Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Joshua Tree National Park

My daughter Leslie came for a visit with her husband Daniel from Portland, Oregon. She expressed a desire to visit Joshua Tree National Park, 2-1/2 hours away to the north, east of Riverside (San Bernardino and Riverside counties). Marlene and I planned a route, and the four of us headed out for a long day road trip--even if temperatures well above 100F degrees were expected.

We entered the Park in the northwest end from the town of Joshua Tree (population 7400). We spent an hour in the Visitor Center in town before continuing on to the West Entrance Station. Entry fee (day or week) is $20. By 9:30 a.m. it was already 95F.

Joshua Trees are the typical plants of the Mojave Desert. They are giant yucca plants and not true trees. In most places the Joshua Trees were spread out enough that photos didn't really do justice to the odd prehistoric-like scenery. It would have been better to have a brief video as we drove past. But the photo below gives an idea of the 20 foot tall trees scattered about and standing above the otherwise knee-high gray scrub with the mountainous backdrop. Like well-spaced giant terracotta soldiers on the battlefield.

Joshua Trees
Soon the landscape turned to boulders weathering out of the ridges.

Quail Springs picnic area
Pencil Cholla
We pulled into a hiking and picnic area called Hidden Valley. We walked about 1/4 of the mile long loop trail.

Hidden Valley

Leslie and Daniel
There were very few birds. In June there would be very few birds anyway, even at dawn. But at mid-day the only birds I saw more than one individual of were Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Western Scrub-Jays, and Black-throated Sparrows. I saw a Mourning Dove, a Northern Mockingbird, and heard a Rock Wren, but not much else.

Black-throated Sparrow in Mojave Yucca.

Silver Cholla

Foreground plants, left to right: pinyon pine, unidentified yucca, dollarjoint pricklypear.

This area had many interesting boulders. The scenery was constantly changing, but the players remained the same. It was all the same, yet all different--boulders and Joshua trees.

To Marlene, every boulder, no matter size or shape, somehow reminded her of an elephant, which delighted her to no end (she may have gotten too much sun). I refused to see any of her elephants, or anything else other than rocks, well, okay, except for this:

Hidden Valley Campground. "Flattened Bunny Hill" or "Roadkill Rabbit Ridge" (not official names).
After Hidden Valley we visited nearby Barker Dam. Even when full the little pond it created was probably only 6 feet deep. It appeared, though, that it had been dry for many months. The loop trail was exactly 1 mile. The temperature was now about 100F. Leslie, Daniel, and I made the hike. And we found some Indian pictographs. Marlene was smart and read a book in the shade.

Then we drove on and dropped elevation down into the Colorado desert and watched the temperature indicator steadily climb past 112F.

Cholla Garden. Likely Silver Cholla foreground, most are Teddy Bear ("Jumping") Cholla.
We drove back to San Diego County via the Salton Sea. We only spent about 20 minutes on the shore at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area on the north shore of the Sea. At 200 feet below sea level it was 115F.  Then through Borrego Springs for an early dinner. Up and over the mountains where it dropped to a comfortable 65F and a cool evening breeze pushed inland from the coast for the remainder of our trip home to Escondido.

All in all, a very long, hot, but enjoyable last day of the visit for Marlene and I with Leslie and Daniel.