Thursday, May 15, 2014

Joshua Tree National Park

After my trip on the Pacific Crest Trail ended early this spring, Sue and I decided to do a little sightseeing before the flight home.  The first place we went was to the Joshua Tree National Park.  I have no memory of ever having been to this park, and had actually heard little about it.  I could not even remember seeing a Joshua Tree until just a couple of days before we decided to go.  But we had a week to fill and it was convenient, so off we went.

I was initially pretty bummed about missing a week on the trail, as well as hobbled and unable to walk much.  But I did enjoy the visit to this park.  It has a stark beauty that slowly grew on me.  The pictures don't really do it justice, at least not the pictures from my little point and shoot camera.  The rock formations were fascinating and the flowers were always unexpected.  It is a desert, and there is no water in the park, not even piped into the campgrounds.  And yet there were flowers everywhere, along with quite a number of birds and rodents.  There are also bigger animals, but they stayed hidden from us.

When we came into the park there was a water station where I filled our 5 gallon jug for a quarter.  From there we drove about 20 miles to the first campsite and setup for the night.  There were a series of sites in this campground tucked in around a large outcropping of rock.  While you could see the one on either side of you, the rest were hidden from our view.  We did some exploring that night and the next morning, driving most of the parks paved roads, as well as a few dirt  roads.  Unfortunately I wasn't up to making any of the day hikes that were available; I think I would have enjoyed that a lot.

I suspect that this park would become unbearable in the summertime, especially for those of us most accustomed to a cooler damper climate.  But it was wonderful in the spring, and I would not be adverse to making a trip back someday.

Joshua Trees are a bizarre form of Yucca, and many of them look like something from the fertile imagination of Dr Seuss.  I wonder if I could string a hammock between these two?

There were some places where the ground was carpeted with flowers.  Growing in sand, and with little moisture during the year, and yet they grow in abundance.

The sandstone rocks in the park have been carved into a myriad of unusual shapes.  It is amazing what wind and rain can do given enough time.

This is from on of the lookout points, Keys View I think, that looks out over the San Andreas fault to the San Jacinto mountains in the background.  The smog from the coastal cities was thick that day.

Like every place we went in Southern California, the cactus were in full bloom.  Not sure I would want to try and pick a bouquet though.

The occupant of the next campsite over for a while.  He bopped around for a bit, sampling the vegetation before eventually wandering off.

While I was taking a picture of the rabbit in the frame above, this guy decided he would try out my dinner.  After I chased him off he hung around close in the hopes that I would get distracted again.

Most of the Yuccas had finished blooming, but this one was a bit behind the curve.

This is the rocky outcropping where we camped; our tent is a little bit behind the car.  After we got set up we walked halfway around and then back through a low spot in the rocks.  A little bit of rock hopping was required, but no serious climbing.

Evening Primroses.  As we were leaving in the morning we found these all over the place.  But don't remember seeing them the day before.  Apparently you have to be there early before they close up.

In some places the Joshua Trees looked like they were in an orchard.  Lots of trees that sometimes lined up in rows.

This was a common shrub in the area. Mixed in with the blossoms are little purple bubbles, which I assume are the fruit it produces.  Fascinating!

Can you see the elephant?

How about the skull?  Looks like giants once roamed here.

As the rocks fracture, erosion begins to do its thing, and you might end up with what you see above.

Or with something like this.  Looks like a helmet for the giant who left the skull a couple of pictures up.

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