfires are strictly fobidden in the backcountry. Songstress Terry Turner and Ron led the group, sans instruments, through many camp songs and then through some of the memorable Broadway musical hits. The wind became strong and broke up the merry band as everyone went to their little piece of ground for the night. The wind was not kind. It buffeted the tents all night long.
Everyone was up round 6:00AM, having breakfast and preparing for the day. The wind did not abate with the sunrise so we decided to take down the tents before setting off to Quail Mountain. In the meantime, Ron went prospecting and found samples of "color" that supported the mining claim monument near our camp.
Donna stayed with our equipment while the rest of us took off at 7:30AM for an early morning stroll up to the Quail Mountain peak. The day was extremely clear and Ron pointed out many points of interest around the peak. However, the wind was still blowing hard, so we completed the register sign-in ritual in short time and started back to base camp hoping to escape the worst of the wind. We were back to camp by 10:00AM.
To avoid the heavy brush on the west side of the peak between camp and Johnny Lang mine, we climbed up and out of the saddle to the north and back down to the mine for an early lunch sitting atop the mine tailings. Being one of the few flat areas, out of the wind and a pleasant mixture of shade and sun, it was an idyllic spot for a long break.
With everybody well fed and rested we headed home down the Johnny Lang Canyon to the flat land below and out on an old roadbed to the traffic jam at the Quail Springs Picnic area. A quick car shuttle to pick up cars parked at the backcountry board let everyone get their gear loaded into the cars and on their way back home by 2:30PM, on Sunday afternoon.
The trip was very extensive for some of the participants and I wish to thank each and every one of them putting up with the cross-country routes required for the "I" rating. I wish to give special thanks to Ron Jones for the patience and guidance he gave to my backpack experience trip.
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