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 The Great Around-the-USA Adventure

California: Joshua Tree National Park

1 April 2008: This is an absolutely fascinating place, with a great diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. Two desert zones meet in the middle of the park: to the east is the Colorado Desert, which transitions to the Mojave Desert as one heads westward. We happened to arrive at a perfect time to catch the wild flowers in the Colorado Desert. There are lots of hiking opportunities and a number of campgrounds. We spent eight days in the park, staying at three different campgrounds.
jotr151 The namesake tree of the park - the Joshua tree, which is really a yucca plant.
Our first stop in the park was at the Cottonwood Springs Campground in the southern part of the park. Lots of desert yucca plants....lots of mountains.....lots of wildflowers!  jotr016
 jotr020  jotr060
 jotr070  Two interesting things about this picture: the top of the rock resembles a reclining face, and on the forehead is a large iguana basking in the midday sun.
 One day we took a 5-mile hike which led us over a small mountain summit, Mastodon Peak (3740'), and down to a desert oasis. Along the way we encountered this desert tortoise.  jotr090
 jotr095 Cottonwood Spring was the oasis; it was the result of a fault in the earth's surface which allowed water to escape to the surface. It was once home to the Cahuilla Indians. Around the spring are these California fan palms, which tower to 75' or more. 
 As we headed northwest toward the Mojave Desert, we passed the Cholla Cactus Garden.  jotr111
 jotr113  In the Colorado Desert portion of the park, wilflowers were just everywhere. As we crossed into the Mojave Desert, at a slightly higher altitude, there were nowhere as many flowers in bloom.
We spent three nights at Jumbo Rocks Campground in the park, surrounded by....jumbo rocks. Most interesting shapes and positions.  jotr148 
 jotr157  Another desert bloom.
 Just one of many varied rock formations in the Jumbo Rocks area. jotr158 
 jotr168  You sure wonder how these rocks got like this.
 One day in the campground, we watched a beginners class in rock climbing. The young girl on the rock about halfway up was learning the art of free climbing. jotr170 
 jotr173 We were sitting by the RV one afternoon when this squirrel climbed up to the top of a nearby rock and assumed the pose of a sentinel. 
 This rock really fascinated us. In addition, it was on the cover of a book on the park's geology that Liz bought.  jotr175
 jotr164  About a half-mile hike from the Jumbo Rocks Campground is Skull Rock.
 On 3 April we moved a few miles along the Loop Road to Hidden Valley CG. After claiming a site, we drove out to Keys View, which offers a great view from an elevation of 5185'. Across the Coachella Valley looms the snow-capped foot peak of Mt San Jacinto. Down in the valley is Palm Springs, the Colorado Aqueduct and the San Andreas Fault.  jotr185
 jotr195  Hidden Valley is a small campground designed primarily for tenters, who come here for the rock climbing. Here is a young woman climbing up.
 We spotted this blooming cactus along the Nature Trail in Hidden Valley.  jotr217
 jotr222  Also in Hidden Valley we passed this huge flowering yucca plant.
 Everywhere you look there's another fascinating rock formation jotr203 
jotr206

Joshua trees at sunset.

Check out the campgrounds we stayed at while in the park: Cottonwood Spring, Jumbo Rocks, and Hidden Valley.