Date: April 18, 2017
Place: Rainbow Basin, Barstow, California
Coordinates (of Owl Canyon trailhead):
Length: 2 miles in and out
Level: easy to moderate
On spring break with only 5 days to catch up on this spring's superbloom we whooshed through Carrizo Plain on our first day, and on the second we hurried south toward Joshua Tree National Park only to find ourselves stuck in a huge traffic jam near Boron. We bypassed the traffic jam by taking the long dirt road called Rosewood Blvd which turned out to be an amazing ride, deserving its own blog post. So it was than when we finally arrived at Barstow it was already way past lunchtime and we were all famished. After taking care of that we popped in the town's BLM office and inquired about local hiking trails. They sent us to Rainbow Basin Natural Area - a place I already noticed on the map and thought might be a good spot to check out. Turns out it was a great spot to check out.
Already on the way we had to stop for wildflowers. The prince plume with its bright candle-like bloom lit up the desert scenery.
|Desert Princeplume, Stanleya pinnata|
|Beavertail Cactus, Opuntia basilaris|
|Desert Mariposa Lily, Calochortus kennedyi|
The dirt road we were driving on was on excellent condition, almost pavement compared with yesterday's Rosewood Blvd. Still, we were going slow, taking in all the beautiful geology around us.
There is a place along the loop with a wide parking space and a view point of the Rainbow Basin valley. We stopped there briefly to appreciate the rainbow colored rocks.
|Desert Larkspur, Delphinium parishii|
|Nevada Gilia, Gilia brecciarum|
After finishing the loop drive we turned to Owl Canyon campground where the trailhead was. Only a handful of the campsites were occupied and the campground, which looked really nice and inviting, was very quiet (which made it all the more inviting to me).
We drove to the end of the campground and found the trailhead there. There was no description of the hike on the sign but the trail leading down to the wash was very obvious.
|Our hike as captured by Pappa Quail's GPS|
Every now and then we passed a flat sediment area which was covered with annual vegetation dominated by the yellow bloom of the desert trumpet. This plant look like a light yellow cloud and was very challenging for me to photograph. After many attempts I settled for the 'yellow dot cloud' look.
|Desert Trumpet, Eriogonum inflatum|
|Clavate fruited Evening Primrose, Chylismia claviformis|
Above us on the cliff we were watched by the iconic representatives of the Mojave Desert - the Joshua trees. There weren't many of them there, and those we've seen had only few branches (branching of Joshua trees occur only upon blooming).
|Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia|
|Tamarisk, Tamarix sp.|
|Borrowbrush, Ambrosia salsola|
|Heliotrope Phacelia, Phacelia crenulata|
Not knowing for sure and with Grandma Quail not willing to crawl in the dark we took the first choice and assisting one another we passed the boulder obstacle and continued on.
|Mojave Yucca, Yucca schidigera|
Every now and then we got a remainder that we were hiking in the Rainbow Basin area. Rocks of very different colors from their surrounding were carried over by long past flash floods and temporarily deposited were we had found them. Temporarily - until the next flood comes though.
Past the narrows we continued slower up the canyon. We didn't have a map nor a good description of the trail on hand, and we didn't know if it was supposed to be a loop or just an in-and-out trail. Therefore we kept looking for any potential trail branching that might lead us out of the canyon and over the hill.
We didn't find any side trails, but Grandma Quail and I did find the inconspicuous desert plantain blooming on one of the side sediment shelves along the canyon walls.
|Desert Plantain, Plantago ovata|
Pappa Quail allotted me 3 minutes. I grunted and hurried up the creek while my family sat down for a break.
All thoughts of the time limit blew away with the next wildflower sighting.
|Brittlebush, Encelia sp.|
I climbed back down, caressing the beautiful rocks as I descended. There were nice rock formations to explore and a nice arch that let the sunshine through. I was loathe to leave so soon without a thorough exploration but I had to get back to my family. Besides, it was getting late and we still had a good chunk of driving ahead of us.
I consoled myself with a good close-up photo of a pretty prince plume and a silent promise to myself to return one day to this promising canyon.
|Desert Princeplume, Stanleya pinnata|
We moved back down the canyon at a much quicker pace now, but when Pappa Quail saw a hummingbird he stopped short and stood there for a while, trying to get a good shot of the tiny, hyperactive bird that was doing its best to keep a good distance from us.
After Pappa Quail was satisfied with his photos we continued on. When we arrived at the rock collapse everyone went again over the side, but I chose to crawl under. Not that I found anything thrilling there, but it gave me a good feeling. I felt that although I had to settle for a short, quick hike, I could still get some extra thrill from it.
And at any rate, the rocks looked very pretty up close :-)
We caught up with the sunshine again as we neared the canyon mouth again, but the line of direct light was rising rapidly now.
As we made our way up to the campground I wished again to come back to this place. This time I voiced my wish.
Pappa Quail agreed with me. He even suggested that we could camp at the Owl Canyon campground. The desert beauty and its quiet serenity really does grab one's soul.
Before long we were in the car, heading southeast toward Yucca Valley, on our way to visit one of the most beautiful and unique desert areas in California and in general: Joshua Tree National Park.