Porcupine Wash - Joshua Tree National Park

Trek Date: October 8, 2016

A mid-day drive along an empty Pinto Basin Road, heat waves shimmering in the distance, the unforgiving desert seeming to grasp at both sides of the two-lane blacktop. It was like driving through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of sand. I was on a journey, a journey into a wondrous land. Then I saw the signpost up ahead and knew my next stop was Porcupine Wash. It was time to see the porcupine. This is what happened:

Ok, that was a bit dramatic. But sometimes driving along certain portions of Park Blvd. or Pinto Basin Road can seem otherworldly. And if you have an active imagination, or are just sleep-deprived, who knows what you might see.

I pulled into the little parking area at the Porcupine Wash backcountry board around 1:00 pm, grabbed my gear and headed west into the wash. 

The oval area above is a rough estimate of the area I traipsed around in for about an hour. 

I've stopped at this turnout once or twice to stretch my legs, but had never ventured much past the backcountry board. As this is the trailhead for the Ruby Lee Mill, I'll be back at some point to take that hike to see what I can find. But on this journey, those rocks looked interesting, so that's where I headed.

Smoketrees (Psorothamnus spinosus) love the washes of the Colorado desert. While not as plentiful here as they are in Smoketree Wash, there were enough wanting to pose for pictures that I had to oblige. The Smoketree is part of the legume family and normally blooms in June. Small clusters of purple flowers accompany small seeded pea pods as its fruit.

Like many other places in JTree, these rocks are sneaky. They lure hikers in. And just when you think you've seen everything there is to see, another group of rocks almost magically materializes a hundred yards away. And they too must be investiaged. Thus, I have named them capitiosus quarzum granitum

Baby bird wanting to be fed. Who else sees it?

This stone is no longer rolling.

Heading deeper into the rock piles, there are any number of small washes that drain down into Porcupine Wash. I spotted this small shard of Native American pottery and wondered how old it was and if it came from a habitation site nearby or had washed down from the hills farther to the west.

Standing atop one of the tricky rock piles, this panorama looks somewhat southeasterly.

A panel of petroglyphs is inscribed on one large boulder in this area. Mostly squiggles, some look like barbells and one is definitely a representation of the sun, it's always fun to try and figure out what these symbols meant to the people who created them. Death Valley Jim relates that these petroglyphs may have been placed here by the Pinto Basin People, who inhabited the basin over 5,000 years ago. This was definitely the highlight of this particular roamabout.

It finally came time to turn around and head back to T-Red. The sneaky rock piles continued on, but I had other places I wanted to visit. While hiking back, I spotted this row of stones. That wasn't natural and a little examination proved that it was part of an old road, probably the road that was used to reach the Ruby Lee Mill back when it was in operation.

Turning around, it was pretty easy to spot the road heading up into the wash from this vantage point.

Almost back to the parking area, one last Smoketree shot.

And there's T-Red, with an ice chest of cold drinks in the back. A welcome sight. It's so easy for a short jaunt into the rocks to turn into an adventure that could last the whole day. What's over that ridge, or around that bend in the wash. I need to know! And the really cool thing about that is, almost anywhere you stop your car in JTree, the same opportunity exists. Just be careful if you go offtrail. Know what you're doing, know what you're capable of and be prepared to spend a night in the desert if you can't find your way back to your car. Two words: GPS. Know how to use one and be sure you've got it with you. Waymark the place you park your car. Map and compass are good to have and know how to use as well. Last word. Snacks.

ps, I never saw a porcupine. But here's a porcupine joke:

A man in a movie theater notices what looks like a porcupine sitting next to him. "Are you a porcupine?" asked the man, surprised. "Yes," answered the porcupine. "What are you doing at the movies?" said the man. The porcupine replied, "Well, I liked the book." 

If you like porcupines, or any of the pictures from my wandering in Porcupine Wash, please feel free to download them to your computer. Use them, share them, whatever you like. There's no charge, no fee. Credit back to www.Cali49.com would be nice, but it's not required. I'm happy to share these images with everyone.