Joshua Tree 2014

March 28th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

19 March 2014

Work sent me out to California for two weeks. This was originally planned as two separate one-week trips. But I managed to combine the trips and take some PTO in the middle of the trip. As it is, I need to use some PTO anyway before I start losing it… the PTO that is.

After making a few stops for supplies (Best Buy, REI, and Target) I hit the road for what was supposed to be a two hour drive. The Garmin GPS navigator seemed to keep me on surface streets instead of the highway/interstate. This was fine with me as I am not a huge fan of California interstates. Besides, I am on vacation for the next few days and I have no schedule.

I find my way to Joshua Tree National Park and on the way to the Jumbo Rocks campsite I saw a Greater Roadrunner dart across the road. I swear he jumped up and said, “Beep Beep!” before disappearing in the brush.

The campsite was a lot fuller than I was expecting. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to find a spot. I found one, but I think I know why no one wanted it. There is not a good level spot for the tent. Oh well, we’ll see. Oh, the campsite is far enough from civilization that there is no cell phone coverage here. No electricity. No running water.

The campground is rather interesting as there are the huge rocks everywhere (hence the name “Jumbo Rocks”). The texture is interesting… it reminds me of the artificial rocks you might find at an amusement park.

There is not a cloud in the sky and the sun is beginning to set. I am looking forward to the stars coming out. One camper a few spots down has a 10-inch Celestron telescope set up. Here’s hoping for dark skies.

As the sun is going down, the temperature is dropping. Time to light the campfire. The campfire is one of my highlights when camping. Listening to the crackle of the fire, enjoying the warmth and light while reflecting on the day’s activities.

The “Show as Slideshow” link does not appear to work. Use the “View with PicLens” or click on the thumbnail image.

20 March 2014

The stars were pretty spectacular last night. I tried a few photos, but we’ll see. They didn’t look so hot on the camera’s screen. I left the rain fly off of the tent so I could watch the stars. However, when the moon came up, it looked like someone was shining a flashlight into my tent.

I slept good, maybe 10 hours, but the ground was hard and I forgot an air mattress to sleep on. Once I was brave enough to face the cold, I climbed out of the sleeping bag and prepared some hot water as fast as I could for my coffee and oatmeal.

I think part of the reason the campgrounds are busy is Spring Break – partly because I heard someone yelling, “Spring Break!” at 7:00AM this morning. After breakfast I scrambled over some rocks looking for a sunrise picture. While climbing around I found someone sleeping in their sleeping bag out on the rocks – Tent? What tent? I don’t need no stinking tent…

The first hike of the day was to the top of Ryan Mountain. It took me about an hour to get to the top where I spent a half hour enjoying the scenery and taking pictures of the 360-degree panoramic view.

After Ryan Mountain I followed the road west where I found the “Halls of Horrors”

The “Show as Slideshow” link does not appear to work. Use the “View with PicLens” or click on the thumbnail image.

21 March 2014

This morning a rabbit greeted me at the restroom. I paused about 20 feet away at which point the rabbit approached me rather than running away. He hopped to about 10 feet away looking at me expectantly. I imagine he may have had handouts from other campers. I wish I had my camera with me; but, I am not accustomed to carrying my camera to the restroom.

This morning’s big hike is the Lost Horse Mine Loop. This is a 6.2 mile loop that takes you to the 10-stamp mine as well as a few other sites. Along the way I spotted a pair of what I thought were Gambel’s quail. But looking at the pictures now, I believe they were Chukar Partridge. Also sighted along the way were chipmunks and numerous flowers. It is quite odd walking on a desert trail for three and a half hours and not seeing another soul. At times I was beginning to wonder if I was on the right trail. The last part of the trail was flat (nice!) but was through soft beach-like sand (not nice!). The trail seemed to go on and on when all of a sudden the parking lot rose up out of the sand like a mirage.

On the way back to town I stoipped at the Hidden Valley Trail Loop. A short 1-mile nature walk. Here there wre a number of climbers working their routes, reminding me of the climbing community when Chris was actively climbing. I struck up conversation with a couple on the trail and they offered to take a few photos of me. Time to head into town and get some lunch, gas, and firewood.

Although the Cottonwood area is largely closed, I took the road in that direction to visit the Cactus Garden and the Arch Rock. My legs are definitely feeling the effects of this morning’s hike, Thankfully these are both short walks. Both calves are tight and my right ankle is a bit tender.

Enough hikes for the day… Although, I did manage to walk around the campground looking for a good sunset/sunrise location. It’s only 4:00PM, but I am think I am about done for the day. Probably hiked another 10 miles today.

Tomorrow, if I can convince my legs to cooperate, I plan on hiking the 49 Palms Oasis Trail.

When I had arrived back at camp, it looked like my neighbors might be packing up. But then later the tents were back up. Now, after 7:00PM, they are definitely packing up. Weird. But, OK, things happen. By the way, when I was in town I noticed signs that all campgrounds were full. I am glad I arrived when I did.

I am writing now by the light and warmth of the campfire. I’ve taken a few solo vacations over the years, but I would much rather have Vicky and boys here. I am making the most of it and will just have to share after the fact.

It is a bit breezy this evening, but clear skies. I’ve taken the rain fly back off of the tent and will maybe try to photo the stars again.

Every now and then I feel a twinge of pain in my back. We’ll see what tomorrow holds in store. But I may go without the pack, or at least lighten the load.

As I move around the campfire trying to avoid the smoke, I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be a aerodynamic/thermodynamic principle that explains why the smoke always goes to where you are standing. If there isn’t, there is now and I shall name it the Graves Smoke Affinity Principle.

The “Show as Slideshow” link does not appear to work. Use the “View with PicLens” or click on the thumbnail image.

22 March 2014

The morning starts of with a 3 mile roundtrip hike to the 49 Palms Oasis. This is the other spot where one can find standing water in the park. This truly is an oasis in the desert. It was sad to see the trees marred by an illegal fire ad further damage by people carving initials into the trees. Even while I was there I witnessed a jogger running his dog (no pets allowed) and two young ladies going off the trail where the trail was clearly marked as a biologically/ecologically sensitive area. Sigh. Sadness.

The Hi-View Nature Trail is another trail at the edge of the park in the northwest corner. This 1.3 mile loop offers a nice view of the surrounding area. I spotted a few Gamble’s quail running about. I also saw what appeared to be desert tortoise dens, but no tortoises were spotted. Apparently they spend 95% of their time underground and are therefor a rare sighting.

I stopped at the “Park Rock Cafe” again for lunch. After lunch I drove back to camp to relax and read. My new neighbors are hanging around playing guitar. If it wasn’t so warm inside the tent I would probably drift off to sleep.

One last hike is the 1.7 mile Skull Rock trail which goes right through the campground. Needless to say, the namesake of the trail is a large rock that resembles a skull. I took a few more flower photos along the trail.

The “Show as Slideshow” link does not appear to work. Use the “View with PicLens” or click on the thumbnail image.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.