Joshua Tree National Park, April 23 & 24, 2017

I’ve been enamored with the desert ever since the first time I saw it back in 2010.  I’ve been there in summer, fall and winter, but never had the opportunity to experience it in the spring.  After our last visit in January, I planned ahead and booked our room right away because I wanted to experience my first wildflower bloom in the desert.  The weekend finally arrived and my husband and I headed back to Joshua Tree.  After checking into the Campbell House, our favorite bed and breakfast in Twentynine Palms, we headed into the park through the North Entrance.  As soon as we began our drive up Utah Trail and onto Park Blvd., I began to see the blooms.  I could hardly contain myself!  Flowers everywhere!  We pulled the car over just barely a mile into the park, and as soon as I stepped out, I immediately saw some beautiful white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars munching away on the desert wildflowers.  The entire park was a flutter with butterflies; swallowtails, cabbage whites, checker whites and a number of others that I couldn’t identify.  I’d never seen the desert look so green before.  There was so much to see and it was so full of life!  We spent the whole day in the park sightseeing and hiking the trails.  

That afternoon we had an early dinner around 5 pm.  I knew the sun would be setting around 7 and I wanted to capture some of that gorgeous desert light.  We headed back into the park and decided to stop at Ryan Mountain to watch the show.  As we walked along the trail, white-lined sphinx moths were everywhere nectaring on the wildflowers.  Every time I stood still to take a picture, I could hear their wings fluttering close to my ear. I loved watching them buzzing from flower to flower feeding on the nectar.  As the sun went down, I took some photos of the amazing colors with a backdrop of rock formations and Joshua Trees.  We then headed to the Hidden Valley Trailhead near Intersection rock.  It was getting dark now, but it was just light enough to capture the beautiful yellows and blues.  In the sky, Jupiter, Venus and a waning crescent moon were visible.  After some photos of the Joshua Trees, we headed back to Park Blvd and drove until we found a quiet turnout where we could park the car, look up into the sky and get lost in the deep sea of a million stars.  I am captivated every time I see it.  Looking up into the stars with the soft desert wind is just one of those things you have to experience for yourself.  

After we had taken in the night sky, we headed back to our cottage to spend some time enjoying the cozy accommodations.  Usually, when I stay at Campbell House I sleep more soundly then I ever do at home; however, this time I was too excited.  I checked my star finder app to find out what time Sagittarius would be visible in the sky.  Sagittarius is in the core of the Milky Way and I wanted to see when it would be above the horizon so I could try and get a photo.  At 3:20 am, I woke up without an alarm, ran outside in pajamas, looked up in the sky and behold there was the Milky Way!  I get super excited about these things so of course I had to wake up my poor husband who was sound asleep to come look.  Besides the spectacular Milky Way, we were also able to see some of the Lyrid meteor shower.  A few big fireballs passed through the sky as we star gazed in the early morning hours.  

Obviously after all this excitement I could not possibly go back to sleep.  So I hopped in the shower, got dressed and out we went back into the desert to watch the magnificent sunrise from Skull Rock.  There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing the sun coming up in the desert.  The colors are out of this world and it’s simply magical!  We spent a few hours enjoying the views and taking photos before heading back to our cottage for a nap and some breakfast.

After a delicious breakfast as only the Campbell House can do, we relaxed on the back porch before the drive home.  There were a lot of doves nesting on the grounds so their cooing coupled with the sound of the desert wind was very soothing.  I didn’t want to leave.  It's always so hard!  On the way back we took Park Blvd. through the park one last time, and I took a few more photos as we headed out to highway 62.  We’ll be back again in June, and I’m hoping to try my hand at star photography and maybe even get another, even better shot of that gorgeous magical Milky Way!
 

The hiking trail off Keys View Road near Juniper Flats was a golden blanket of Wallace Woolly Daisy and Desert Dandelion

The hiking trail off Keys View Road near Juniper Flats was a golden blanket of Wallace Woolly Daisy and Desert Dandelion

Desert Dandelion

Desert Dandelion

Desert Mallow

Desert Mallow

Swallowtail butterflies were everywhere.

Swallowtail butterflies were everywhere.

White-lined sphnix moth on desert mallow

White-lined sphnix moth on desert mallow

Desert Dandelion

Desert Dandelion

Cholla cactus bloom

Cholla cactus bloom

Desert mallow

Desert mallow

Colla cactus at Ryan Mountain at sunset

Colla cactus at Ryan Mountain at sunset

This image and the following were taken just minutes apart during sunset at Ryan Mountain.  The light can change so drastically in the desert in just minutes.  It's a spectacular show every time!

This image and the following were taken just minutes apart during sunset at Ryan Mountain.  The light can change so drastically in the desert in just minutes.  It's a spectacular show every time!

Joshua Trees at Hidden Valley Trailhead just after sunset

Joshua Trees at Hidden Valley Trailhead just after sunset

This is a photo of the Milky Way as see from the front porch of our cottage at the Campbell House in Twentynine Palms.  It was taken at about 3:30 am.  I literally ran out of bed in my pajamas, because I knew Sagittarius (located in the core of the Milky Way) would be above the horizon.  It was incredible!

This is a photo of the Milky Way as see from the front porch of our cottage at the Campbell House in Twentynine Palms.  It was taken at about 3:30 am.  I literally ran out of bed in my pajamas, because I knew Sagittarius (located in the core of the Milky Way) would be above the horizon.  It was incredible!

A waning crescent moon with planet Venus to the left just before sunrise at Skull Rock

A waning crescent moon with planet Venus to the left just before sunrise at Skull Rock

Sunrise at skull rock as seen through a yucca plant

Sunrise at skull rock as seen through a yucca plant