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Sep 25, 26 - Joshua Tree National Park

Barstow, CA, Joshua Trees, Cholla Cactus

sunny 29 °C

After dumping our very full grey and black water tanks (one of life's little pleasures when you own a trailer) we headed south, winding our
way out of the mountains and heading south towards Bakersfield CA. We decided to avoid Death Valley, where temperatures are expected to be
well over 100 F tomorrow. Our plan was to cross the valley, heading for Las Vegas.

Instead we are going to add Joshua Tree National Park as our destination, so down through Bakersfield we go. We've looked at options and have decided to make Barstow our stop for a 2 night stay. We will do a day trip to Joshua Tree (about 100 miles south) before heading east through Las Vegas and onward.

The day ended in a Bastow RV park. Our first experience with KOA. Pricey, at $49 a night for a basic water/electric site, so you would expect the wifi to work for that price. A full hook up site is almost $60 a night, and that just adds cable tv and sewer hook-up. Washrooms are dated, but OK. But the extremely poor wifi drives us crazy. We can't plan easily without it. Even over by the office the wifi is crap. Did we mention this park is right along the I-15, so trucks are zooming by all night long.

Despite all that we slept well and woke to a full sunny day for our trip to Joshua Tree. We bopped into Peggy Sue's Diner for breakfast. This
is a 1950's diner, similar to what would have been found on Route 66 back in the day. A good breakfast in an interesting place. This area
is full of military bases and there was a Marine convoy setting up across the road, with cannons and supply trucks. There are a couple of ranges nearby so that must be where they are headed. Several of the marines were in Peggy Sue's having breakfast.

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We drove on south through scrub desert and arrived at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center about 10:00am.

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We got information on what could be seen and done on a half day visit and set off for our first destination, the Hidden Valley. This was a box canyon, used by cattle rustlers, back in the 1850's to hide cattle while they changed the brands before moving them on to market. The one mile trail gives a bit of the history and ecology of the valley. Back in the 1800's they used to get 10 inches of rain a year here so grasses in the valley were lush and would feed cattle. Now only 2-5 inches falls annually and mostly scrub grows, and grasses planted by the rustlers have pushed out native species.

The Joshua Trees are quite big:

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The rocks surrounding the valley funnel rain down into the ground around the base and lessen the evaporation, so a micro climate exists in this
55 acre valley. The cutest oak trees, with tiny leaves and acorns, and Pinyon Pine trees, with cones that used to provide food for natives. Pinyon nuts were ground into flour.

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They warn you here to drink plenty of water. If you are staying in the park, the rule is 2 gallons, per person, per day. Jenny and I are drinking water as we go along and are soon through a 500 ml bottle on just this hike.

We meander through the park and head up to Keys View, a 5200 feet above sea level view of the Coachella Valley, home to cities like Palm
Springs, Palm Desert and my buddy Larry Vincent's winter hangout Desert Hot Springs. Palm Springs sits just 150 feet above sea level, so the contrast is pretty impressive. The Salton Sea is also visible from up here, and it is 295 feet below sea level. The San Andreas Fault runs through the valley below. Much of the valley is irrigated and converted to crops, like dates.

We stopped along the road at a picnic site for lunch before heading on to our next planned stop, the Barker Dam. And this is where the thing about drinking water came back to bite. I'd been drinking a fair amount of water, but even as we got to the parking lot for Barker Dam I was not feeling quite right. So I slept in the car while Jenny went off for this one mile hike. As I was resting I read through the brochure about dehydration. Of course, as you sweat you lose salt which throws off your electrolyte balance. So, I was dehydrated. A bit of salt and an hour later I was doing OK, but still not 100%.

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There are some pictographs that have been marred by recent people trying to highlight the paint on them:

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We ended our tour at the Cholla Cactus Garden. A nasty little cactus, unless you are a cactus wren or a particular type of rodent. Touching will cause pain. So, we looked, and Jenny took some nice pictures.

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Our drive back was long, but uneventful. Jenny drove much of the trip back. Once back at the KOA near Barstow we had steak and salad for supper and enjoyed a quiet evening trying to get enough internet to figure out where we would stay in Las Vegas. One RV park e-mailed back that they had no vacancies, but then the internet packed it in so we had no way to check out the other major park in Vegas. Well, off we go blind in the morning.

Everywhere we go we see where human habitation has changed the landscape, sometimes for good, sometimes downright bad. It is a fact of life that almost 500 million inhabit North America, remaking nature to fit the needs of the population. It is all part of how the dominant species on the planet gets to decide what to do. Can the human race continue to alter this planet and still exist...well, that is the question, isn't it?

We are enjoying our time seeing both the natural, and the man made wonders of this continent.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 13:35 Archived in USA Tagged koa joshua_tree cholla_cactus barstow Comments (1)

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