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Published: February 28th 2012
Joshua Tree National Park I
Hiking to Fourtynine Palms Oasis.
About 150 km east of Los Angeles, there is an oasis, and there are a number of cities that actually form one big city. Belinda and Davis are staying in Cathedral City at the moment, which is right next to the more well-known city of Palm Springs, known as the place where all the Hollywood stars go when they want to recover from the big city. Belinda and Davis had invited me to stay with them for a couple of days, so I had my first experience of the Southern Californian desert.
Belinda and I went to the Joshua Tree National Park on Thursday. The park owes its name to the Joshua Trees that are in it, and their name most likely comes from their shape: they look like Joshua raising his arms towards the sky and towards god. Most parts of the park are on a plateau surrounded by some mountains. Apart from the many Joshua Trees, there are many rocks that look as if giants had just thrown them onto the ground. However, they are the result of volcanic activity. Magma from deeper sections moved upwards and cooled down. The cracks in the rocks were caused by erosion.
As there is groundwater in different places, there are little oases with palm trees.
Belinda and I first went to the visitor centre, then we hiked through the very dry hills towards the Fourtynine Palm Oasis. It was absolutely quiet on our way there. No birds were singing, and no other noise was there. Our footsteps on the gravel appeared to be incredibly loud. Every now and then we met other people, but most of the time, we were all by ourselves. I found this surprising because it is not a far or exhausting hike. But I guess people here are just not that much into hiking. We enjoyed the peaceful oasis and then made our way back to the car.
Then we drove up to the plateau that is really filled with Joshua Trees. A few metres further down, you do not see them, and then suddenly there is the plateau full of them! We slowly drove along the road and made one more stop at the Hidden Valley. That is a valley surrounded by rocks that has just one rather small opening. The valley was used by cattle thieves to hide their prey. Our next stop
was Keys View from where we had a beautiful view of the Coachella Valley (the valley Palm Springs and the other towns are in). Just east of the cities, there is the Salton Sea, a salt lake which has its surface about 70 metres below sea level. It was extremely windy up at the viewpoint, so we did not stay for long, but rather continued to our next little walk. There is an area with Cholla cacti, a kind of cactus that has very sharp spines (believe me, I tested it because I did not want to believe it) and that spreads its seeds by little sticky balls. After this walk, we went back home.
On Friday, we had a slow and relaxing morning and then went to the Living Desert, a wildlife park in Palm Springs where you can see animals that live in the North American and African deserts. From North America, there are for example eagles and falcons, sheep, wolves, different kinds of wild cats, and many more. We attended a show in which we learned some more about these animals. The fastest animal in the world, a Peregrine Falcon, impressed us with his ability to
Joshua Tree National Park IV
... that only has one entrance...
fly fast and accurate. A Serval (a kind of wild cat with long legs and a dotted fur) showed how he could get a piece of meat out of a narrow and long hole. We howled along with a Singing Dog, and one of the zoo keepers made a song contest with a Kookaburra (of course the bird won). In the evening, Belinda’s parents invited us for dinner – thank you Thalia and Bill for a nice evening!
We had another lazy morning on Saturday, and then Belinda and I caught the aerial tramway up the Mount Jacinto. The bottom of the valley is almost at sea level, and the summit station is at about 8,500 feet (about 2,500 metres). So while it was really hot in the valley, it was still winter up there, with quite a bit of snow left. The view from the top was very impressive. There we were, in the middle of an almost Alpine landscape, surrounded by pine trees, rocks, and snow, and looked into the desert at the bottom of the mountain with sand and little bushes. The ride up and down the mountain on the tramway was interesting. When we went
Joshua Tree National Park V
... thieves used to hide stolen cattle...
up, the operator introduced himself (an operator in a European tramway would never ever do that, they can hardly be bothered talking to you), and then we listened to a tape with information on the construction of the tramway and the area we were in. In the cabin, there was a revolving platform so that we could look into all directions without having to move. But the “Wooooow” that people exclaimed when we went past the masts was the same as in Europe.
As it was my birthday, Belinda and Davis invited me for a wonderful dinner in a very nice restaurant. We sat outside in the patio and enjoyed great food and great service. Thank you Belinda and Davis! And thank you all for the lovely birthday wishes I received from all over the world!
On Sunday, we had a nice brunch, and then Belinda took me to the hotel where the congress that I am actually in the US for started on Sunday night. It was sad to say goodbye after a wonderful week with my friends Belinda and Davis. Thank you so much for the great time I had with you!
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