On day three of our California desert roadtrip, we decided to head south to Joshua Tree National Park. We drove through the towns of Baker, 29 Palms — neither of which I liked very much (giant Bob’s Big Boy, SoCal strip of garbage food and shops), then we got into the park. It was crawling with people — likes of which I hadn’t seen on driving through the Mojave Desert. You definitely had the sense that you were near LA. But the Joshua Trees were in bloom and the scenery was dramatic, even from the road.
The landscape at Joshua Tree was wildly different from what you’d see driving down. Giant, skull-like boulder piles towered over the landscape while the Joshua trees spread out like bowling pins, everywhere, pretty evenly dispersed — it really looks like a park. But the hiking was bizarre… just pull off the side of the road and wander through the trails, through the Joshua trees and between the rocks. We saw a Chuckwalla and it bobbed up and down at me as I closed in to take its picture.
We tried a few trails, all were packed to the gills. You could get solitude if you kept walking though, it was hard to escape the sound of passing cars. A large portion of the park is roadless — which is great and awe-inspiring. But how do you get to it in this country with no water? I’m definitely interested in exploring the under-visited roadless areas of this landscape and have the sense that I can and will come back. It’s an easy trip from a Vegas event.
After wandering with the masses of tourists and rockclimbers, we checked out the Cholla cactus gardens. We walked through rows and rows of blooming Cholla cactus on a ¼ mile loop — a dangerous hike for clumsy folks.
After that, we drove back towards home (Tecopa) around sunset. On the way back through the Mojave Preserve, we stopped at Kelso Dunes. The Dunes Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) were awesome. We didn’t make it to the top of the dunes though because we were pretty beat down, it was almost dark, sand is a pain to walk through, and supposedly that’s where the sidewinders live.
I’d like to say it wasn’t the snakes that made us turn around about half way up, but seriously, if you ever watch Discovery Channel and have seen these things move, you would want to get out before dark too (they’re nocturnal). Nonetheless, I look pretty calm in the photo below:
The finale should be posted tomorrow.