Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Epic Joshua Tree Post Day 2

Everyone got their comfy clothes on? A cup of hot coca? Good, well settle in and let me tell you the tale of my trip to Joshua Tree National Park. BTW- this post is so epic, it had to be split into two parts, Day 1 and Day 2. This is Day 2.

The girl and I woke up in sunny 29-Palms on Sunday raring to go for Joshua Tree Part Deux. I did not have a good night sleep as random things in the desert kept calling to me in the hotel room asking to play with me. Coyote yips and howls for a few hours is sweet but does not make for a peaceful sleep.

We had a kinda-breakfast here at the Carousel, which looks like an actual carousel.

I say kinda because you kinda don't want to go here if you have other options.

Then, ON TO THE PARK! And let the search for Joshua Trees COMMENCE!

One thing I learned is that if you want to see Joshua Trees, like lots and lots of em. Like whole valleys of them, you really have to be in the Western part of the Park. They are in such abundance that I got my fill of them and then some over the second day in the Park.

After an insane diet of Joshua Trees, we then decided to saunter on to various other locales. Yes indeed, I did try my hand again at bouldering. There are many cool rock formations in Joshua Tree, some of which are millions/billions of years old. As my G/F said, "you can imagine dinosaurs playing on them" and yes, you really can. Some cool rock formations include a skull

and balancing rocks

Many of the opportunities to scramble on boulders come from campgrounds that are sprinkled throughout the Park. Overall, the campgrounds leave a little to be desired with not a lot of ground to lay out gear and tents because of huge boulders and some are more exposed to the desert winds than others but still, it looks like a cool place to coordinate hiking and biking attacks on the Park.

We went to one campsite and while I enjoyed scrambling up the boulders, I also really liked finding little pathways through the huge boulders (and even underneath them).

Now this wouldn't be a hiking blog without a description of a hike I went on. As I said in Part 1, this was much more of an auto-tour than an all out hike of the NP. Still, I wanted to stretch the legs a bit and take in a saunter.

This came thanks to an old, dried-out dam within the Park. What surprised me about the Park, before it was granted National Park status, was that it had a lot of mines. In fact, there are several dirt roads that lead to active mining operations just outside the Park's boundaries. Of course, back in the 1800's everyone was looking for gold and many of these mines were in pursuit of the yellow stuff.

Also of interest is that people tried to raise cattle in the area. Apparently there was a lot more rain at the turn of last century and more grasslands in the NP so they built a dam to help with all of that. The hike is not overly long (clocking in at just over a mile but you can stretch it if you are feeling adventuresome).

You start off on a very dispiriting pathway that is roped off and showing you the way to go.

However, once you get into the rock canyon itself, the bowling bumper rails fall away and you get to go on a well worn sandy pathway through the boulders, which provided some welcomed shade, and the numerous people on the trail sort of melted away and gave me the the "natural high" I was looking for on the trip. I slowed down a pace and enjoyed the saunter to the dam.

Eventually, you make your way to the dam and see the results of humanity. What was really interesting to me was to see the water levels absorbed into the rocks in the false lake that was created by the dam.

Allegedly, when there is water in the area, Big Horn Sheep are known to hang out there but as I was hiking at midday, they didn't bound out to play with me. Perhaps another time.

As you make your way through the dam, you go through the desert for some real desert hiking. What is great about California is that even in the desert, you can see snow-capped mountains.

The next stop along the trail is just another reason why this trail, while short, was really sweet. That was due to petroglyphs on cave walls. While you often hike, you don't usually think of the countless that have gone before you over centuries. Seeing this art on the walls of a cave drawn by Indians centuries ago was a moving experience. It really ties you to the whole of human history and makes you realize that you on this trail are one in just a long succession of people who have visited this EXACT spot. Its a humbling narrative to play through your mind.

Then the trail doubles back on itself and you start heading to the parking lot. I took the road less traveled and decided to get out into the desert and find my way back. A compass and a general sense of direction was welcomed as I got off the beaten path but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to snap this beauty.

I saw many cars at random sides of the road all throughout the Park because truly, you can park and hike anywhere in the Park. You don't need to be on designated trails but it IS easy to get turned around in washes or if you get behind boulders, to remember where you are. I am a blogger who has gone on some hikes so that makes me a professional who can say "don't try this at home kids". It added some tenths of a mile to my trip but it made it worth it.

Once back in the car, we started to make our way out of the Park. We knew we had a long trip on the 10 with all the other holiday traffic and didn't want to spend forever on the freeways due to our adventures in the Park.

While I greatly enjoyed Joshua Tree, it is not a place I am dying to get back to and hike around. I have come to realize I am much more of a mountainous hiker than a desert hiker and I relish many more opportunities for the former than the later. Still, while I was in the Park, I sized up a few hikes/mountains/trails that I definitely want to hit my next time here. There certainly will be a next time and hopefully soon.

I would also like to take a moment to mention my girlfriend, mentioned here and there in passing but was an awesome travel companion and made the trip that much more enjoyable. You can certainly hike and enjoy Nature alone but it is great if you have someone with you and I was really glad I had her for my trip to Joshua Tree!


  1. I love all the photos. This place is on my massive list of spots I want to hit someday in the near future.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Michelle! Glad you enjoyed the post, hope you get there one day!


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