Joshua Tree National Park is one of the places that I had always wanted to go to. It still makes me think of listening to U2 for the first time when I was in college. It was just me and Beau Rogers for the couple of days at Joshua Tree National Park. We decided to camp one night and spend the 2nd night in the luxury of Motel 6.
A midday hike to Mastodon Peak
We decided to camp at Cottonwood Campground near the southern entrance. Since the sun was high in the sky, Beau decided to go down for a nap. I was all pumped up and couldn’t sit still. So I decided to go for a midday hike all by myself.
Even though it was early spring, it was already getting pretty hot. I found a trail right from the campground to Mastodon Peak. The desert floor was strewn with wild flowers. There were no Joshua trees to be seen anywhere since I was still on the southern end of the park. However there were plenty of Mojave Yucca in bloom which is a cousin of the Joshua Tree.
The path was mostly along broad sandy washes with rocks carefully laid out to direct you. Mastadon Peak has an old gold mine on it’s side. You can still see a steel grate covering the mine shaft. The peak itself is a collection of beautiful orange colored rocks with wildflowers growing all over it.
And I also found my good old friend – the ocotillo – scattered all around.
Close encounters with a Mojave Rattler
After spending some time at Mastodon Peak checking out the flora, I decided to turn back. I had not seen a single human being for a while and was so immersed in the desert experience. Little did I realize that I had lost my way. All of a sudden I hear a rustling noise right next to me. I look down and I see a rattlesnake barely a foot from me. Time stood still for a brief moment as we eyed each other. Then the snake started coiling up as if to strike and I took off in full flight.
Unfortunately I ran right into a dead end box canyon. After a bit of panic I ran right back the way I had come. Luckily I had scared my friend away. However, I found this desert tortoise walking right across the wash. If you find one it the desert, please stay far from this endangered species. They store excess water in their bladder and will lose it if scared and that can result in them dying.
After a bit of back and forth I finally found my way back. That little incident kept me on my toes for the rest of the trip.
A stunning sunset
Beau knew a great spot on Geology Tour road that was totally off the beaten path. We got there scoped out our favorite Joshua trees and waited for the sun to go down. We were totally in for a treat with some fast moving clouds and a myriad of colors.
Sunrise at White Tank Campground
Next morning we headed out to the Arch Rock near White Tank campground. Joshua Tree National Park is also very popular with rock climbers as it is littered with enormous boulders. The sunrise was not as spectacular, but I got a couple of nice photos out it. I was so happy to put my bouldering skills at use and climb the rocks with a tripod in one hand.
After spending all day relaxing at the motel, we headed back to the same spot as the evening before. It was the night before full moon which is perfect for some moonrise photos. The sunset was meh compared to the previous evening. At least the lack of clouds meant that we would be able to see the moon. Since we had some time to kill, we took a very long loop through the valley floor on Geology Tour road. If you ever do it, make sure you have a 4 wheel drive with high clearance.
I learned the bad way that my lens was woefully inadequate for getting a good moonrise photo. At least I got one acceptable photo with the moon and a Joshua Tree.
Next week – Trona Pinnacles!