Mastodon Peak, Mount Mel
By: Gabriele Rau
We left at 5:30 AM, ate breakfast in Corona and drove out past Indio to the Cottonwood entrance of the Joshua Tree Monument. Mark bought a new Federal Pass because the old one was lost and we drove the mile to the trailhead, also the trailhead for the oasis walk. The flowers were beautiful!! Large Canterbury Bells, Bigelow Mimulus, many others and also cacti starting to bloom. It is only one mile to Mastodon Peak, 400’ gain, the return loop is slightly longer with 2 miles. Nice short hike! Good views from the peak, I left a register can.
Then we drove through the park, exited and drove to Indian Cove Group Campground. All sites were taken. We hiked according to the instructions. At the wash were several trails crisscrossing, some interpretive sign, but we stayed in the general direction. After about 2 miles, again hiking among beautiful flowers (it was not possible NOT to step on them) we gained the saddle. Mt. Mel is nothing but a stone pile to the right, a class 2 scramble of 200 ft. With hands on and a helpful hand from Mark we soon reached the peak with beautiful views. There was a register tube on the peak!! It is named after Mel Johnson, an Orange County BMTC leader, who climbed it first 1971 as part of the class. Now it is a standard for the class. Then we scrambled down to the saddle and back. It is easier to stay on the ridge on the right and then drop to the wash. No problems. 4 m RT, 600’ gain.
The hardest part is the driving, a 350 mile day!
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