The Contact Zone

Trek Date: November 16, 2015

The Contact Zone, so-called by fellow JTree explorer and intrepid 3D photographer, Murbachi. For purposes of this post, the area referred to as the Contact Zone is the demarcation between the light tan monzogranite on the left and the darker material on the right in the Google Earth image above. The CZ stretches for about one mile and after seeing some of Murbachi's pictures (click HERE to see for your ownself) of this area, I knew I wanted to visit, regardless of the danger. The views of the far eastern edge of the Wonderland of Rocks are simply spectacular. 

route map

The day's trek began at the trailhead for the Wall Street Mill (a place every traveler to JT should visit at least once). It was cold and windy, chilly yet invigorating, on the trail. Layering, that's the key.  First stop would be the Wall Street Mill, as I wanted to take some video of the mill and surroundings. From there the route would head east, in search of a good line up the hillside, to the north. There's no trail to the Contact Zone, no guide posts, no cairns, no footprints. It's a "know-where-you-want-to-go-and-then-go-there" type of hike. I was following Murbachi, as he had been to the Contact Zone twice previously. Cross country, cross ravines, cross boulders....sort of a cross-fit desert workout. There are some amazing valleys and plateaus along the way, just begging further investigation. One day I hope to comply. A testament as to how seldom this area of JT is visited, I didn't see a single piece of trash, no broken glass, no plastic bottle, no granola bar wrapper, nothing. No signs of prospecting. The rock climbers haven't even named some of the huge boulders along the Contact Zone, at the far east of the Wonderland. The place is remote and pristine. 

The starting point for the trek into the Contact Zone. A lot of rocks in the way. But instead of heading straight up and over them, we made the mature choice and circled them on the right, then for most of the hike followed the edge as shown in the route map above.

A quick look back at the Wall Street Mill.

A little higher and farther away, the view begins to open up. Mount San Jacinto is visible in the distance, top left. The snow-capped Mount San Gorgonio is peaking between some rocks over on the top right.

Hiking along the edge of the CZ, every now and then a breathtaking view would open up. Or maybe I need to work on my cardio. No, it was the views that took my breath away. What a neat little valley. 

The Red Barrel Cactus thrives in the CZ, especially on south-facing slopes. There are a bunch of these guys up here.

I took a geology class in college and now wish I had kept up with that science, as JT is an amazing text book. I believe these large chunks of banded, twisted and folded rocks are Pinto Gneiss - at approximately 1.7 billion years old, they are most likely the oldest type rock in the park. They have some very interesting patterns and colors.

A view back from whence we hiked. I find it's a good idea to check my backtrail while hiking, for two reasons. One, to make sure I'm not being followed, and two, to help me recognize landmarks along the trail when it's time to return to T-Red. 

This large formation kept peeking up over the horizon at different points along the hike. It's a lot bigger than it looks in this image.

I climbed up a couple small hills to get this panorama vantage. Gazing west at the Wonderland of Rocks. Note the black rocks near the center of the image; they are an enigma. More on that to follow.

Objects in the telephoto lens are farther than they appear.

Another panorama view from my hilly perch, this one is actually six images stitched together.

Climbing down the hillside, it was time to investigate those black rocks.

I can't remember seeing such dark colored rocks anywhere else in JTree. From this angle, they look solid black and it's not desert varnish, it's the rock itself. (Checkout all the red barrel cactus plants on the slope in this image, I count at least twenty)

A close-up of the surface of one of the black boulders shows that they're made up of large crystals of various compositions. My guess is that these rocks are black monzogranite. Up close and personal, they aren't as pitch black as they appear at a distance. Whatever they are, they most definitely make a striking statement in the Contact Zone and I henceforth shall refer to their home as "The Hill of Black Rocks."

This is the view looking west from the Hill of Black Rocks. All along the CZ, these windows of picturetunity would open up, revealing amazing views of the Wonderland. Does anyone else see the large worm out in the rocks? It reminds me of Shai-Hulud, from Dune.

A couple views of where the monzogranite of the Wonderland meets the material that comprises the hills.

Continuing north, the rock behemoth which had been playing hide and seek with us as we hiked finally made its grand appearance. Being unable to research a name for this big boy, I have decided to call it "The Lonely."

A couple more views looking down into the Wonderland. It would take a lifetime to explore.

The Lonely was as far as Murbachi and I hiked on this visit. I'm sure there was much more to see had we continued hiking north (which would eventually lead to Indian Cove campround, three miles distant as the crow flies, but probably at least twice that far as the weary hiker trods....gullies, ravines, mountains all being in the way). Hiking down from the Lonely into the Wonderland is possible for those ambitious and young enough to do so. It would certainly be a task, but who knows what one might find in the valleys below the Lonely. I don't think it's been visited by many.  But old, weary travelers that we were, we turned around and retraced our route back down the mountain. Better the devil you know.....


A family of Joshua Trees enjoys the view of the Wonderland, with their pet chollas.

Maybe it's a dinosaur egg?

A quartz outcropping, with no signs of prospecting in the area.

The Wall Street Mill, telephotomagically embiggend.

Still a ways to go, you can see the cars in the Barker Dam parking lot way off in the distance. T-Red is parked a little closer, with cookies waiting inside. At the end of the trail, five rocky miles had been traversed, 40 mph wind gust endured, awesome scenery photographed and another trek in the Jt wilderness survived. It was a good day.

Free free to download and use any of my photographs in anyway you choose. Credit back to would be nice, but it's not required. Afterall, you can't copyright a Yucca.