After a half day or so of driving north through Joshua Tree National Park, I was nearly at the end of the road. I had decided that my final destination was going to be Hidden Valley, which promised to give me a good look at the unique granite formations and the Joshua Trees that are the hallmark of the Mojave side of the park. Here’s the description of the trail, from the Best Easy Day Hikes book (book linked below):
- Hidden Valley – For good reason this is one of the park’s most heavily visited trails. The enchanting valley is surrounded by mounds of monzogranite and attracts climbers as well as more casual explorers.
Except for the little side trip to the rock arch, none of the walks I had taken in this park could be classified as hikes. Even this one, which was about a mile long and took around a half mile, was on an easy trail over granite and sand, with a few stone stairways thrown in where the slight elevation required it. Still, I managed to “hike” two or three miles out there in the desert heat – and that heat was definitely the reason I took it so easy!
Since my drive back to the southern exit followed the route of the trip I had made 10 years ago, I started to recognize some of the features I had encountered on that trip. I was struck by the seasonal changes as I drove through the Pinto Basin – when I had visited before, in the winter, plant life was abundant and verdant, given the desert conditions. Here in the summer, the general sense was of dusty, dry ground, with the plants all clinging to life from their water stores or from some unseen, deep underground moisture.
My day trip to Joshua Tree was a success – I’d managed to experience, and learn, about the desert ecosystem. I had not encountered much wildlife to speak of, just the honeybees and a few crows, but everything else remained sensibly out of sight. There were relatively few tourists, so I had most of the sightseeing activities to myself – except for a German family that was also staying at the hotel in Palm Desert, whom I encountered twice in the park.