Joshua Tree


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Published: September 25th 2018
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We left Noah’s house for our road trip around California. We’re heading North East towards Joshua Tree National Park. So we packed up, Noah adding stuff in the car for us; a 40-pack of mineral water bottles, a couple blankets and pillows just in case we get stuck with no hotel, some V8 (I like the stuff even if Tamar doesn’t) and a giant jar of mixed nuts.

We were on our way! Neighborhoods and houses started getting further apart, the scenery started getting a bit more hilly and drier. Neighborhoods became ranches, there was more agriculture, horse farms, then cows, then nothing. It got drier and drier as we drove east.

Soon we were driving up into more hilly country and the twists and turns became more frequent. The temperature kept rising…

We stopped for a hike in Hellhole Canyon towards maidenhair Falls, just outside of Borrego Springs. We parked and started walking up the trail. We didn’t make it far before we decided it was just too hot for the entire hike! We’d go as far as we felt like, then turn back. We didn’t make it to more than 500 meters from the car. It was stupid hot!

Along the way out and back we took some pictures of cacti and a few other interesting things, then happily got back into our mobile air conditioner. We continued through Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs is the sort of town you have to stay awake for – blink and you’ll miss it. Literally.

We went on by Salton City and up the coast of Salton Sea, through Mecca (if anyone asks, Tamar and I did the Haj), and then north towards Joshua Tree National Park.

Pictures were took at the entrance to the park. Our next stop was at Cottonwood Visitor Center, where we learned that today was National Public Lands Day, and entrance to the park is free! Cool! The ranger there was really funny. Tall, skinny, always upbeat and smiling, sort of excited about National Public Lands Day!

So he guided us towards Cottonwood Spring (just a few minutes’ drive along a road with no turnoffs, can’t get lost if you tried). We got there, parked and went for a walk. The spring itself is inaccessible but there’s a grove of huge palms and other trees that make a bright green splotch in the desert.

Well, it’s much greener and overgrown than the deserts we know and love from home, but it’s still hot!

The path leads through the grove (lovely shade…) and out into the desert. We didn’t walk far as Tamar was getting a headache from the heat (yes, she is drinking enough). I found the walk, short as it was, very interesting. The plants are completely different from home, the hills and geology are different. I think it’s all based on a large-grained granite here, with lots of coarse sand that eroded from it. There are hills with large, round boulders and sandy valleys between.

On our way back to the grove we saw a couple of lizards. As we were entering the grove we heard some animals chirping to each other. Sort of a mammalian sound, but could have been a bird too. We stood and tried to locate the critter. We could clearly hear exactly where they were, bit that was deep inside a clump of bushes and we didn’t get to see them.

We did see a hummingbird and some interesting insects.

We got back to the car and continued on. The road goes through the entire park, not a small distance, with little exhibitions along the way. Lucky there’s just one main road that goes through the park as there is NO cell reception anywhere in the park so navigating by Google Maps is all but impossible.

No Joshua trees in sight, bit at Cottonwood Visitor Center we learned that the southern part of the park was too dry for them. The first ones appear much later.

So we saw some of the exhibits (parking inlets on the road with an explanation on a sign). One stop was larger than the others, it had proper pathways walking in a forest of cholla cacti. They are quite common in the area, we saw them in Hellhole canyon and all along the way, but here they were much larger (about 1 to 1.5 meters tall) and all over the place.

Cholla are nasty little things! Their spines are so dense they are like prickles on a hedgehog, and apparently they are very irritating to the skin if you touch them. Bits fall off easily and roll around in the wind, getting caught in other plants and clothes. We were lucky it wasn’t windy.

A wile later the scenery changed yet again, and great, round boulders littered the area. And there was our first Joshua tree! You really can’t miss it – it looks like something out of Dr. Seuss.

There was a camping site nearby, nicely laid out, with little private ‘coves’ between the boulders with barbecue stands and picnic tables and flat spaces for tents. Nice! And lots of Joshua trees around. So we stopped for a snack, drink and rest.

It was time to move on and leave the park. We drove on, stopping a couple more times on the way for exhibits, until the road finally leads out of the park and into the metropolis of Twenty Nine Palms.

Ok, maybe ‘metropolis’ is a bit much – it’s a bunch of houses scattered along a few long, arrow-straight roads in the middle of nowhere. But our motel is here somewhere. Luckily now we have cell reception and we can find it.

El Rancho Dolores Motel is an ok place, I guess. The room is big, with a full kitchen (large fridge, stove and oven, breakfast corner) with a coffee machine! But no kitchenware, and the Internet is abysmally slow.

We had a short rest, then went shopping for supper and something for tomorrow. Then it was time for bed. Tomorrow we’re going to attempt Death Valley. Wish us luck!


Additional photos below
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Giant looking over his domain

A boulder seen near Cottonwood spring


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