Ramble On

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park - part 3

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!

Before I left Palm Desert, I had stocked up on water, buying four one-liter bottles to carry with me.  Taking stock before setting out in Hidden Valley, I had already consumed two liters; when I returned to the car afterwards I drank another half-liter.  I finished that third bottle during the drive to Coachella Valley Brewing after I exited the park.

From the Hidden Valley parking lot, the trail winds gently upward through the boulders, until finally cresting a small rise and descending into the valley.  There are interpretive signs all along the trail, and in the first part the subject matter relates Native American life in the valley, and then stories of cattle ranching there.  There are even stories of rustlers that used the valley as a hideout.

The star of the show these days are the incredible Monzonite granite boulders.  While the harsh desert sun tends to wash out the color from a distance, when you get close you can see that they are mostly a beautiful pink shade.  It’s probably a magical experience to be among these formations at sunset.

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.

All that was left on my agenda for the day was to head over to Coachella Valley Brewing, which I posted on last week, and then find something for dinner.  The next day was set aside for a few brewery chores in the hotel in the morning, and then the drive into LA to get ready for the reunion at USC.  Those will be my next topics.

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