Trek Date: January 3, 2015
Just a short hike from a turnout on Barker Dam Road, is a group of giant rocks the climbers have nicknamed the "Comic Book" area. There are some amazing boulders to gaze/scramble/climb upon and while you won't find this area labeled or marked in any of the park brochures or maps, it's a great spot to spend a half day exploring. Take some snacks and drinks, there's a beautiful spot under a large Pinyon pine to sit and relax, to enjoy the desert stillness.
I had the opportunity to visit the Comic Book area and get to know some of the rocks. They were kind enough to pose for pictures. Murbachi, the intrepid 3-D photographer and rock meister, made the introductions. Here are some of my new friends (and a map to their homes).
The Sphinx Rock is the first climbing rock I met in the Comic Book area, after a short hike from Old Blue. It's actually the "toe" of the Mary Worth Buttress. At the right angle, it's readily apparent how the Sphinx got its name. If I were a rock climber, rather than a rock scrambler, I could choose from several different routes to summit the Sphinx: Don't Touch that Flake, Cleopatra, or maybe the Cherry Blossom route.
Rounding the "toe," the next conglomeration of rocky interest is the massive Mary Worth Buttress. Mary is a tall crag and very impressive. She's a bit of a sun-worshiper as she faces southwest. Her massive granite face is typically well-lit most of the day. To get to the top of Mary Worth, many climbers use the Bottle in Front of Me route, or the Welcome to Joshua Tree route. Of course, Distant Episode, or Grain Alcohol are always available as well.
One of the nice things about hiking out to the Comic Book area is, it's not as popular as some of the other climbing areas. I'm sure on some days you could spend hours out here and not see another person.
The Comic Strip is a massive formation, visible from Hidden Valley campground. It consists of two climbing faces, the SW Face and the main Comic Strip portion. Some of the more popular routes to the top on this behemoth are: Full Frontal Nudity, Frontal Lobotomy, Take it for Granite, and Silver Lining.
Due south of the Comic Strip, perched high atop the end of a rocky canyon is where you'll find Alice Rock. She isn't easy to get to, as the approach to where the climb starts takes at least 15 minutes, climbing up a steep, rugged canyon full of boulders. Alice is a stern rock, with a vertical face. The view from the top is reportedly quite grand. To get there, climbers can choose from amongst these routes: White Rabbit, Black Rabbit, Alice in Wonderjam and Combination Locks.
As with most of the rock piles in J Tree, there are always a few interesting specimens that stand out from amongst their stony brethren. This massive boulder must have been under a lot of stress. One day, it just cracked.
I'm always thankful when I see a huge Pinyon pine like this one, offering a shady spot to take a break. I'll bet many a climber has rested under its welcoming branches.
Some thirty-three or so miles off in the distance, the snow-capped Mt. San Jacinto can be seen, peaking over the low range of hills in the photo above.
A little closer look, courtesy of Mr. Zoom.
And there's Mt. San Gorgonio. The hike out to the Comic Book area is one of the few places I can think of in the park where both these peaks can be seen at the same time.
Returning to Old Blue, the day was almost done. This Joshua Tree seemed to be calling me over to take its picture before I left, so I had to oblige. That's Echo Rock almost in the center of the picture. There's some cool stuff over there, too. It pays to look around, you never know what you might find.