After our brief camping stint in Arizona the time had come to head for the west coast and enjoy the comforts of the homes of more friends and readers of The Sunny Raw Kitchen blog.
Last year when we did this same journey we made an overnight stop in Yucca Valley, just north of Palm Springs. Once again it felt like the perfect place to pause. Instead of going along the northern rim of Joshua Tree National Park we decided to stay on Interstate 10, and while the drive wasn't nearly as pretty, it took us right by the area where most of the dates are grown in the US. Sadly we didn't realize this at the time and kept on driving our merry way. Dang, I would have loved to visit a date farm! Ah well, maybe next time... *sigh* That will teach me to do my homework at the very last minute!
As we approached Palm Springs we saw in the distance the familiar mountain range...
...and dozens of windmills which to me look so alien and out of place.
Headed north along the 62 to Yucca Valley.
Last winter we didn't get a chance to go to Joshua Tree Park as we were in such a rush to get to L.A. (I know, what a shame!) We made up for it this time around though and arrived early so that we could enjoy a much welcomed walk after all that driving.
The Land of Joshua Trees
It was strange to find ourselves amid such a different scenery in only a few hours! It's as though the saguaros we admired just that morning had been magically traded off for another unique botanical species. The Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a giant member of the agave family. It is only found in the Mojave Desert of southwest California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. Legend has it that Mormon pioneers named this species "Joshua" Tree because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua guiding them forward with upraised arms.
Two wise men. ;-)
Kylo enjoying his walk in yet a different landscape. He loves the ongoing adventure; so much to sniff and discover!
In the distance we caught a glimpse of the van lost in a forest of Joshua trees.
As the temps went below freezing at night and the only campgrounds around don't offer hook ups, camping wasn't an option so we stayed at the same Super 8 as last year. They are really friendly and the guy at the desk even remembered us!
The next day, after doing some much needed catching up on the computer, we headed for Joshua Tree National Park's west entrance just a few miles east of Yucca Valley. The landscape was really interesting and had a lunar quality to it.
We were expecting to have to pay to get in but there was nobody at the booth, which was a nice bonus. And so we got to enjoy all of that wondrous beauty for free. Yay!
On Wikipedia I learned that Joshua Tree Park covers a land area of 1,234 square miles - which is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island and "includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert."
We soon found ourselves surrounded by those funky looking Joshua trees as well as really cool, oddly shaped rock formations that have long fascinated visitors to the Mojave Deserts. On this site I discovered that"geologists believe the face of this modern landscape was born more than 100 million years ago. Molten liquid, heated by the continuous movement of the Earth's crust, oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface. These plutonic intrusions are a granitic rock called monzogranite."
There are several places where you can stop to enjoy the scenery or go for a hike. As for us we decided to walk around Hidden Valley, a secluded bowl completely enclosed by large rocks, which explains why rustlers in the 1800s used to hide their stolen cattle there.
It has become a popular destination for climbers. The teeny dark dot on the rock wall is actually someone getting ready to go down.
Here's a closer shot.
Like saguaros, each Joshua tree is so unique.
A really neat and gigantic bare tree.
Aren't those boulders awesome? Yet more of this world's stunning and mysterious beauty!
To be continued...