In early 2016, I dusted off my peak-bagging boots and climbed up the 3,137 ft Duct Peak. It's a small peak in the far eastern part of Joshua Tree in what I call the "Empty Quarter" of the park. This section of the park is undeveloped, and the peak is rarely climbed. It is a wild and trailless area, just the way I like it.
I picked the peak because it looked like it would have great views of the vast Pinto Basin to the south. And it looked like a relatively easy hike from the highway. One of those things turned out to be true. The peak has fantastic views, but it was more adventurous and rocky than expected. Getting to the top required scrambles up and down rocks most of the way to the summit. The final climb is the most difficult. So, it wasn't an easy hike. But the toughness of the hike wasn't the only surprise that was in store for me.
On the way to the peak, I stumbled upon a small campsite. It didn't look very old but definitely long abandoned. The camp consists of a few bottles and cans, the head of a rake, and a storage structure. Someone camped here a few times. Not sure why, though. I couldn't see any good reason for the spot other than the rock outcrop. It's an odd little place.
After the campsite, I continued toward the peak. I hiked into the valley behind the campsite, followed it to its end, climbed onto jagged granite ridges, and scrambled along rocky slopes to the peak.
If it's clear, Duct Peak has excellent views of the vast Pinto Basin to the south and in all directions. The formidable Coxcombs are off to the southeast, the Eagle Mountains in the south, San Jacinto in far the southwest, and Mt. San Gorgonio in the west. Ryan, Quail, and Queen Mountains are minor summits in between the more massive San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. They can be hard to spot.
On the way up to the peak, I saw something small and blue down off to the east in the wash. It was too far away to see what it was, but it warranted investigation. After reaching the peak, I climbed down the slopes and headed towards it.
It turned out to be an old Ford truck half-buried in the sandy wash. It has been there for a long time. Someone must have taken it for a joy ride a long time ago. All roads are closed out here; we are well into the wilderness.
After the truck, I walked back to the trailhead. This is great country and lots of fun to hike around in.