“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – President Lyndon B, Johnson, on the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964.
We weren’t sure how to tackle Joshua Tree National Park, as the weather at the end of October was still hot, hot, hot.
We knew we could drive to the north end of the park and stay at a private park with hook ups or we could stay inside the park and hope for the best. We much prefer to camp inside the parks so we decided to pull into the south end, grab a site at the Cottonwood Spring Campground, and hope for the best.
With no hook-ups available we made plans to get out early and be back by mid afternoon so that Skyler wouldn’t bake in the trailer. To our surprise the breeze kept the heat in check and with the doors open the trailer was quite bearable.
Joshua Tree is comprised of two distinct desert environments – the Mojave and the Colorado deserts – and the changing landscape is obvious. We set out early and drove through the park to the North entrance and then headed west to the city of Joshua Tree where the Visitor Center is located. We then headed back into the park at the West Entrance.
Our first stop was in Hidden Valley where cattle rustlers used to hide their cattle. We took a one-mile easy hike through a massive boulder enclosure that is really out of place in this park. The boulders and walls create a rock climbers paradise.
We also hiked an easy 1.1-mile loop at Barker Dam, which was built around 1900 to hold water for cattle. The dam is not used anymore but still contains water, which noticeably helps the bird population and keeps the vegetation lush if such a thing is possible in the desert.
On our way back to the car we noticed a few Bighorn Sheep on the cliffs above and one was perched posing for our picture taking pleasure.
We moved on and took in the vistas at Keys View. The elevation is 5,185 feet and features desert, mountains and the valley.
Then on to Cap Rock for a short stroll through some more massive boulders. One rock, in particular, balanced precariously on the top. The Cap?
We drove farther into the park stopping at Jumbo Rocks and try as we might we could not get the right picture to relay the massiveness of this area. It’s a fun place to boulder.
The entire northern end of the park is sprinkled with Joshua Trees, the largest of the yuccas, which grows only in the Mojave Desert.
We jumped back on the Pinto Basin Road, which connects the north portion of the park with the south and stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden. This part of the park is thick with Cholla Cacti and there is a trail through the area. Do not step off of the trail unless you feel like getting pricked! This is one of the most amazing sites that we have seen in the desert.
We only spent a couple of days in Joshua Tree, as there are limited things to do unless you are backpacking or climbing. On a whim we decided to head out to the Lost Palms Oasis. The oasis is not more than a hundred yards walk from where you park and it is a gem in the desert lush with palm trees, assorted other trees, grasses and plants. The temperature was noticeably cooler as well under the shade of the trees. If you do visit, don’t miss it! Or, the night sky!.
Next Up: Saguaro National Park