We traveled west on Hwy 10, exiting Arizona, and entered Southern California. I noticed that the landscape was still very much desert like, however you could now see snow capped mountains in the distance.
We wanted to stay in one of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park, but it was still extremely hot, and Scott knew that I would be a happier camper if we could use our A/C. Instead, we stayed at a KOA RV Park in Hot Springs, CA, that was located about 30 minutes outside of the national park. It was a typical KOA. It had a nice wind break behind us, but the sites were on top of each other. It was pretty empty, too. The few of us that were there were clumped together in the same area.
We got settled and relaxed for the remainder of the day. The wind was keeping the high heat at bay. It ended up being cooler than expected over night. In the morning, we headed to the park.
We went into the Visitor’s Center at the northwest entrance to get a map of the park so we could figure out what to do first. I took a picture while inside the Center of the map below. It was very helpful in pinpointing exactly where we were in California.
The poster below caught my eye. Any idea why???
Deserts don’t have firm boundaries, and much of the park lies in the overlap between the Colorado and Mojave deserts. This transition zone has a wealth of biological diversity and is home to species characteristic of each desert ecosystem. We were fortunate to see several over the course of our stay here. The western half of the park, at elevations above 3,000 feet, is Mojave Desert habitat. The wild-armed Joshua tree can be found in the Mojave Desert. It isn’t really a tree but a species of yucca. They can grow to be over 40 feet tall.
We left the Visitor’s Center and began driving south on Park Boulevard. It didn’t take long before we realized that we had never seen anything like this before. These trees/cacti were so unusual, and there were many large rock formations interspersed among the trees.
For our first hike, we chose Ryan’s Mountain. It was a three mile, out-and-back trail with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. It was sunny and windy with temps in the low 70’s which make for great hiking weather. The park lists this hike as strenuous, but All Trails rates it as moderate. We felt that it was mostly easy, with sections that were moderate.
The wildflower colors (lavender, fuchsia, yellow, red, orange and deep purple) were stunning! Some were in clusters and some stood alone on one stem. Magnificent!
The views from the 5,458’ summit were worth the effort.
Here is a little footage of our descent.
After Ryan’s hike, we got back in the car and continued to drive southeast on Park Boulevard. The eastern half Our next stop would be Cholla Cactus Gardens. Again, we had seen nothing like this before. This desert landscape was truly unique, filled with cactus plants we had never seen before.
I would take pictures of Scott taking pictures…
…and this is what his camera produced.
Here are a few close-ups of this unique cacti.
A little farther south we would pass Ocotillo Patch. This plant bears one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. There is a tourist standing behind the tree which provides height perspective.
We called it a day and headed back to camp. For one night, we had neighbors right next to us that were from Austria. They had rented a RV and were traveling with a three year old boy and a ten-month baby girl. I give them credit. This way of traveling is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about little ones. It’s hard enough dealing with big ones.
Before we headed out of our KOA campsite the next morning, I decided to check out the mineral pools. Although this resort was dated and in need of some renovations, they did have three small mineral pools and one larger mineral swimming pool. I forced myself to just go in once…and I am happy that I made that choice.
Since no one was around, I got to enjoy my own private pool. Before I left, I couldn’t resist but to take a picture of this sign posted by the pool.
Needless to say, I was a bit concerned with my surroundings and very much attentive to every step I took. Thankfully, I never saw one scorpion.
On Monday morning the temperatures were a bit cooler, so we left the KOA and found a site open in Belle Campground, which was located inside Joshua Tree National Park. Not only is it cheaper to stay inside a National Park versus a KOA, but it is usually more quiet, tranquil and picturesque.
Here we are at Site 18.
We took about a three-mile walk through our campsite, and we saw about five lizards, one black-tailed jackrabbit, and one small antelope ground squirrel. Later, burgers were on the menu for dinner, and I usually do the grill cooking. The weather was changing and it was very windy. So, Scott set up the grill to protect it from the wind.
It was also a little cloudy that evening, but Scott was determined to catch a sunset with his camera. I think what he captured below is nothing shy of amazing. I plan to enter this photo into a contest.
Do you see that strike of lightning dead center? Totally cool.
The next morning, it was 49 degrees outside and 56 degrees in the trailer. Brrrrrrr. Nothing better than to get up and get out since it was perfect “desert” hiking weather. Today’s choice was a 7.5 mile, out-and-back hike called “Lost Palms Oasis”. It featured sandy washes and rolling terrain until you hike down into a canyon to explore a fan palm oasis. At the start of the hike, we saw massive palm trees pictured below. We wouldn’t see them again until we reached the oasis.
While we walked, we saw beautiful, colorful desert flowers…
…a large tortoise…
…and two rattlesnakes…
This is the FIRST time that I didn’t freak out when I saw a snake. I am proud of myself that I was able to walk past both of them without hyperventilating. Scott is right. They want nothing to do with us. Leave them alone and they will be on their way.
After about two-and-a-half hours, we made it to the oasis. It doesn’t make sense to have this view in the middle of the desert.
We were resting on a rock and looking up at this.
We walked around, taking in the unimaginable view.
After relaxing for a little while and enjoying the midday breeze, we headed back out another 3.5 miles. The ocotillo flower could very well be my new favorite! Something about the color red.
We got back to the trailer, ate lunch, and then took a nap. Later that evening, we took a drive to “Hall of Horrors”, which was recommended by a friend of Dani’s. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera which meant Scott was the only one taking pictures. He climbed up about 30+ feet onto a large boulder and set up his tripod. I declined to follow as I wasn’t so keen on the idea of having to come back down. He is taking a picture of me from his perch, which was much higher than this picture denotes.
Much later that night, I went to bed to read…
…and Scott went back out to check on the night sky.
When the sun rises tomorrow, we will be off to San Diego.