Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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"The 'Wonderland of Rocks' is a roughly twelve-square-mile, wild, and   
road-less area that is very complex and easy to get lost in,
 hence, its nickname -- 'The Wanderland' ."
~ from the MountainProject climbing website

This is a continuation of my first full day hiking at Joshua Tree, and the fourth trail I found to explore.

I'd already hiked about 4 miles total on the Mt. Ryan, Hall of Horrors, and Cap Rock trails and had the whole afternoon ahead of me on a day with perfect weather up at 4,000+ feet elevation in the park.

On the hunt for my next hike . . .

It was only about noon and I still had plenty of time and energy, so I consulted my park maps and trail descriptions and decided to continue west on the park road toward Barker Dam.


On the way I tried to find the Hidden Valley Trail at the Hidden Valley picnic area. I wound up in the Hidden Valley Campground by mistake and was unable to find the trailhead. I found it a couple days later at the picnic area, which has a separate entrance from the campground.

What I did find in the campground were some scenic campsites for tents and small RVs, and a rock formation with at least three climbers on it:

Pretty cool rocks to camp beside!

I marked three campsites with red dots.

Three climbers under two red dots

Close-up of two of those climbers; I couldn't see the ropes
until I downloaded and enlarged the photos.

A little farther down the road to Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Wall Street Mill I saw a sign for Wonderland of Rocks. That wasn't on my agenda for today but curiosity made me stop there to check it out.

I thought a ranger at the visitor center had said Wonderland was a large area of the park, not a trail per se, but I parked in the first parking area I came to and walked 1/2 mile back a sandy wash.


This is another mecca for the rock climbers and boulderers who flock to this park for the myriad of  opportunities available to test their mettle on a gazillion monzo-granite rock formations.

And, by golly, at the rock formation closest to the parking area I spotted at least three climbers ascending a route in the middle of Echo Rock. It's not one of the three routes shown on the sign I photographed:



I saw at least a dozen more climbers as I walked in the soft, sandy wash, wandering past one rock formation after another. I examined the rocks even more thoroughly than I usually do for regular photo ops, hoping to also spot as many climbers as possible.

Wonderland Wash is the second trail I found this morning that wasn't listed in the park's hiking guide or website. I just happened upon it and had to do more research later on other websites to see where and how far it goes.

Here's a good little map from the Hikespeak.com website that shows this trail's location between the Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill trails, which are listed in the park's hiking guide:

HikeSpeak describes the trail for a mile out and a mile back from this trailhead. It's the dark red line running through the middle of the map above and to the upper left, ending within view of a rock formation dubbed the Astro Dome. I didn't go that far.

An un-maintained single track path reportedly continues beyond that. It is used primarily by rock climbers and bouldering enthusiasts to reach various formations to climb.

Unfortunately, once again I didn't know what all I could see on this trail until after my hike. There is an unmarked path only 1/10th mile from the trailhead that goes to the scenic pink, crumbled ruins of Wonderland Ranch.

This is a picture of the ruins from the HikeSpeak webpage:

You can also apparently get to the old ranch house from the Wall Street Mill Trail, too, but I also missed a second side trail to the ruins while hiking the Mill Trail this afternoon.

Rats. It would have been fun to find interesting camera angles to shoot there.


Since this trail wasn't on my original list of hikes for today and I didn't know where it led, I went back the wash for only half a mile. These are some of the pictures I took along the way:


Some Joshua trees in bloom in this area, too

Two more climbers (under red dots) who've reached the top of this formation


Above and below:  three more climbers up a steep rock face,
with two of them enlarged below





After half a mile I turned around and went back to where I'd parked. The rock formations always look different from another direction:


Above and below:  Two of these three climbers may have been ones I
saw on top of the formation when I was hiking outbound.
These were coming back down when I got back to the same place.


Did I mention that I was fascinated by all the climbers today??

Here are two more, one clearly a woman who was already halfway up the formation:


Go, girl! As athletic as I've been my whole life, I was never brave enough to do technical climbing.


There are some Joshua trees in this area, most in bloom, but not as heavy a concentration of the trees as other places where I'd already hiked this morning.

I saw some of the same wildflowers and flowering shrubs I'd seen previously, including the two below:

Desert Primrose (this flower also has several other names)

Above and below:  Desert Sand Verbena

There were also lots of yellow Desert Marigolds and Wallace's Wooly Daisies blooming near these flowers. 

The next widely spreading purple flower was new to me -- Freckled Milkvetch. This clump is about three feet wide:


That short hike was entertaining and gave me another mile at 4,100+ feet. I was up to about 5 miles for the day and it was still early afternoon. I wanted more.

So I headed for the nearby Wall Street Mill trailhead, hiking that trail out and back and also the Barker Dam loop.

Next entry:  hike #5 for the day -- history and more on the Wall Street Mill Trail

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil