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.
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.