Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Joshua Tree National Park, California - Hiking and Camping

The winter in Salt Lake City has been dry and mild so far.  I know this makes the skiers and boarders very sad, but I don't feel too sorry for them because they were skiing on the 4th of July last season.  Despite the mild temperatures, I was still craving a warm getaway for the New Year holiday.  A few people expressed some interest in heading south to Las Vegas and points beyond, but eventually Shawn, Jacob and I settled on a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

 Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

I flew back to Salt Lake on Wednesday night after visiting family in Massachusetts, unpacked, repacked, and headed out the door early Thursday morning.  It was about an 10 hour drive, not including rest stops along the way for food and coffee!  We arrived in Joshua Tree just after sunset to set up camp and settle in for the night.  The night was cool and comfortable for sleeping and I awoke early the next morning to check out the sunrise.

 Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Shawn enjoying the sunrise

Enjoying the sunrise in Joshua Tree

We drove through the park to Keys View to get a good overview of the terrain and scenery.  The Salton Sea, along with Palm Springs, were visible in the distance from this 5,200 foot viewpoint.

Joshua Tree

Hanging out with my juniper friend at Keys View

Shawn at Keys View

We hiked the seven mile Lost Horse Mine Loop trail after Keys View to enjoy the warm sunshine and awesome desert scenery.  The highlight of the hike is supposed to be the mine, but I was much more impressed with the gigantic yuccas that lined the trail.  It would have been amazing to see them flowering in the Spring.

Jacob and a Joshua Tree

Jacob and Shawn lagging behind on the Lost Horse Mine Loop trail


Giant yuccas!

New Year's Eve day started off with a great hike to Fortynine Palms Oasis at the north end of the park.  After hiking through the barren desert, we arrived at the surprisingly green oasis and relaxed under the beautiful palm trees for a couple of hours.

Almost to the oasis

Fortynine Palms Oasis

 Fortynine Palms Oasis

Fortynine Palms Oasis

After the oasis, we checked out a couple of the park's unique plant species.  There was a patch of ocotillos which appear to be cactus-like bushes but are actually plants which grow leaves when moisture is abundant and shed them during dry periods.  There was also a large patch of beautiful cholla cacti which look soft and fuzzy but don't feel quite as nice to touch.


 Me next to an ocotillo

Ocotillos shed their leaves during dry periods, leaving thorny stalks

Cholla cactus friend

Cholla cacti

Cholla cactus

We headed back to camp to celebrate the New Year at midnight.  The mild night and clear skies made for some great stargazing, and certainly one of the most enjoyable New Year's Eves I've had, in thr beautiful desert landscape.

 Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

 New Year's Eve in Joshua Tree

New Year's Eve in Joshua Tree

New Year's Eve does not get any better than this!

We greeted the new year with a sunrise hike, a hike to the top of Ryan Mountain, and ended the day watching some very brave people slacklining and rock climbing.

The sun rises on 2012

 Jacob on Ryan Mountain

Slacklining in Joshua Tree

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

~T.S. Eliot