|Melissa and Keith setting up camp|
|My tent at Black Rock Canyon|
|Melissa preparing Thanksgiving dinner|
Some light snow fell Thursday night while we sat around the campfire. Friday morning began cool, breezy, and cloudy; it was not the weather I was hoping for! After a brief walk around the hills surrounding our campground, we headed into the park for our first hike of the trip. We decided on the Lost Horse Mine Loop trail, bundled up, and headed out for the 6 mile hike. One of the best views along the trail came just after the Lost Horse Mine, a stunning vista across Pleasant Valley with rugged desert terrain and volcanic cinder cones. The loop passed by some enormous yucca plants and a valley filled with Joshua trees before returning to the trail head. The sun came out about half way through the hike, brightening our spirits and warming us up.
|Joshua tree in Black Rock Canyon|
|Melissa and Keith|
|Lost Horse Mine|
|Lost Horse Mine Loop hike|
|The view past Lost Horse Mine|
|Keith and a giant yucca|
|Lost Horse Mine Loop|
|Keith photographing the Joshua trees|
|End of the Lost Horse Mine Loop|
It was another cold night, but we were prepared with even more firewood than Thursday night and a good amount of wine. Our plan for Saturday was to stay out of the main part of the park, avoid the crowds, and hike right from our campground in Back Rock Canyon. A network of trails begins at the campground and we decided on a several mile hike that took us to Warren Peak and to the Panorama Loop Trail. The sun was out but the air was still quite cold as we began our hike up the sandy wash in Black Rock Canyon. It wasn't long before we reached the windy summit of Warren Peak, offering views of Black Rock Canyon and the Coachella Valley just beyond the park boundary.
|Melissa on Warren Peak|
|Hiking past Warren Peak to the Panorama Loop|
The views matched the name as we completed the Panorama Loop trail and headed back to camp. It was a great day hike and the sun was just beginning to set as we returned to camp, stocked with several bundles of firewood to keep us warm through another cold night.
|Large Joshua tree|
|Keith enjoying the panoramic views|
|Lunch break on the Panorama Loop Trail|
Our last full day in the park was Sunday and we decided to explore the Cottonwood Spring area in the far southern portion of the park. It was an hour drive through the park to Cottonwood Spring. Along the way we stopped at one of my favorite spots, the cholla cactus garden and nearby ocotillo patch.
|Cholla cactus garden|
The park transitions from Mojave Desert to Colorado Desert (Sonoran) as you approach the Cottonwood Spring area. The Joshua trees of the cooler Mojave are replaced with ocotillos and other plant life more typical of Arizona due to warmer temperatures and wetter summers. We were greeted with beautiful palms mixed with cottonwoods trees at the beginning of our hike, and I found this part of the park to be the most beautiful in terms of plant variety and scenery.
|Ocotillo along the hike to Lost Palms Oasis|
|Hiking to Lost Palms Oasis|
The 7 mile round trip hike to Lost Palms Oasis was the highlight of our trip. The weather was sunny and warmer, and the canyon containing the palm oasis was spectacular. We hiked down into the canyon and spent a couple of hours enjoying the beautiful palm trees and complete solitude. Keith enjoyed some climbing and scrambling on the rim of the canyon.
|Lost Palms Oasis|
|Melissa enjoying the sun and palms|
|Lunch break under the palm trees|
|Lost Palms Oasis|
|Lost Palms Canyon|
We returned to the trail head around sunset and made our way back to camp for our final night. We had the campground to ourselves as most people were headed home and back to work after the holiday weekend. One last roaring campfire and an evening of stargazing before heading back to Las Vegas. The temperatures finally recovered to normal as we packed up camp on Monday morning and headed home. Thank you, Keith and Melissa, for a wonderful Thanksgiving adventure in the desert!