Tuesday, January 1, 2008

07Dec25 – Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park

(You can double click on any photo to see a larger version)

We leave Christmas Day for the long drive to southern California. There are recent storms in the Sierras so we head down route 5 rather than over the mountains to 395. The San Joaquin Valley is fairly quiet as we cruise through mile after mile of irrigated farmland. South of Bakersfield, the valley’s true nature is expressed as irrigation ends and the farms peter out. The parched valley land creeps in at first from the edges, then takes over the vast landscape within 30 minutes of leaving Bakersfield. Now we are in the San Joaquin Valley the way the first settlers saw it…before the Sierra water was dammed and diverted into irrigation channels…before it became the major fruit basket for the United States. Ten hours driving from Oakland, including passing over Tehachapi pass and a major wind farm, we arrive in Joshua Tree National Park.

The desert is punctuated with the larger Joshua Tree plants and outcroppings of Monzo Granite – weathered to a rounded – river bottom look by hundreds of thousands of years of sand blasting by the seasonal winds.

We make several day hikes and explore the desert flora. Stayed at Jumbo Rocks campsite – well named for the geologic formations around which the campsites are threaded. We follow a nature trail and learn to identify Yucca, Joshua tree, creosote bush, pencil Kola, California Juniper, desert Oak. We see and identify a Silky Flycatcher (Phainopepla) and a California Thrasher. Two jack rabbits hop through our campsite early one morning.

The Joshua Tree roads would make good bike riding spring or fall – but there is no shoulder and a 6” curb.
The wind picks up and the temperature drops. We take a sunset hikes to nearby ridges to get better vistas of the surrounding desert.

The entire park angled on a long slope – starting up at a high elevation, and dropping steadily thousands of feet. The higher areas are located in the Mojave Desert, and then below 4,000 feet the vegetation dramatically changes moving into the adjoining Colorado Desert.
Check out the nature hike near Skull Rock.

We hike one day to a desert oasis called 49 palms. The 40 minute hike through rocky foothills brought us t the canyon concealing the small oasis. In this cleft in the mountainside is a small stream with a totally different ecosystem. There are 5 or 6 small pools surrounding by marsh grasses, cat tails, scotch broom and looming overhead are large palm trees.

Joshua Tree National Park - National Park Service

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