Pinkham Canyon Trip Report
November 11-12 • By Jerry Dupree
We had a great trip beginning with meeting at “The Rock Camp” about three miles from the Hayfield off ramp of I-10, east of Chiriaco Summit. The trip was led by Jerry and Dolly Dupree and attended by Mignon Slentz, her son Joaquin, and Greg, a high school classmate of hers. Greg camped out but did not accompany us on the trip. Mal Roode was with us, and we were met at the Cottonwood entrance road to Joshua Tree National Park by Pete and Janet Austin, who “camped” in a hotel in Indio. Sadly, Lindsey had to change her plans because of a family emergency
and was not able to be with us. We had good cell phone reception, which allowed us to make connections at the right time without being rushed and no one was late.
Due to the three day weekend we established and occupied the campsite early Thursday. We had some rude neighbors near us who were speeding around our camp with ATVs and dirt bikes, as well as firing guns at night.
Our first destination was the site of Camp Young, which was the WWll headquarters desert training facility for preparing Patton’s army for the invasion of North Africa. It was active for over two years preparing and training for D-Day and the war in the Pacific. It was one of 15 training camps in the California, Arizona, and Nevada desert. It was a very appropriate stop due to the significance of Veteran’s Day weekend.
The next stop was the Bajada nature trail, just inside the National Park. It is a pleasant stroll across a small bridge with well marked trails and signs describing the plant and animal life in the “bajada” desert habitat. There are benches to sit and enjoy the serenity. Bajada is a Spanish word for flood plain.
We stopped at the Park Visitor’s Center to check in and anyone “under age” (under 62) to pay the $20 entrance fee. We looked at exhibits and souvenirs. I just had to buy a tee shirt.
Our schedule was to continue to Cotton.wood Spring. Since the parking lot was full, we shifted to Plan B, which was to return to Cot.tonwood Spring after four-wheeling through Pinkham Canyon.
The tour of Pinkham Canyon begins across the road from the Visitor’s Center/Ranger Station. Pinkham Canyon was once a gold mining area. I was unable to find out the origin of the name. The trip descends from its trail head near the southern entrance to the National Park through sand washes, mountain passes, gorges, and rock outcroppings. It is obvious that the vegetation varies according to water sources, sun exposure, and altitude. All of it was beautiful. We only met three other vehicles on the trail, so there were no traffic inconveniences. Four-wheel drive was necessary in soft sand areas and certainly when we encountered a couple of areas with large rocks. We stopped for lunch and then continued at a pace that would not damage vehicles or their contents, and would allow everyone to enjoy the views. About half way through the trip Mignon informed us that her son Joaquin was suffering from the effects of an accident and they would have to leave us. It took about 3 1/2 hours to complete the trip through Pinkham Canyon and end up very near the starting point at Cottonwood Road off ramp of I-10. We returned to the Visitor’s Center, approximately eight miles and about one mile from Cottonwood Spring, where we were all able to find parking spaces. We hiked down to a beautiful palm oasis with an abundance of birds and past evidence of Native American life. There are grind stones in the rocks for grinding mesquite beans and other naturally available food. There are hiking trails of varying difficulty with scenic views of rock formations and desert plants. At the end of the hike we enjoyed a beautiful desert sunset. All agreed that it was a wonderful trip.
~ Jerry Dupree
Photos by Jerry & Dolly Dupree and Janet Austin