Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Road Less Traveled... Joshua Tree - Day 2

Day Two: On the second day of our vacation, we visited the western end of Joshua Tree National Park. The western end of Joshua Tree is more widely visited. It has more campsites, more varied terrain, and it is cooler due to its altitude.

Although we visited in the middle of summer, the temperature was still relatively mild: low 90's. Compared to the 110 plus of last summer, this was mild.

The previous night I had studied the park maps, hard-copy and online. As we entered the park, I asked the ranger about the dirt roads in the park. (We had driven a bit on one the previous day, and found it suitable for a regular passenger car.) The ranger informed me that the "gray" roads on the map were maintained. The "dotted" roads on the map indicated four-wheel vehicles were suggested.

I've learned to listen to informed suggestions, so we stuck to the regular roads, plus the maintained dirt roads. Traveling to Joshua Tree in the summer put us in a minority. Visiting the dirt roads put us on the road less traveled. It was a mini-adventure.

The west end of the park is peppered with the Joshua trees which give the park its name. It also is home to many rock formations which provide opportunities for exploring, climbing, and jaw dropping views.

We stopped mid-day for a picnic lunch, we took two short hikes, and we avoided the bees that were enjoying their peak summer activities. In addition to the geography and plant life, we saw lizards and mini-chipmunks.

One little fellow was wrestling a banana peel to his hole. I think he had nabbed the peel out of the trash can. (He was faster than my camera.)

At the end of one dead-end dirt road, I strolled off to take a picture of some small cactus that had caught my wife's eye. Near a bush, I saw what appeared to be a large egg. As I moved closer, I discovered... a golf ball! (Removing objects from the park is illegal, but I confiscated the ball as a memento. How it got there, I have no idea, but I did know that it was non-native.)

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and I hope your are inspired to explore some of the back roads in your own backyard. Adventure on!


  1. I liked the shot of the boulder through the triangular hole. It is intriguing how that shot was concieved.
    About the roads less traveled by, when I was younger I climbed to the top of a number of mountains that were over 10,000 feet in elevation (like Mt. Lassen). They always had trails that led to the top, but they were not easy trails. There were certainly no crowds there and the experience of being on a mountain top was great.

  2. @Dennis: Hiking among the boulders, I saw the triangular hole... climbed inside, and took the shot. (Congrats on the "peak" experiences. I've climbed more canyons than mountains. I learned the hard way that at least with mountains, once you're tired and turn around, it's all down hill. Not so with canyons.)

  3. i always enjoy the pics you post. you have a good eye for taking good pics.

  4. @CIS: Thanks. Coming from you, that's quite a compliment. ;-)

  5. I tend to forget that California has deserts. It's not a topography I'm overly familiar with and so I like the mystery of it. What strange plants and creatures...especially the last picture.

    Maybe that golf-ball shaped thing WAS native...maybe you took it out of its natural habitat and upset its place in the ecosystem of Joshua Tree and now the world will never reap the scientific benefits of the first organic plastic.


  6. @Saphron: You're not alone in having a skewed view of what "is" native to California. TV, the movies, and magazines tend to focus on Southern Coastal California. North/South, coastal/inland, valley/mountain, city/rural... it's extremely variable in reality, if not in the media. (That organic plastic even came with printing! I discovered since, that the ball is no longer round, but oblong. Too much sun is bad, even for golf balls.)