Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

Joshua Tree National Park, January 20, 2019

After our snowshoeing excursion on Mount San Jacinto, we drove an hour to Twentynine Palms to spend the rest of the weekend at our favorite bed and breakfast, the Campbell House. We arrived early enough to relax for a bit before heading out for dinner and drinks at the Twentynine Palms Inn. It was a great way to end the day. I slept very well that night until I awoke around 5:45 am and decided to wake my husband up so we could head into the park by 6:48 am in time to watch the sun come up. As much as I would have liked to sleep in, I never miss a desert sunrise. We quickly put on some clothes, threw our backpacks and some extra water in the car and drove into the park. The colors were phenomenal as always! It was chilly, but I was bundled up so I barely noticed. It was quiet with not many people around since it was still very early. The only sounds we heard were the birds peacefully singing and I saw a huge hare hop by. His feet were quite large and he had long, black tipped ears. I took a some photos as the sun came up and then we spent some time simply enjoying the tranquil morning before heading back for breakfast. Later on, after checking out of the bed and breakfast, we decided to drive through the park. We had mixed feelings about it since all of the issues going on with the government shut down, but we wanted to see for ourselves. We discovered that there were rangers working both the West and North entrances (without pay). The park looked like it was being well taken care of by the volunteers. The ranger told us that the Visitor Center on Park Blvd. was open and being operated by Joshua Tree National Park Association. We stopped off at the visitor center and made a donation. It was the least we could do to help their efforts. If I lived near and worked in Joshua Tree National Park, I'm sure I'd be working for free too. Joshua Tree is a very sacred and special place. I was happy to see it being well cared for.

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Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Dunes, Amboy Crater, Joshua Tree National Park, April 28, 2018

Mojave National Preserve, Kelso Dunes, Amboy Crater, Joshua Tree National Park, April 28, 2018

Our desert adventures started with a trip to the Mojave National Preserve to hike the singing sands of the Kelso Dunes.  

The hike starts out on a sandy track that heads straight.  As you hike, the terrain is mostly flat until you get closer to the dunes where you’ll begin to cross many smaller dunes before arriving at the base.  There really isn’t an established trail because the wind is constantly shifting the sand, but you can make out footprints where others have made their way up.  Just keep heading towards the highest point, and try to avoid stepping on any vegetation.  As you begin to ascend, hiking becomes more strenuous.  Your feet sink into the deep sand and for every step you take forward, you’ll slide two steps back.  It’s no easy task, but getting up to the top is totally worth it!  Once you’re on top, follow the sandy spine all the way to the peak where it levels off.  You’ll have a great place to sit and enjoy the surrounding views.  

Now for the best part… When you’re done taking it all in, you’ll can slide your way down!  If conditions are right, you’ll hear the dunes boom or sing and feel them vibrate underneath you.  This phenomena is caused by sheets of sand cascading down and rubbing against the stationary sand below.  It’s really something to experience and there are only 30 other dunes in the world that can do this.  I was elated that we were able to hear them sing today!

Our next stop was Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark, just off Route 66.  The crater is a cinder cone type of volcano that last erupted about 10,000 years ago.  To get to it, you hike through a lava field and then up and into the crater where you can walk around its edge.  It’s about a 3 mile round trip hike.  Sadly, we were unable to hike all the way up today because the temperatures were already a scorching 90 degrees.  It was still fun to see and it’s on our list for when the weather cools down.

After the Amboy Crater, we made our way down to Twentynine Palms where we spent the night.  We had some dinner before heading into Joshua Tree National Park to relax and watch a gorgeous desert sunset before retiring for the evening.  

It was a great day!  I’m really looking forward to exploring more of the Mojave National Preserve.  There’s so much to see!

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Joshua Tree National Park-Day 2, Colorado Desert, Lost Palms Oasis, 7.6 miles RT, 856 +/-, Plus a Stop at Cholla Cactus Garden, January 14, 2018

Joshua Tree National Park-Day 2, Colorado Desert, Lost Palms Oasis, 7.6 miles RT, 856 +/-, Plus a Stop at Cholla Cactus Garden, January 14, 2018

Of all the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree, this was the first time we drove south through the Pinto Basin all the way to Cottonwood Spring to see the transition from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert. You won’t find Joshua Trees at elevations lower then 3,000 feet, but the Colorado Desert has its own unique beauty. Here’s where you’ll find the spindly ocotillo plant. I’ve always seen them in photos, but never made it down that far to see them in person. Our hike today was a 7.5 mile out and back to Lost Palms Oasis. Lost Palms Oasis has the largest concentration of Fan Palms in the park. Let me tell you this was a BEAUTIFUL hike! Undulating hills, lots of ups and downs on the trail, sandy washes, rocky canyons, plenty of cacti and views of the Salton Sea. We even saw a rainbow along the way. Once you arrive at the oasis, you can either scramble all the way down into the canyon under the palms, or you can enjoy the views from the overlook. If you don’t want to hike in that far, there’s a beautiful oasis right at the trailhead at Cottonwood Spring. This is a hike to do ONLY in the cooler months. They actually remove the trail from the park map in the summer to discourage people from doing it because some have died on this trail. While this was a much more populated trail then the CRH, it was still incredibly enjoyable. If you want to extend your trip, when you pass the junction to the Mastodon Peak loop, it’s about 2 extra miles to the top. We’ll save that one for another day. Before we headed out, we stopped off at the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It just so happened one of the rangers was giving a talk about rattlesnakes. I think I learned more about them today then I ever knew! It’s wonderful that these programs exist to educate people and get them outdoors to enjoy this beautiful world we live in and enjoy it wisely.

I've also included in this post some photos of our visit to the Cholla Cactus Garden.  It's on the way to Cottonwood.  If you're passing through the Pinto Basin on the way to the southern end of the park, I highly recommend taking a walk through the Cholla Cactus garden. You can't miss it. All of a sudden you'll see a patch of cute fuzzy looking cacti. But don't be fooled. These suckers will bite! Just a light brush against them and the spikes will penetrate your skin. They even have a first aid kit at the trail head with antiseptic and bandaids. LOL These little guys are known as the Bigelow Cholla, Jumping Cholla and also Teddybear Cholla. Unless you're a cactus wren or a desert woodrat, enjoy the view from a distance. 

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Joshua Tree National Park-Day 1, California Riding & Hiking Trail: Juniper Flats to Geology Tour Road, 10 miles out & back RT, 594' +/-, January 13, 2018

Joshua Tree National Park-Day 1, California Riding & Hiking Trail:  Juniper Flats to Geology Tour Road, 10 miles out & back RT, 594' +/-, January 13, 2018

We were on part of this trail in November, and I wanted to go back and do more of it. I like this trail because it takes you into the backcountry and away from the more popular attractions in the park. You can really cover a lot of mileage in a short amount of time on this section because it’s mostly flat with only a 594’ gain/loss if you’re doing it as an out and back. Overnight backpackers will do the whole 35 mile trail in about 2 or 3 days. For this section, we parked at Juniper Flats, crossed Keys View Road and starting hiking. We past Ryan Campground and between Ryan and Lost Horse mountains. The trail leads up up from Lost Horse Valley to a pass and down the other side where it becomes more rocky and rugged. We passed the remains of an old prospector camp. There are actually quite a number of these located in the park and not just the ones noted on the map. The trail then took us down the other side of the pass into Queen Valley. We continued across the vast Queen Valley enjoying the immense open space. We’d gotten a late start today, so we gave ourselves a turnaround time since we didn’t have a car shuttle on the other end and would have to hike back the same amount of miles that we hiked in. We were just 1.7 miles short of Geology Tour Road when we had to head back. We still logged in a good 10 mile hike.

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