Our final destination in California was Joshua Tree National Park. We camped at Indian Wells Carefree RV Resort in Indio. It’s a beautiful RV park that offers a lot of amenities. Snowbirds come there for the winter. Their rates were exceptionally low, $25! That is the cheapest we stayed in California.
Since we arrived early in the day, we took a ride to Joshua Tree NP. Twentynine Palms is the closet town to one of the three entrances to Joshua Tree. It is on the northern side of the park and does have a RV park. We chose to stay on the southern side of the park, which meant a 45 minute drive to it’s entrance. Most of it’s trails and sites are in the northern part of the park as well, so it meant a lot of driving for us.
We grabbed a map at the visitor center and talked with the park ranger about places to see. He recommended a couple of good places to be around sunset. Cottonwood Springs was our first stop. It is a little oasis you can drive to with a very short hike. The palm trees looked weird as they had never been trimmed. They were tall with green tops and dead palm fronds hanging to the ground.
Next, we drove to Cholla Catus Garden. It was amazing! The area had a large concentration of Jumping Cholla cactus, also known as Teddy Bear Cholla, as far as you could see. It looked beautiful with them all glistening in the sunlight. I would like to have walked through the gardens, but there was another area we wanted to get to before sunset.
Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks are across the street from each other and offer some great sunset shots. There are trails where you can walk around and over the rocks. At Jumbo Rocks a couple was having a pre-wedding photo shoot. What a beautiful setting for wedding pictures. The bride had to be freezing though. The wind was blowing and the temperature was really dropping as the sun faded. This area has Joshua trees. They only grow in the northern part of the park. The Joshua tree is neither a tree or cactus. It is in the lilly family and looks like a yucca.
We got to the park early the next day, driving to one of the north entrances to go hiking to Fortynine Palms Oasis. It was a moderate hike three miles long with an 300′ elevation gain both ways. The weather was great for hiking – sunny and cool. As we climbed the ridge the landscape was dotted with barrel catcus. John stopped me on the trail and pointed out some Bighorn Sheep. We watched them as they crossed the trail and went up the ridge where they stopped to graze.
Upon reaching the oasis, we saw charred palm trunks caused by an out-of-control campfire. According to the park’s information, fire can be benficial to the palms by encouraging seed developement and killing off competing plants. However, campfires are illegal. The oasis are formed from a crack in the Earth’s crust and groundwater rises to the surface.
After our hike, we went into town for lunch and then returned to the park. We made the ride out to Keys View. The elevation is over five thousand feet and you can overlook miles of valley, mountains, and desert. It was very windy and cold. Since we were in shorts and the views were hazy that day, so we did not stay long.
It was much nicer in the lower elevations. There were still two short hikes I wanted to do, Hidden Valley and Barker Dam. Hidden Valley is a rock-enclosed valley said to been used by cattle rustlers. It certainly was a well hidden place for cattle, but I wondered how they managed to get water to them.
Joshua Trees abound in this part of the park. The landscape was just thick with them and some of them were huge.
Just before sunset we hiked to Barker Dam. It was built around 1900 to hold water for cattle and mining use. Sometimes you can see wildlife there, but not during our visit.
We really enjoyed our visit to Joshua Tree NP. California is a great state to explore with so much to offer. There was only two highlights for the trip back east after leaving California. One was a stop in Arizona at Green Valley to visit with John’s brother, Eddie and his wife Judy. We spent five days there doing some maintenance and repairs on the RV. While there, we also visited the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest. Then our last stop was in NC to visit with my family. It was a great ending to a wonderful trip.