Joshua Tree National Park, CA
December 14, 2009
We still have a long way to go before getting home and the tug is getting stronger as we near the west coast. We have so enjoyed our stay with Ellen, Richard and Kathleen and while they have given us a new appreciation of the desert we long for the green, green hills of home and to be once again near the saltwater. We bid them farewell, wish them safe travels on their upcoming 3-month trip through Mexico and we head on toward Joshua Tree.
We make it as far as the Salton Sea in California before calling it a day and camp at the base of the Chocolate Mountains with a view to the “sea”. The Salton Sea was created by the Colorado River at some point in geologic time when the river silted up and jumped its banks. It evaporated on its own when the Colorado naturally redirected itself. In 1901 the first dam was built on the Colorado River to irrigate the fertile southern California desert and in 4 short years the river again silted up causing it to again jump its banks and flood the lowlands south of Joshua Tree. It took 3 years to redirect the river and in this time an inland sea 1/3 the size of Rhode Island had formed, the Salton Sea. It would have dried up without the enormous amount of rich agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley. This strange inland sea has turned into a smelly, briny, algae rich soup that is an ecological paradise for birds.
December 15-17, 2009
Leaving the Salton Sea we enter a large growing area, the Imperial Valley, passing huge orange groves, acres of date palms and fields of bell peppers, an incredibly fertile valley.
We enter the park from the south at the Cottonwood Entrance. Two deserts come together in Joshua Tree National Park, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. We were particularly enamored with the Mojave Desert side of the park where the Joshua Trees thrive and the enormous boulders take on strange shapes. Some of the jumbo boulders appear to have been randomly plunked down in the middle of the desert in odd jumbles and piles or appear to have been thrust up from past violent geologic activity.
We drive by and are captivated by a pile of rocks so we park and walk around them, then we walk farther out and around each rock there appears another jumble of rocks, different shapes, different colors, different plants, always luring us further into the desert. We could spend weeks exploring and taking far too many photos. We begin to see faces and characters in the rocks and remember what one ranger warned; he knew it was time to go to the city when he began seeing his relative’s faces in the rocks.
Joshua Tree has been described as beautiful, grotesque, peaceful, crazy, crowded, empty, freezing, sweltering and a million other contradictions rolled into one. Maybe we didn’t find it sweltering, crowded or crazy but did find ourselves under it spell from the moment we entered Cottonwood Springs. The rocks seem to have an energy that invigorates and energizes us. The blue skies and warm winds enhanced our feeling of serenity and sense of awe.
If you find yourselves in the town of Joshua Tree a wonderful little, really little café called Natural Sisters is a great place for breakfast, fresh fruit smoothies, homemade muffins, vegan and vegetarian dishes and they are delish! Down the street the Crossroads Café is a funky little place that also serves up a good dinner.
One of the most beautiful areas we found was Hidden Valley where we camped, also a favorite of climbers but there is plenty of room for everyone. We even had our own resident coyote who patrolled the campground every afternoon.
Joshua Tree was totally captivating.