Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back to Vacation: Joshua Tree National Park

From Prado we set out for Joshua Tree National Park. Again, we had to stop at a Target along the way to pick up a few more food items and some water, had lunch and free internet at Chik Fil A and then off. The roads were much less congested and the ride more pleasant. I talked with my daughter Sarah on the phone and was telling her about my initial reaction to RV-ing. Mind you, not too many people who know me thought that this was something I would really LOVE. Sarah reminded me, “Remember when we were kids and you always told us we needed to have a pleasant attitude? Where is your pleasant attitude, Mom?” LOL Our other catchphrase was always, “Look at it as another little adventure!” which she also reminded me to think about. :) She was right, of course, and my attitude had definitely improved since Days One and Two.
We ordered an RV park book before we left home so we’d mostly been choosing our stopping points from the book. There are lots of campsites in Joshua Tree so we’d decided to stay at one called Ryan because it was near a recommended hike up Ryan Mountain. However, by the time we got to Joshua Tree it was almost dark and the Ryan site was about 20 miles in. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and the ranger advised us to go to the Jumbo Rocks site, which was not as far and had lots of campsites so we should be sure to get a spot. We took his advice and made it to Jumbo Rocks just as it was getting dark. Wow, talk about JUMBO ROCKS. These things are huge! Very cool!
According to the park’s literature, “these rocks were formed over 100 million years ago as molten liquid, heated by the continuous movement of the Earth’s crust, oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface of the overlying rock. These plutonic intrusions are a granitic rock called monzogranite. After the arrival of the arid climate of recent times, flash floods began washing away the protective ground surface. As they were exposed, the huge eroded boulders settled one on top of the other, creating the impressive rock piles we see today.”

The next morning, we got up and went on a 1 mile nature walk along the Skull Rock trail. It was neat to see all of the huge rock formations, the Joshua, yucca and juniper trees, a few cacti and various other plants. We were talking about the fact that it is probably so much more colorful and vibrant in the spring time and maybe we will come back again at that time of year someday. We kept seeing references to “wood rats” on the signs along the trail and I really wanted to see one but, alas, we did not. Rich wondered why there were virtually no lizards anywhere when he can remember seeing dozens sunning themselves on rocks when he was a kid. We did come across a cute little Gambel’s Quail family.
A colony of little rock people. We had to laugh, remembering something we'd read in Hawaii. "There are often rocks stacked on other rocks which people take to have some meaning. They do not."
After our nature walk, we had some lunch and packed up to move to the Ryan site. On the way, we went to the Keys View at 5185 feet, which looks out on the valleys, mountains and desert. You can see the San Andreas Fault from there. We also drove past a rock formation called Hall of Horrors but we could not see what was so horrific about it! Funny. And another one called Oyster Bar. We think they had some creative employees coming up with names for these sights. Another sign called the yucca an “adventurous” tree.

The Joshua Tree, yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family. Park literature states: "Until recently, it was considered a giant member of the Lily family, but DNA studies led to the division of that family into 40 distinct plant families. The Joshua Tree is a monocot, in the subgroup of flowering plants that also includes grasses and orchids. It's usually found in the Mojave Desert but it is also found in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona and mixed with pines in the San Bernadino Mountains. Years ago, the Joshua Tree was used by Native Americans for its useful properties: tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, flower buds and raw or roasted seeds were eaten. The local Cahuilla have long referred to the tree as “hunavat chiy’a” or “humwichawa.”"
By the mid-19th Century, Mormon immigrants made their way across the Colorado River. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the Biblical figure Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.

Ryan only has 31 campsites and looked full as we approached. Luckily, there were two spots left, but not for long. We grabbed one and some people behind us grabbed the other. Most people in this area are in tents, not RVs. It’s a popular spot for rock climbers and we got to see a few later in the day.

We thought our site would give us access to the Ryan Mountain trail but we actually had to drive a good little ways back down the road to a parking lot to get started. The trail is described as a 3 mile round trip, moderately strenuous trail leading to the summit of Ryan Mountain at 5458 feet. We figured no big deal, we can do this! We did do it and it was not that big a deal but it was pretty darned steep and strenuous. By the time we got to the top, I was wondering what I had been thinking. Haha Then came the trek back down, which was almost as difficult in a different way since it’s hard on the old knees and back and ankles to walk down a steep incline.

At the top

Ravens floating on the breeze

We did it!
Sunset at our campsite

Rock climbers!
We made a fire in our firepit on our last night and watched from a distance as climbers ascended the rocks in the dark. How crazy is that? They had strong lamps with them which allowed us to make out what they were doing but I can’t imagine trying such a thing. Unlike the yucca, guess I am just not that adventurous!

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