Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Joshua Tree and SoCal Experiences

While we continue to enjoy our time in SoCal and have been taking advantage of the hot springs to soak our bones, we have experienced some of the downsides of being here.  In the last post I talked about how the weather had turned very windy for a couple of days.  Well after a bit of calm the wind has returned with full force of 40 to 45 mph and higher gusts.  It has been rocking the rig.  On Friday evening we had another SoCal experience when the RV started shaking while the winds were calm. OH NO, EARTHQUAKE!!! The 5.1 shaker was all over in a few seconds and the news reports that, other than water main breaks and things falling off shelves, there was very little damage and no major injuries.  After the quake I discovered that we are parked almost on top of the San Andreas fault. Duh, no wonder there are all these hot springs in the area. On Saturday we drove to nearby Joshua Tree National Park.  The park is a beautiful desert landscape, but we got to experience another SoCal happening as the long distant views were not very clear because of the winds carrying the LA smog into the valley.
Joshua Tree National Park takes it name from a plant of the agave family.  Early Mormon settlers thought the trees looked like Joshua reaching to heaven.  The area was first designated a national monument in 1936 and became a national park in 1994.
It sure is different seeing this forest in the middle of the desert.  The snow capped peak is San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest in SoCal.
These unique rock formations are the result of magma that cooled and turned to granite.  They were then exposed by years of erosion.  Look closely and you can see some climbers on the rocks.  As if on cue that rock climbing can be dangerous (Mark), we were passed by emergency vehicles on the way to rescue a fallen climber.
These trees can grow to forty feet tall and live to be 100 years old.  They can not be accurately aged because they do not have rings like a regular tree.
It is hard to believe, but at one time this land was used to raise cattle.  This water is behind Barker Dam that an early rancher built to store water.  The water still attracts a lot of wildlife.
The dam and a watering trough from the ranching days.  The ranches finally failed when the weather patterns changed and less rain fell in the area.  Who knew they had climate change back then.
The park is in the transition zone between the higher elevation Mojave Desert and the lower elevation Sonoran Desert.  Most of the Joshua trees are in the Mojave Desert.
These pictographs are proof that people where here long before the early European settlers came into the area.  These were located in a small rock shelter. 
Another area of the parks unique trees and rocks
We did see birds, reptiles, and mammals in the park.  You can click on the picture to enlarge it.
Being Easterners we are always amazed at the huge variety of flowering plants we see in the desert.  They offer such a stark contrast in the dry, barren landscape.  Even though it has been a very dry winter there were many blooms. 
This is the remains of the Lost Horse Mine.  The mill processed gold that was mined here.  As someone who grew up in a town with several old coal tipples, I'm always amazed to see these old sites as part of a national park. 
We hiked to the mine through an area that was burned a few years ago.  It takes a long time for nature to recover in the desert.  There were just a few surviving plants.
Keys View on the south side of the park is supposed to offer a great view of the Coachella Valley, where we are staying, below.  Unfortunately, on the day of our visit we had another of those SoCal experiences, smog.  We can usually see the mountain, San Jacinto Peak, from our rig but the wind had blown the smog through the pass into the valley.
Skull rock is a real popular stop.  Looks like an ancient alien.

We exited the park on the Pinto Basin Road that passes through the lower elevation Sonoran Desert.  The first big change in vegetation is at Cholla Garden.  They are known as jumping cholla because it seems their spines jump on to unsuspecting hikers. 
At Ocotillo Patch the ocotillos were in bloom with its red flowers and small green leaves.  All the leaves will fall off during the dry summer and they will look like a bunch of dead sticks.  Joshua tree is a very neat desert park that is well worth a visit.

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Nice post, I always wanted to climb at Joshua Tree and its still on my bucket list.