Ramble On

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park - part 2

In my first post about my day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, I mentioned an earlier trip I had made in December 2006.  That time, I only had the NPS guide to the park, which I picked up from the ranger at the entrance station.  I loosely followed it as I drove through the park from north to south.

That plan had worked well enough, but there was one point where I decided I wanted to take a walk towards some of the unique rock formations that highlight the Mojave side of Joshua Tree.  The distance I was going was only a quarter mile, but it wasn’t long before the landscape’s undulations left the rental car out of site, and I turned back for fear of getting lost.  Even so, I had time to experience the amazing diversity of desert plants that can be found here, and I even encountered a small arch that had been carved into the terrain.

This time, I had picked up a copy of the Best Day Hikes book for Joshua Tree National Park, and picked out a few destinations that looked worthy of a stop.  Most of these were short side trips, no more than a third of a mile round trip to the destination; I've also listed Cottonwood Spring even though I didn't visit it this time - the ranger at the welcome station suggested it, and I visited it the first time I visited the park.  

I’ve included the introductory description from the little day hikes guide (which I have once again linked at the end of this post): 

  • Cottonwood Spring (1.6 miles, sandy trail) – This nature trail provides not only identifications of desert plants but also describes their uses by Native Americans.  A stroll farther down the wash from Cottonwood Spring allows you to see another use of the desert at Moorten’s Mill.
  • Cholla Cactus Garden (0.25 miles, asphalt trail) – An unusually dense stand of cholla cactus rises in a cluster above the vast Pinto Basin.  The plants are as captivating as the views of the desert and the mountain ranges that surround the trail.
  • Arch Rock (0.3 miles, granite and sand loop trail)– A short nature trail winds around fascinating White Tank granite formations and features appropriate geology lessons.
  • Keys View (0.25 asphalt trail) – Keys View offers spectacular views of the south-central area of the park.  An interpretive sign provides information on the serious problem of air pollution in Joshua Tree.

The biggest surprise I encountered on the short walks I visited were the honey bees, hard at work despite the 100-degree temperatures.  There is even a sign warning about them at the Cholla Garden – and they were so omnipresent and curious, I didn’t even walk on that trail.  At the Keys View parking area, they were attracted to the sugar on the parking lot, residue from so many sweet drinks that had poured out there – I parked a long way out in the parking lot in an area that didn’t seem highly trafficked.
I visited Keys View on my previous trip, a clear winter day, so that I could see the Salton Sea in the distance to the south.  This time, the field of view was obscured by haze, and the interpretive sign directed me to look west in the direction of Palm Springs.  The entry to Coachella Valley is there, but a haze obscured the details of the geology – not only automobile emissions over the freeway, but everything else American society might put into the air in the Los Angeles basin. 

These short hikes – or more accurately, walks – were informative and offered a perspective on this beautiful landscape.  I’ve saved the highlight, Hidden Valley, for my last post about the visit to Joshua Tree.  For now, here’s that link to the Easy Day Hikes Book I used as a guide for my visit. 

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