Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Saturday - March 23, 2002
Flew from Nashville to Dallas to meet Tom Slater. Lee Bollinger was supposed to join us again this year, however, he had to stay in Dallas due to Police matters. In Dallas, American changed our airplane within an hour before takeoff. Even though it was a minor hassle to get a new seat assignment, the upgraded airplane was a 777, perhaps the most comfortable airplane that I've traveled in. Video terminals were provided for all passengers. There were approximately 10 TV Channels that you could view or you could opt to hear different types of music. My favorite, was the display of the plane's real-time position (altitude, temperature, speed, distance) in the air. Global Positioning done right! In Los Angeles, we grabbed our bags and caught the shuttle to Thrifty Rent-a-car. I had made our reservations for an SUV the first of March, however, the company cancelled our reservation hours prior to our arrival. I tried to explain our situation to the manager of the outfit, however, he was no help either. Mental note: Do not use Thrifty Rent-a-car in the future. We were transported by shuttle van to Alamo Rent-a-car where we finally secured a full sized car for the week. We drove east from Los Angeles in all its traffic to the Palm Springs area, complete with its high-speed winds, wind turbines, and blowing sand. We stocked up on supplies for our trip and searched for a hotel. We traveled to a few of the cities around Palm Springs before we finally found a Best Western in Indio, CA.
Sunday - March 24, 2002
After a hot breakfast, we drove from Indio to Joshua Tree National Park located near the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, CA. We stocked up on water at a local supermarket, visited the Visitor's Center in Twentynine Palms, and then drove through the National Park to our first destination, the Lost Horse Valley parking lot. Since we did not have two vehicles we had to scratch our original plan to hike the 35 mile California Horse and Bike trail. We decided on an overnight shakedown trip to the ruins of a ten-stamp gold mine, Lost Horse Mine. At the parking area we added 2.5 gallons of water to our full packs and started on our way hiking - or might I say, trudging through - a sandy wash in Lost Horse Valley. The trails that we were following for the first hour or so were not marked, so after backtracking twice, we finally had to rely on the orientation of physical features to pick up the trail which would cross a saddle and intersect with the Lost Horse Mine trail. Backpacking with extra water weight was really forcing me to make pack adjustments (fight my pack). After a few hours we reached our first camp spot, a relatively flat spot in the mountains within earshot of the Lost Horse Mine ruins. We setup camp around 4:30 or too early for supper. Tom and I decided to hike up to see the view from Lost Horse Peak and tour the mine ruins. The sun was just right for pictures. At the top of Lost Horse Peak, we snapped pictures of the many rock outcrops in the valley below us and also took pictures of the mine ruins. The cold wind was forcing me back down the mountain, so we made a hasty return to our campsite and prepared supper. After eating, the cold wind forced us into our tents.
Monday - March 25, 2002
Today we returned to our car on the unmaintained Lost Horse Loop trail. Several times we scouted ahead without our packs to confirm the trail existed. Tom book "Joshua Tree on Foot" really paid for itself this morning. The first few hours we saw several abandoned mine areas complete with mine tailings and pits. At one point along the trail we came upon an abandoned home place consisting of a worn out bed and chimney. We soon crossed our final ridge and descended into a streambed with more sand to fight. We eventually made it out to the unmaintained Lost Horse Trail road and out to the main road. We debated briefly about dropping our packs at the main road and going after the car. We chose to get the car with our packs on - an additional mile and half on asphalt. At one point we passed the grave site of Johnny Lang, a prospector in the early days of the park. We drove into Joshua Tree and made a beeline to the Pizza Hut buffet. After eating, we decided to stay in town at night to recoup. I took the liberty to visit several cactus nurseries this afternoon for plants.
Tuesday - March 26, 2002
This morning we drove to Indian Camp and secured a campsite, the MB Campsite, located among huge boulders. We proceeded to hike into Rattlesnake canyon, a narrow slot canyon about a half mile from our camp. The first part of this trail was a scramble through a wash full of sand and small boulders. About 20 minutes into the hike I just happen look around and get a glimpse of something slithering behind me; It was a Mojave red racer snake. I went toward him and tried to get him to pose for a picture, but, he just wanted to get out of the way. As we neared the mouth of Rattlesnake Canyon we graduated from scrambling through a few rocks to climbing boulders. Access to the slot canyon was a bit more difficult than we had planned. We mentally thought through several routes to get up into the canyon, however, because of the exposure, we decided not to risk it. We climbed over and through many rocks on the left side of the canyon and took pictures of many of the California Fire Barrel cacti. To me, it was really neat to see these cacti in the wild. We returned to the trailhead and drove into Twentynine palms for a late lunch. After lunch, we decided to hike to the 49 Palms Oasis and back. Once again, there were many barrel cacti to be seen along the way. The sight of green palm trees in this dry desert was unusual. There was actually a pool of water underneath the palms and alot of shade. After a few photos we hiked back out and drove back to Indian Camp. Earlier in the day I had attached my fleece to my fanny pack via bunji straps. After looking the car over I resigned to the fact that my fleece was gone. But, we had done lots of scrambling that morning at Rattlesnake Canyon, so Tom and I decided to go back to Rattlesnake Canyon and retrace our route down. We did find my jacket and it was in the place that Tom thought I might have lost it. The search and rescue mission took all of 38 minutes. Back to the MB Campsite for the night.
Wednesday - March 27, 2002
Today we decided on a road trip to a new National Park, the Mojave National Preserve, located about 150 miles NE of
Joshua Tree. I had heard of a cave tour there and wanted to give it a try. The roads leading to this part of
the country were desolate, Needles, CA being the only decent size town. Before entering the park we stopped and got
gas; paying a cool $2.09 a gallon for gas was highway robbery! When we arrived at the Preserve, we found the Visitors Center closed.
The cave tour of the place?; Well, it was not available until tomorrow. Bummer. Trying to make the most of it, we
hiked around the Visitor's Center for about 20 minutes and came to the conclusion that there really wasn't anything
different here that we had not already seen around Joshua Tree. Sure, to a cactus-hunter, there were one or two different
cacti species here, but, was it worth the drive? Debatable. We returned back to Twentynine Palms driving briefly through
a dry lake bed (cool) complete with a mineral plant and stayed at a brand-spanking new Holiday-Inn at night
Thursday - March 28, 2002
We toured the southeast side of Joshua Tree NP today. Our first stop was the Cholla Garden Nature Trail, a place that has the largest concentration of fierce Teddy Bear cholla cacti that I've ever seen. I particularly liked seeing the packrat's nest lined with cholla joints here. Continuing on, we stopped at the Cottonwood Springs Visitor's Center and decided to hike up to the top of Mastodon Peak and back. This area was a nice place to snap a few more pictures of rugged landscapes and old mine ruins. In the afternoon, we drove back past the Cholla Gardens on the way to Keys View. Along the way, we stopped and hiked cross-country briefly to find some hidden petroglyphs that Tom had read about in the trail book. Give Tom and I a topo map, compass and a GPS and we're real dangerous! At Keys View, the view was not spectacular, but foggy. It was getting real cold and windy too. We drove back to the West side of the park and decided to hike in a few miles on the Boy Scouts Trail and camp for the night. About an hour and a half into the hike, we saw that the weather was fixing to get nasty, so, we stopped and hurriedly setup camp next to a rocky outcrop. The rains came and lasted for about an hour. I'm proud to say that my new one-man tent is waterproof. Back outside of the tents, Tom and I walked around and over the rocks, finding rat skulls and other debris. I mentioned to him that Mexican food really sounded great. About 30 minutes later, and after a Mexican food panic attack, we broke camp, packed up and hiked back to the car in the dark. The lightning show was cool what little of it I remembered. Once in the car, we made a beeline to the first Mexican restaurant we saw in Joshua Tree. Nothing like a good meal to cure insanity. We decided that staying in the Super 8 tonight would be lots better than roughing it. Besides, I revealed to Tom that my goal for this day was to just do some brief gear-testing!
Friday - March 29, 2002
This morning we ate breakfast at Dennys and then drove back to Los Angeles. I had to stop at one cactus nursery along the way and get a few more plants. I want to thank Tom for not getting too bored here, especially when the manager of the nursery and I started talking about the cactus business. He gave me lots of good pointers. Back in Los Angeles, we dodged traffic for just long enough to drive down Sunset Blvd. No wonder they call the baseball team here the DODGERs. We got our hotel, went out for great steaks at night.
Saturday - March 30, 2002
Up early. Flight home.