Monday, 14 April 2008

Joshua Tree

I posted last night about our trip to Anza Borrego, so if you haven't read that yet, its below this one.
We were enjoying our stay at Anza Borrego so much that we almost didn't move on. But eventually we decided to head north to Joshua Tree National Park. We had not researched the park at all and had no idea what it was like, so we just thought that we'd stay if we liked it, and drive right through if we didn't. Well, we were pleasantly surprised. Every time we get into the RV and start moving on, the scenery changes so completely. This time we drove past miles and miles of vineyards, followed by miles of palm tree farms! The lower half of Joshua Tree park is set in the Colorado Desert, and the upper half in the Mojave Desert. The sign that you have crossed over into the Mojave Desert is the appearance of the Joshua Trees. We spent our time in the Mojave. This photo here shows a typical Joshua tree which was near our camp site. These trees only grow half to one inch a year, so the big ones must be pretty old.

Camping at Joshua Tree Park is first come first served. There are quite a few camp grounds but spaces for motorhomes is limited. RVs over 25ft in length can not camp here, so we were lucky as we are 25ft long. Right now the deserts here are blossoming. All the spring wildflowers are out in full bloom, and instead of looking like a barren waste land, it looks like a beautiful oasis of colour and tranquility. We drove past miles of the most lovely yellow wild flowers.

The first camp ground we came to was called 'White Tank'. It didn't sound very appealing from the name, but we drove into it and the whole family just said "Woooowwww", in unison. We were fortunate enough to find a free space big enough for the RV, with no neighbours near by, set between piles of Joshua Trees famous boulders. The kids couldn't wait to get out. The next day we drove around the other camp sites. They were all very similar but we decided we'd definitely been blessed with the best site of all and so we stayed there for 4 days. Once again we had no water, sewer or electric hookups.

This photo shows us having lunch in our camp site. The RV was parked to the left of this picture and where I was standing to take the shot was just miles of desert. Joshua tree park is just covered with the most amazing formations of boulders. It's a magical place where children and adults alike can spend hours exploring and climbing. I found it almost as magical as White Sands, although completely different. The kids couldn't wait to get out and start climbing the rocks. The small nature trail runs right through the camp site, but we often wandered off the trail and just went exploring.

In this photo you can just about see Dan and Jimmie attempting to climb these rocks (just left of the Joshua tree) This was at a nature trail called Cap Rock trail. They didn't make it to the top, and Dan got stuck about a third of the way up, which made Jimmie the bouldering champion. I had to laugh at little Barney though - anytime he was climbing a bolder and I'd tell him "be careful honey, don't fall", he'd reply "don't worry Mummy, I'm an extremely experienced climber". Apparently conquering the mountain with his Dad (see post below) had made him an expert climber.

Once again the kids completed Junior Ranger Programs which were educational. I learnt a lot about the area from them. We learnt that the yucca fan palms were used by Apache Indians to make baskets. And we learnt that one of the native birds in the area impales its dinner (eg lizards) on the sharp spikes of the yucca to kill it (nice!) We discovered that mistletoe grows as a parasitic plant on Juniper trees, the way Ivy grows at home. On our first afternoon there Annabelle, Barney, Dan and I took the white tank nature trail walk through the boulders. Barney just loved the area, and ran about the place like a wild thing. I took Jimmie on the same walk the next day and we started calling him Spider Man, as he literally scaled the rock formations like a spider!
We had a camp fire on our 2nd night at White Tank. The kids always love a camp fire in the evening, but we don't have one all that often. Firstly because we have to been in an area with a fire pit that allows camp fires, and secondly because we have to have our own wood. Gathering of wood is prohibited in the desert, and we cant afford to buy bags of it every day. But we had a small fire one night and all sat out in our duvets and woolly hats. Night in the desert can be very cold.

Since its spring time the lizards, snakes and tortoises are coming out of hibernation. We saw a lot of lizards, and plenty of locusts, but I am yet to see a snake despite my constant looking.

One of the days we were there I took myself off on a hike, with water, snacks and Dan's camera. I felt a bit guilty going on my own as the kids wanted to come too, but I was so filled with energy and inspiration from my surroundings, that I just wanted to hike out on my own, to be totally alone and just sit and meditate on the area around me. I went in three different directions, climbing over boulders, discovering areas that couldn't be seen from the camp ground. I found shaded spots and sat to watch the wildlife. Then hiked on further. I found one area with a large desert squirrel nest. The desert squirrels look more like chipmunks to me. They are the cutest little energy filled things. Once they got used to me being there they started going about their business, playing together, running over the rocks, busying themselves. I really enjoyed the hike on my own and its something I will remember forever.

Yesterday Dan and Annabelle took a hike together. A bit of father and daughter time. Dan saw a huge Iguana sunbathing on a rock, but it noticed him and ran off before he could get a photo. There are so many stories I could tell from this part of the trip but I'd be typing forever... like Annabelle, Barney and I climbing to the top of some rocks to watch the sunset together, or when Dan and I slept half the night outside under the stars and the kids kept peeking at us out of the window to see if we were snogging! The weather was just perfect until Sunday when it got over 90 degrees. We had no air conditioning so come 5pm we decided to head on to an RV park with hookups where we could all shower, do laundry and have electric. By this point (over a week in the wild) everything needed charging up. As we were packing up to leave Dan saw another RV looking for a camping spot, so he went over to tell the driver that we were leaving. He came back laughing and said he'd asked the woman inside if she needed a parking spot, and she had replied "Ive been staying in he desert, I'm just looking around and I'm totally senile" then she sped off into the distance!
Don't forget to check out the three California photo albums. Tomorrow we are heading to Bakersfield to meet some friends who we traded Flat Stanley's with when we were homeschooling. Today will be spent doing laundry, showering, swimming in the pool and tidying up.


Tammy said...

That all sounds so great. We'll have to go there sometime to check it all out! I'm here waiting for you, so excited!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Love the Joshua Tree pics. It's interesting to see where the rock music references come from.

There's also a band called the Mojave 3 -- I didn't know they were named after a desert!


Bridget said...

Oohh we've just starting doing Flat Stanley, maybe in a few years we'll be in America looking up people. I can dream!!