Zebra Cliffs Labyrinth - Joshua Tree National Park

Trek Date: July 23rd 2017

Yes, that's another one of the Joshua Tree place names that I made up. Although, it's possible that the labyrinth near the north section of the Zebra Cliffs actually is known by that name by whoever created it. It's one of the mysteries of the desert.

So the backstory: less than a week before making this trip, I saw a picture of a spiral rock pattern in one of the Joshua Tree Facebook groups that intrigued me. It was taken by fellow explortographer Peter Berggren, who had spotted it while hiking in the general vicinity of Jumbo Rocks campground. An interesting Facebook discussion arose regarding the appropriateness of this recently constructed bit of spiral rock art in a National Park; with some voices decrying it as vandalism while others (myself included) defended it as a neat (and photogenic) thing to run across while hiking in the desert. As is my curse, whenever I see something amazing like this in a picture that I didn't take, I immediately want to go and photograph the object for myself. And since the rock art had been reported to park officials who will determine if it stays or goes, I wanted to get out there quick in case its fate is to be disbursed.

Who created the Zebra Cliffs Labyrinth? I don't know, however, Peter gave me a theory that sounds right on the mark. Perhaps rock climbers created the pattern, as a place to relax/meditate either before or after climbing the Zebra Cliffs formations. Sounds entirely plausible to me. But enough jibber jabber, let's get to the labyrinth.

As I drove through JTree, towards Jumbo Rocks campground, I was amazed at how empty the park was. Granted, it was around 5:00 pm on a Sunday with temps in the mid-90s, but there were NO cars in the major parking lots along the way: Boy Scout Trailhead, Quail Springs, Hemingway, Hall of Horrors, Ryan Mountain. It was like a ghost park. When I arrived at Jumbo Rocks, I had my choice of nearly any campsite. I chose #28 and as the afternoon was getting late, I headed out to find the labyrinth.

Here's a look backwards, with my favorite Jumbo Rocks formation in the distance, the one I call Hole-in-the-Wall.

There's a huge slab of rock along the way that is very impressive.

This is a very interesting formation along the way that I will be returning to for exploration. The terraces are what intrigued me about this location, and what appear to be "easy" approaches to the top. 

That large formation is the Crown Prince Lookout. My destination was nearby.

And there it was, the labyrinth with the north portion of the Zebra Cliffs in the background.

I hope the park leaves the Zebra Cliffs Labyrinth in place. Personally, I do not find it takes away anything from the beauty of the desert, I rather believe it adds to the mystery and joy of discovery that can be experienced by hiking in the wilderness.

Besides looking for the labyrinth, I had another reason to be in JTree on the 23rd. It would be a new moon and a perfect night for astrophotography (a big word meaning taking pictures of the stars). I'm a beginner and was looking forward to giving it a shot (unintentional pun left in place). Unfortunately, an area of high pressure over the four corners and a lot of monsoon moisture combined for a mostly cloudy night.

There were a lot of stars up there, but those pesky clouds got between them and my lens.

But that just gives me a good reason to return to JTree next month, to again attempt to uncover the mysteries of ISO, WB and manual focusing. I'm not sure if it was the Indio area, or Palm Springs that was throwing all that light off the clouds, perhaps both.

While waiting for night to fall, I wandered around the rocks and found this Jumbo Mutant Bunny.

"Jumbo Arch" was nearby.

The Juniper of Jumbo Rocks.

Please feel free to download any of my images for use in your projects. Credit back to Cali49.com would be nice, but it's not required. 

One last shot of the labyrinth, the GoPro perspective.