As the Summer turns to fall, the shores turn chill and the hillsides to tinder, the eyes of the camper (and Scoutmaster) turn toward the desert. October through March is prime camping time in California’s arid regions. Days are comfortable, nights are chilly but not arctic, and enough animals are active during the day to make hiking more than a long walk.
One of my favorite places in the desert is Saddleback Butte State Park, a modest, Joshua Tree-girt peak located in the heart of a triangle between Palmdale, Victorville, and Edwards Air Force Base. The campsites are mostly primitive, but there are toilets and showers, making extended stays possible.
I have been twice, and only on the last trip – in early 2020 – was I in the kind of shape to take on the crest of the Butte. It’s about a 1,200′ rise in about 4 miles, but the altitude is enough to tucker someone in poor shape, and the last 100 feet is a scramble not far from some fairly sheer cliffs. Summiting this modest promontory was more satisfying that I had imagined it would be, and vistas from Palmdale to east to Victorville and Edwards south to the ridges behind Wrigtwood on a bright and clear day were a huge payoff. I only regret not having taking better pictures.
I rewarded myself and my scouts with the above patch, purchased from the park gift shop in a trailer at the north end of the park, just as I had watched my predecessor do on our last trip.
This will go on a brag rag of some sort, either a blanket or a shirt. Either way, it is a favorite. I hope to go back soon: the campground is a delight and worth the drive.