Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Joshua Tree National Park

On Tuesday, we visited Joshua Tree National Park. We were concerned about both the hiking and the photography opportunities, as we were under very high winds and the whole area was experiencing a sandstorm. Early in the day, we decided that since we had a vehicle suitable for off-road excursions (Avis did not have a copmpact so they upgraded us to a Chevy Trailblazer) we would take the "Geology Tour" 4WD loop. We inquired at the ranger station and were told that the road was not recommended unless we had four wheel drive, and that the extension to Dillon Rd was not recommended at all unless we had a high-clearance vehicle.

Split Rock Picnic Area

Lunch was sandwiches at an established but scenic picnic area called Split Rock. We needed to take care that stuff was not blown off of the picnic table by the diminishing but still fairly stiff breezes. For the most part, we had the place to ourselves. There was a rather large and loud group of tourists that descended en masse for about 10 minutes, but things were fine otherwise.

Yellow Composites. The stink bugs were too small to photograph.

Sand Verbena

After lunch, we proceeded to the Geology Tour road. It starts off in a Joshua tree forest. Joshua trees are actually very large species of yuccas, and therefore botanically in the lily family. I love their otherworldly appearance. Like the saguaro cactus groves further to the east, they make for a desert with an open-woodland aspect to its structure. Not much is in bloom at this time of the year. In some areas, there were fairly extensive drifts of a yellow member of the composite family interspersed with blooming sand verbena. There was almost no visible insect life except for variegated skimmer dragonflies and a cute, tiny stink bug that was hanging out on the composite blossoms.

On the Geology Tour loop

At the south end of the Geology Tour loop, the road runs very close to the Little San Bernadino Mountains. We stopped to take a few photos. Here the road splits. You can continue back to close off the loop of the Geology Tour or you can take Berdoo Canyon Rd. and drive over the Little San Bernadinos to Dillon Rd., the route that the ranger warned us about. We, of course, opted to do just that.

Mojave Desert splendor from the crest of Berdoo Canyon Rd.

The first part of Berdoo Canyon Rd. is deceptively easy. You drive up to the crest on a gently sloping, if a bit sandy, jeep road. We stopped at the crest for more photos. Coming down the south flank of the mountains, the road becomes more and more challenging. Berdoo canyon is rocky, narrow and twisting. It’s also very beautiful, although I was the driver and did not take any photos. We ran into trouble once. Fortunately a young couple that had passed us at the summit was behind us and guided us through the difficult spot. They also informed us that this was the worst spot in the road, which encouraged us to press onward. Leon had to get out and guide me through tight spots a couple of times, and we had one close call. But it was surprisingly fun for someone ith no off-road vehicle experience.

Leon with Joshua tree

Today, more hiking. Our travels will take us out of the desert and into the mountains.


At 17:49, Blogger Ur-spo said...

it seems to me i've heard this story before; doug and leon/on a bad road/stuck in sand.
Brilliant photos it reminds me to bring my Tarot deck with the Joshua Tree photos, so they are nearby each other.

At 21:34, Blogger steve'swhirlyworld said...

I love Joshua Tree National Park - the rock formations are unbelievable. I hope you are having a great time!

At 11:27, Anonymous Mark H said...

THANKS for your Posting while on vacation. Going hiking with you and Leon would be an education and inspiration since I would probably double my simple knowledge of nature in the desert even though I grew up in it. What a great day this hike was!


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