Monday, November 19, 2012

Walking among Joshua’s Trees

Saturday morning came with us near civilization. After Jonathan swapped out the slider handles, we decided to get some items off of our checklist before we went into Mexico:
1.       Buy and print Mexican auto insurance
2.       Get groceries
3.       Fill up on propane
4.       Obtain replacement trailer tires

Thus, we spent most of the morning trying to mark these items off the list. #3 went without a hitch thanks to good ol’ U-haul. #1 had some difficulties. We went to the library right after filling up with propane, but they weren’t open yet. We still had 45 minutes to wait, so we went to find groceries. Now, as much as Wal-Mart can be a pain with the crazies and the long lines and such, I appreciate Wal-Marts. They offer everything you need at reasonably low prices. Thus, we headed there for items 2 and 4. Sadly, the Wal-Mart that I went to today was PA-THE-TIC. It had even fewer items to choose from than my hometown grocery store. They had no dried fruit, string cheese, or the sauce that Jonathan likes. Their lameness even went into the Tire & Lube center.  I was not impressed. We even had to go another store to obtain all the items on our list.

Finally, after we had finished grocery shopping, we returned to the local library to borrow the interwebs and printer. The staff there was very helpful and we were even able to get an internet card that would let us get on the computer at any libraries in the region. The bad part about library internet is that is normally atrociously slow. Like, a 3G connection shared with several people would have been faster. I think we ought to fund our libraries a bit more to provide a more appropriate speed of internet.

Lastly, we had to find some replacement trailer tires. The trailer is cheap and not well manufactured, and the tires aren’t much better, so we already have to replace the three originals that we purchased. As I mentioned earlier, Wal-Mart was unable to help us with this endeavor, so we had to look up a Harbor Freight Tools. We had success there, albeit slow.

Then, we needed to figure out where we were going next. We decided on Joshua Tree National Park. We managed to navigate all the way there, then found out that all the campgrounds were already full! I had never had that happen to me before and that was 3 in the afternoon! Good thing that I found a free camping spot (via and just before we arrived at the park. We had to turn around as soon as we got into the park, and then we trotted off to find the Joshua Tree BLM campground north of the park. A bit dusty, and quite a bit of company, but nothing too much to complain about for free camping. And, we got parked earlier enough for me to go for a run in the daylight after having a good phone conversation with my grandparents.

I guess the popular time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is this time of year. Sunday found the park packed still. We did manage to find the Barker Dam trail to be mostly vacant early that morning, so we went on the mile walk to the dam. For the first quarter mile, the wildlife was plentiful. Birds chirped at us, bunnies played by the trail, and small ground squirrels chittered nearby.

The dam even had a flock of quails eating in its dry lake bed.

Then, at the end of the loop, there were petroglyphs. These have been “vandalized” by someone repainting them.

Next, we drove up to Key’s View. From this hilltop (5,000 ft) you can look into the valley and the San Andreas fault and the Salton Sea.

From there we drove down to take the hike to Lost Horse Mine. Supposedly, a guy stumbled upon this gold mine operation while looking for his lost horse. The owner of the mine sold it to him for $1000 (back in the early 1900s, I believe). The mine ended up producing 9,000 ounces of gold (not sure if that is troy or traditional) through some labor-intensive work. I am not sure how the numbers figure out, but seems to me that the original owner made the right decision. Find the gold, then sell it off and let someone else do the hard work.

After the four-mile, two-hour hike, it was way past lunch. We left the overcrowded parking area for the mine and found a pull-off on the road to make lunch. I don’t know if it was the elevation plus lack of appropriate amounts of water or whether we are just plain out of shape, but that hike tuckered us out, leaving us with no motivation to do anything else that day. Plus, the park was crazy busy. So, we thought our time might be better spent washing our clothes. While we still had a few items left, I was tired of lifting that heavy mass every time I made the bed. Unfortunately, the Laundromat was busy too; something about everyone preparing for relatives for Thanksgiving, or something like that. Things went alright, though, until we learned that one of the driers we chose wasn’t producing heat. At the end of the day, we ending up with a lot of mostly dry clothes hanging from every in the van. Jonathan may have coined it correctly when he called it a “forest of pants.”

Monday, we decided to try the park again. This time we drove down to Cottonwood Springs. Apparently, Joshua Tree NP covers parts of two deserts. Sunday we were in the Mohave Desert the entire time, while Monday we ventured into the Colorado Desert. The cholla cactus and the ocotillo are evidence of the Colorado Desert.

At Cottonwood Springs, there was no visible water, but the cottonwoods and the palms grew exceedingly tall.

From the springs, we hiked to Mastodon Peak.

That evening we decided to head farther south for camp. We first tried to stay in the BLM Box Canyon by Mecca, but we couldn’t find any really van-accessible spots. Fortunately, we still had daylight and internet (albeit slower than 3G) and found a location a little farther south at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, another OHV location.

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