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The access off SR247 is Boone Rd, well-signed for the Johnson Valley Open Area. A good sand/gravel road reaches nearly to dry Means Lake and I was able to drive the van even further to the north end of the lake. Heading east, the road devolves into a variety of OHV routes, causing some concern as the one I traveled grew progressively sandier. It helped that recent rains had left the ground damp and the sand firmer than it might otherwise be, but I stopped before getting myself into trouble, about 3.5mi from the summit. it was the first of a six-day roadtrip and it seemed prudent not to push the van on the first day. A couple of motorcyclists were camped at the northwest end of the lake with their gear and a larger commercial group further south, but I would have the route to Maumee to myself and only heard their motors across the desert in the far distance.
The route to Maumee is pretty straightforward - in fact any of numerous routes could be used to equal effect. I followed a branch of the road I had been driving as it continued east through a of low hills and into a rocky wash before ending up against the base of Maumee's west side. From here I hiked directly up some 1,000ft over relatively easy terrain to the summit. I passed over an OHV road high on the mountain, just below the summit. It was impressive that vehicles could get up here (this was before I knew about the King of the Hammers event and what sort of vehicles play around in these hills). It took about an hour and quarter to reach the top around 3:30p, leaving me just over an hour of remaining sunshine. Lingering clouds from the passing storm made for picturesque horizons in all directions. A register left by John Vitz in 2006 had only a handful of entries since then, though oddly I was the third visitor in 2014.
On my way back I followed the high road I had crossed over, wondering where it descended off the mountain. It branched off in multiple directions as I followed one of these down a steep ravine that I found most impressive of all. Here there were rocks 2-3ft in diameter with clear evidence of vehicles driving over them. I thought that as the ravine got steeper and narrow the OHVs would give up, but their treads continued all the way to the bottom and back out to the easier road I had hiked in on. Later this led me to an online search and discovering the meaning of "rock crawling". The sun had set behind low clouds hanging on the western horizon, coloring the sky before twilight began to set over the desert landscape. Driving back over Means Lake in the dark was a little trying as I found water standing in places that had me nervous. I got out to test the ground at several places, but finding it surprisingly firm helped reassure me and I continued driving, following the GPS track I had made driving in just to make sure I didn't find any unexpected mud holes. The nearly-full moon rose over the Bullion Mtns to the east before I had reached the highway again. I stopped to take a photo that hardly did it justice in the night sky. I still had almost two hours of driving to get me around to the SE side of Joshua Tree, but I do enjoy desert driving even at night, and hardly minded the effort at all...
This page last updated: Thu Dec 11 12:19:48 2014
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