Saturday, November 28, 2020

11/14 Joshua Tree National Park, CA

I had been here before, but mostly spent time in the south end of the park.  I have even stayed at the Cottonwood campground, but the sites there are just too tight and no electric, so won't do that again.  I asked the ranger if there were any plans to build a more modern campground with larger sites inside the park, and the answer was no.  That is a shame because this is the only busy national park I have been at where there were such small spaces that I could not get in. 

This time I stayed in Indio and drove quickly from the south part of the park and took a different routs through the north end.  

My biggest problem was that I made the mistake of going on a Thursday.  This national park is near several good-sized cities in the Palm Springs, CA, area, so it was packed with local people hiking and enjoying themselves on a weekend.  The problem with it being busy was that most people were in cars, so they were parked in all the available spots.  There were several areas I wanted to stop at, but could not because there was no place to park.  

Thought this hazy photo on the way there was interesting because of the layering on the mountains.  

The entrance road on the southern part of the park is really in rough shape. 

They call this a smoke bush because it looks a little like smoke.

This is a creosote bush.

The bush has tiny leaves which have an interesting smell.  If you are in the desert and see one, pour a little water on a few leaves and you will be rewarded with a smell like burning rubber.  I once washed my motorhome in a campsite that had a couple of creosote bushes near them.  I kept thinking something was burning until I noticed the creosote bushes that were getting wet!  (You can pick a couple of leaves and rub them between your fingers, but sprinkling them with water gives the same effect and does not harm the bush.)

This is an ocotillo.  Unfortunately, the drought in this area means that its small leaves have mostly dried up, but after a rain or two, it will spring to life and even have red flowers at the tips of every branch. 

This is what they call a "cholla garden."  Some people call them jumping cholla because the spiky segments seem to jump on you as you pass and stick very strongly.  You want to walk carefully in the desert so you don't brush up against one of these.  Watch your dog, as well, because dogs get the little chunks caught in their fur as well.

The northwest part of the park had a lot of rocks.  A lot of people were walking around and climbing on the, but I just took photos! 

Finally, here are some Joshua Trees!  They live mainly in the Mohave Desert, which is a lot drier than the Sonoran Desert, and can get by on one rainfall per year.  And they are actually yucca instead of cactus. 

Some kids were enjoying climbing on these rocks and hiding in the caves.

Parking on the wide shoulder was easy here.

There are a lot of Joshua trees here. 

This is one of the pullover areas, and you can see why I could not stop at many of them.

This is a young Joshua Tree.  The big ones can live 200 years and get to be 30' tall.  This one is only about five feet tall.

Heading out of the park.

11/10 Oaten, Arizona - Old Mining Town

 I had not been to Oaten before, but I saw a couple of articles about it, so I headed down to near Needles, AZ and headed about 20 miles east. Not much around here but a bunch of big casinos, but I did not take photos of them.

Everything here is supposed to look like it was built in an old mining town, but I suspect this is a little newer.

This is the very small village of Oaten. 

The tourist attraction of the town is not just the old mining buildings, but also the wandering donkeys.  Actually, they are in town because the shops sell donkey food to tourists.

It takes a whopping 20 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other, assuming you walk very slowly, however.  It's only about two blocks.

This explains a little about the town. 

I could have spent a little more time here, but most of the stores were closed due to the virus.

Good-bye Oaten.  Did not even buy a post card!  These look like old mining tailings on the way out of town.

Friday, November 13, 2020

11/6 Mouse's Tank Hike at Valley of Fire SP

There are a lot of places to hike in Valley of Fire, but one of the easiest and more interesting is the hike/walk to Mouse's Tank.  It is a 3/4 mile round trip, flat hike or walk.  The only thing that makes it slightly hard is that the ground is very soft sand, so it is a lot like walking on dry beach sand--every step takes extra effort, but at least it is flat and not too far.  I have walked on it in the past, so did not go all the way down, but that's fine. 

It is a shallow canyon, and on the north side of the canyon, there are hundreds of petroglyphs.  A petroglyph is a drawing pecked into the dark-stained rock using another stone so that the shape or design shows up lighter in color.  It is different from a rock painting because, obviously, there is no paint involved.  A positive is that because the figures are pecked into the rock, they can last hundreds and thousands of years.  It is estimated that the petroglyphs in Valley of Fire are from 2,000 to 4,000 years old.  

At the end of the shallow canyon is a large depression in the rock that holds water--hence it is called a tank.  And Mouse, was an outlaw in the 1800s who used the canyon and the tank as a hiding place from the law.  And, obviously, Native American's used this area heavily for thousands of years and made drawings where they camped.  

Anyway, it was a cool day, so other than slipping in the soft sand, it was an easy walk. First stop was the visitor center.  If you have kids, right next to the visitor center are large rocks with holes in them where kids can climb and hide.  

Looking out over the valley and the RV parking lot at the visitor center.

It is a bit of a steep drive up through the rocks to Mouse's Tank. 

The lot closest to the trail was full, so I had to park just down the road. 

Amazingly red rocks! 

There are deer and maybe elk in this group.  And maybe that spotted thing is a turtle??  Maybe that thing on the far left is a lizard, also. 

This is what the trail looks like.  Almost all of the petroglyphs are on the left side.

Some dancers??  Two seem to be wearing costumes, or maybe someone pecked out their images??


More dancers?  Some people believe the line with vertical lines represent rain.  And maybe the squiggly line is a snake??


This group looks very old because they are more weathered looking. 

This is a closeup of part of the above. Lots of dots. 

Another view of the trail. 

More animals and unknown figures.

This group is a little clearer. 

I spent about an hour walking and taking photos and then headed back downhill to my campsite.

Nice view of the valley.