Are Joshua Trees, Trees?
~Sunday, December 6, 2020~
Woke up to two stacks of firewood next to our fire ring that must have been so graciously left by the neighbors I delivered cookies to yesterday. Exchanging neighbor to neighbor in the camping world is so nice to see.
Since we are dropping off the trailer for repairs tomorrow, Jeff had some unfinished business to attend to with installing the second solar panel. He said it was a bit nerve racking drilling 6 holes in our roof, but he caulked the heck out of it (only the Latreille way). It’s the perfect stuff as it’s rated for blasts of UV rays and downpours for years. It will be nice to have the extra power source (an extra 190 watts) to help charge those lithium batteries. On a cloudy day, or if we’re parked in a more shady spot, this will really help. We noticed at our forested dispersed campsite in Flagstaff, that 1 panel was not enough to fully charge the lithium. Having the second panel at that time would have been nice.
We finally got on the road for Joshua Tree around 1:00. There’s a few thousand feet of elevation gain from our dispersed campsite (I think the park entrance is at around 3,500 feet). We stopped at the visitor center (the building not open, but park staff were outside to hand out maps or answer questions). After this stop, the main road is about 30 miles that initially takes you through the Cholla Cactus Garden until you hit the 20+ trails and those glorious Joshua Trees and rock formations. The further we got into the park, the more scenic and beautiful it became. Many of the trees were taller than I expected.
Joshua Trees are very limited in their growing regions, i.e. the Mojave Desert (where we are), Nevada, Utah and Arizona. They only grow in elevations between 2,000 and 6,000 feet at a rate of 2-3 inches/year. It takes 50 to 60 years for them to reach full height (up to 40 feet tall) and live an average of 500 years. Joshua Trees are not trees at all, but are a very large Yucca plant that flowers from March thru May, although one year in 2018/2019, they bloomed in November (extremely rare). They are protected because of their crucial importance to the Mojave Desert’s ecosystem and climate change is impacting these amazing “trees” in a negative way. Hopefully any damage done, can be reversed.
Stopped at Skull Rock first on a 1-½ mile crushed granite path, surrounded by amazing granite rock formations, desert washes and the trail’s namesake. Joshua Tree’s rock formations are a result from plate tectonics and volcanic activity from over 200 million years ago. Friction caused surrounding underground rocks to melt and once cooled, became underground granite rock. Cracks formed both horizontally and vertically creating rectangular pieces with ground water seeping into those cracks turning it into soft clay which was eventually washed away. These rectangular pieces rounded at the edges. The result was individual spherical pieces of granite. Above ground, the top soil began to erode. As the granitic rocks made their way to the surface they settled into piles on top of each other creating extraordinary rock towers that we see present day.
The Skull Rock Trail also takes you through the Jumbo Rocks Campground, which we initially looked into before coming here. These are “reserve only” sites and were completely booked and I see why as they are in a beautiful setting, though tight for a 29 foot rig. But we jotted down a few sites we liked anyway. The downside to staying here is there is no access to water, dump stations or gas for at least 30 miles, so it is very limiting. And the sites are about $30/night. I guess a few days would be fine. After checking out a few campsites in the park today, it just affirmed that where we are staying is better for us. We’re only 8 miles from water and the dump stations. It may not be quite as scenic, but it’s FREE and close enough to everything.
Then we took the Keys View Road that dead ends into a scenic overlook at 5,500 feet. The paved, steep path leads you to breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea. Despite the haze, much of which comes from the pollution in San Bernardino, it was still beautiful. I didn’t realize that the San Andreas Fault is just west of the park and east of Palm Springs (Coachella Valley). As we were leaving, people were hurriedly arriving, we think to see the sunset. Little did they know there was very limited parking. We would have stayed but wanted to get to our final spot of the day…..Barker Dam. By the time we arrived, the cold was really setting in and the sun was going down fast. Kind of weird that we were hurrying to see a sunset at 4:00. That’s what happens when you’re in Lost Horse Valley with the Little San Bernardino Mountain height cutting your daylight off, early. But at least we made the sunset to get some amazing photos,
even if we didn’t see the dam.
Then for the hour drive back. Thank goodness Jeff checked the odometer reading (1 mile from the main road to our site) this morning when he went to get gas, which made it much easier to find our “tiny house” in the dark.