Thursday, April 23, 2020

Garrett's Arch

Garrett's Arch... said to be the largest arch in Joshua Tree National Park. Also said to be located at the highest elevation of any significant arch in the Park. I'm an arch lover and yet had never taken the time to hike to it. That's assuming I can find it. I was long overdue! 

There are a lot of photos with this post, so pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage, get comfortable, and enjoy!

Photo credit: http://cali49.com/jtnp/2013/9/2/garretts-arch  Thanks, Elliot!
The Wonderland of Rocks is a huge conglomerate of rocks and boulders sticking up out of the ground like... well, like a bunch of rocks. It's not like the rest of the Park doesn't have lots of rocks and boulders. But the Wonderland just has more. Much more.

Sitting near the center of the Wonderland, Garrett's Arch is not the easiest place to get to. On the other hand, the location isn't "secret" like so many of the other spots I visit or stumble upon. The challenge is to make your way up, around, and across various washes and a seemingly endless landscape of huge boulders and crazy rock formations. An early landmark as we start our hike is the Wonderland Ranch, which I recently posted about here.

The going may be slow at times, but the scenery is magnificent. Occasionally there is a trail to follow, but often the trail disappears, or splinters into many trails. It's best to study the terrain thoroughly before you go and mark waypoints on your GPS device. It's very easy to get disoriented in the rocky terrain.

You will hike by the hidden cave that contains a bighorn sheep skeleton. I think I may be one of the few people who know about it. I happened upon it when hiking with my friend Patrick Tillett a couple years back. At the time, I reported it to the Park Service and gave them the coordinates. They said it was very likely a mountain lion kill. On this hike, I wanted to see if it was where we left it. Yep, still there, although it appears the Park Service has tried to hide it by covering it with Nolina leaves. I uncovered the head, took this photo, and then covered it back up the way I found it before heading on my way.

Keep your eyes open for this interesting rock. He goes by various names, including "The Creature" and "The Walrus". If you see him, you will know you are going in the correct direction (north). When viewed from the other direction, he looks like a giant wave.
Just goes to show you... rocks and arches look completely different when viewed from different directions. On your return hike, after visiting Garrett's Arch, you will see "The Wave" but not "The Creature"!

Somewhere past "The Creature", Wonderland Wash will start to open up. This makes it a little easier to get lost or turned around. A good landmark in this area is to continue in the general direction of "Punk Rock". See the rock formation in the upper center of the photo with the spiky rocks sticking up?

See the rock face? (center right)


Close up of Punk Rock
For my money, you just can't beat the Wonderland of Rocks area for it's rugged beauty. You likely won't have the place all to yourself and you will see LOTS of footprints, so a very different experience than what I am used to out in the east Joshua Tree Wilderness Area. But an overall wonderful experience in a beautiful setting.


The Freak Brothers rock formation

The three Freak Brothers in B&W
Somewhere in a hidden location in this general area is a large rocky surface with a profusion of Native American rock art. It's definitely worth visiting and it's more or less on your way to Garrett's Arch. The pictographs and petroglyphs are nothing short of amazing. 

If you are relying solely on rock formations to guide you to Garrett's Arch (which I don't recommend), things can get a little weird. You should have hiked past "The Creature" and have been using Punk Rock to guide you north. Take the second right after the Freak Brothers, which means you will be heading east. Very soon, you should see "Weenie Rock" on your right (I didn't make that one up) and the Red Obelisk. You should also see Fat Freddie's Cat and Peabrain rock formations in this area. See what I mean about things getting weird??

Weenie Rock in the foreground.

Heart rock... or perhaps butt rock??

Close up of the Weenie

The Red Obelisk. You can't miss it!
The Red Obelisk, as seen from the back side.

Dinosaur Rock (I made that one up)
And finally...
Garrett's Arch. It's sooooooo much more impressive in person. It's difficult to get any scale on the photo, so you can't appreciate how big it really is.

Closer...

Closer...

Closest! (glad I had my telephoto lens with me)
Here are a couple photos to help give you some perspective. I didn't take them.
Photo credit: http://www.wendyandcurtis.com/experiences-posts/2016/2/27/finding-garretts-arch
I made the decision (probably one of my few smart decisions) to not hike up to the arch. I was hiking alone, the rocks looked steep and slick, and my legs were already tired. But I like this photo because it helps you appreciate the size of Garrett's Arch.

Photo credit: https://www.meetup.com/HI-DESERT-HIKING-CLUB/photos
Another perspective photo. I don't know these intrepid hikers, but they made it up to the arch, so I give them lots of credit. Congratulations!

At some point on the hike back, not far from the arch, things got cloudy, the light went flat, and these desert shrubs really came alive. The yellows and reds were everywhere. It was a magical moment that didn't last long. When the sun came back out, the colors blended in with the background and all but disappeared. Amazing!

Profile shot of the three Freak Brothers. So long, friends, until my next visit!

Wave rock. Almost home!!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Please stay safe and healthy. I just read a notice on my phone that CA recorded it's deadliest day yet, with 115 deaths in the last 24 hours from COVID-19.

40 comments:

  1. Now, that's quite the set of directions. Who named those rocks? Just imagine trying to describe that location without GPS (or even a map of some sort).

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  2. ...a beauty place, but a challenging place to survive! Thanks for sharing these wonderful images, take care and stay safe.

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  3. Great collection of shots.

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  4. I am tired going along with you on this trip. Never would attempt it.

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  5. Absolutely fascinating. I can't believe you hiked that alone!

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  6. you always find such amazing skies in the desert

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  7. Great photos, and love all those different rock formation names :)

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  8. Wow love those rock formation with clouds in backdrop. The only scary part to walk along these surfaces is nasty serpents.

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  9. Totaly amazing scenes from the park, that way you showed looks quite extreem to walk saying the least, it cannot have been easy looking at the size of the bolders well done on getting there. The rockf ormations were someting else.

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  10. Where you stand with the other two hikers, that gives an idea how big the arch rock formation is! Love all the name for the diverse rocks! Somehow you saw many on this trip. Am glad you can keep track of where you are at - that would be a big problem for me. since I can hardly find my way around with roads!! This indeed was a show, Peter. Many thanks for sharing this trip with us.
    What happened - suddenly so many deaths? Or are they all in San Fran? Wishing you a healthy and happy week, Jesh

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  11. What an adventure in Wonderland. Thanks for the tour. Wonderful name ---I enjoyed the Freak brother---Rock band??--LOL
    MB

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  12. Actually I found that dinosaur rock reminded me more of Snoopy. Your pictures are amazing with their detail and feeling of depth. Wonderful post.

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  13. It is just amazing the large variety of shapes you can find in a rocky landscape.
    The dinosaur rock is my favourite, of course! :)
    Enjoy your weekend!

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  14. I really admire how much you know your place by heart my friend! And again I'm never gonna tire of saying and wishing that "I hope to visit there too someday". Stunning photos!

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  15. That's what I like about your photos and updates, you always seem to find something new.

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  16. A lot of new faces to discover in that overload of natures statues. Always a joy to see. Thank you.

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  17. Wow, another super great series of desert pics !
    I can't get enough.

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  18. Hello, another great hike at Joshua Tree. The rock formations and sky are beautiful.
    The Freak Brothers is a perfect name, I love the red obelisk, the wave rock, the arch.
    Great post and beautiful photos. Take care! Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend!

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  19. What an adventure.
    Your photos of this great hike are awesome as always.

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  20. Freaky names. Freaky scenery. Another series of great pictures (not at all freaky). Thank you again for taking us along.

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  21. Such Stunning Features - Really Enjoyed This Post - So Many Well Hidden Treasures Here On Earth - Thanx For Sharing And NOT Revealing Its Location As Well - Stay Strong Brother

    Cheers

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  22. What an incredible hike. Lots of new characters hidden among the giants. Fantastic photos, thanks for sharing and take care! Stay safe!

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  23. I so admire how you hike alone and know where you are at and can name the structures you are looking at. You are an incredible man! Keep on hiking! It is your passion. Stay safe out there.

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  24. Such unique looking formations beautifully presented.

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  25. Amazing captures amd names of rocks that bring a smile!

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  26. I cannot say it enough, thanks for taking us along. I am an arch over also, I know many folk are, they are impressive and my mind tries to SEE just how it came about. Other than the ARCH, my next favorite is the Walrus.
    You have a great eye with a camera. We enjoyed them all.
    Sherry & jack

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  27. Wow amazing! The sky with clouds look so dramatic. So well composed pictures of the rocks. Happy SWF!

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  28. Another fantastic set of desert photos ~ always a delight to see ~ wonder if you had to search for names of these rock formations ~ ???? Gorgeous sky and cloud photos ~

    Be Well,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  29. The Freak Brothers remind me of the stone statues on Easter Island. You sure know your way around the boulders in Joshua Tree. Do you have to get it a back way or has it opened up again. When do you have to stop hiking due to hot weather? - Margy

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  30. The profile of the Freak Brothers reminded me of Easter Island too. It looks like a place of endless mysteries. Happy trails!

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  31. Another intrepid adventure. That looks like a good place to either get lost or break and ankle or both. Amazing orientation you have in the desert and a great eye for photographs.

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  32. Just amazing Peter. Breathtaking beauty. ( Although the Freak Brothers just made me laugh. ). That the formations look totally different from opposite sides gave me flutters ... I imagine that might make it even easier to get turned completely around out there. Not to sound like an old biddy (but why not, I am one) ... do you get cell service at all out there? I keep thinking of being all alone out there. One thing for sure, social distancing is easier if you’re able to get out there! Thanks for sharing the awe!

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  33. The beauty just kept coming and coming. A fabulous series of photos. How incredible that all of this is on one hike!!! Glad you were able to get out and enjoy your wild desert environment!!!

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  34. My goodness! I adore all the colorful names of these interesting formations and landmarks. What an adventure! I'd be a little afraid not to find my way back out of there.

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  35. What a wonderful assortment of rocks and descriptions for them! I am always impressed by the variety of things you find in this park and I'm so glad you follow the "Take only photos, leave only footprints" philosophy, Peter. You are a true stewart of this wonderland

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