Humbug and Eagle Mountains Joshua Tree National Park 2023

Time for a solo adventure to bag Humbug and Eagle Mountains in Joshua Tree.

Humbug was first and a very easy mountain. The adventure/challenge was to get out to it via old BLM roads. I tried approaching from the north to get to the west trailhead of the climb, but roads on my map no longer existed or roads I tried were not on my map. Finally, the third attempt brought me to the trailhead.

Halfway up the Mountain is the Imperial Mine, and signs said it was still active. No one was around so I went about 300 feet into the lower shaft. A second adit was higher and connected to the lower shaft by a rickety old ladder. I didn’t try it. A chute was made to transfer ore down to the shaft and equipment was there suggesting fairly recent activity. Making the summit, I put on my Humbug face and snapped a selfie. (1.6 miles 470 feet gain)

I spent the night at the Cottonwood Campground. It was full but very quiet for a commercial campsite. I was treated to a specular sunset. (Click on any images to view slides)

Early the next morning I headed across the desert to Eagle Mountain. A ranger told me that he hadn’t hiked it, but expect a full, hard day. The first 3 miles across the desert were uneventful, but entering the ravine up the first ridge I met the only hiker I was to see in two days. He had spent the night on the mountain. The ravine was very steep and its ~1-mile straight-up climb seemed endless. There was one 20 foot dry fall I had to negotiate. As I got to the saddle on the ridge, my GPS unit went blank. My other phone apps worked but I lost the tracks I was to follow as well as the recording of my current track. Important to find my way back out.

So, with no navigational aid (forgot a hard copy map), I was so close I had to keep going.  The mountain peak was about a mile out and I had to find my way across/through a large maze of red rock boulders. Making the summit and having lunch, I started looking around for a route back down. The compass on my phone worked and I could see San Gorgonio and San Jacinto in the distance. As long as I could see them, I could eventually find my way to a road bisecting Joshua Tree. The toughest navigational part was crossing back through the red rock maze. Once through it, going downhill, trails and tracks are easier to follow so I didn’t have much trouble finding the mouth of the ravine. However, going down the ravine was very sketchy. Every rock required 2 steps, the first to test if it was steady and the second to see if it actually held my weight. Sometimes it didn’t.  A fall down the ravine not only was perilous, but on the way down you would be skewered by agave and yucca and shredded by Cat’s Claw Bush. I went very slowly. It took me over 1 ½ hours to negotiate the descent.

Going across the final 3 miles of desert was relatively easy using only the compass. There were some intereesting rock formations along the way, inclding an ape eating a dog. I got to my car and had a beer. (11.5 miles 2,600 gain) [Postscript. Cal Topo said I had a bug in my map programs and are addressing it.] (click on any image to view slides)

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