Winter Journey – Joshua Tree National Park – February 2017

Wednesday, February 1st, is moving day. We are leaving La Paz, the BLM camping area a little south of Quartzsite, Arizona, and heading to Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. It takes us 2½ hours from the time we get up until we are ready to roll, including showers, a light breakfast, tea, packing, and hitching up. I remember the days with the pop-up when it would take three to four hours just for the packing and getting ready to hitch up. So much easier now!

We arrive at the Cottonwood Springs Visitors’ Center and campground near the southern entrance to the park in the early afternoon and find a spot on the outside of loop B. The sites are quite close together and it takes some wrangling to get Terry off the road and into place. She sits literally on the edge of the pavement on the side facing the picnic table and only a foot or two off the road on the other side. I am a bit dismayed at being so close to the road. However, there are water spigots, clean restrooms, and dumpsters at this campground – and we have a great clear view of the desert and the rocky hills beyond.

Our view of the desert with the hills in the background
Teddybear cholla backlit with setting sunlight

We pay our camping fee for the week and make the short trip to the Visitors’ Center for brochures, maps, and postcards. Back at camp, we sit outside enjoying the scenic view.

Clifford and Carol at Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree NP
Clifford studying at Cottonwood Campground

Thursday is a town day and we are headed to Indio to get set up for general delivery at the post office and to run errands. The smog and the jet trails are horrendous in this valley, almost a white-out. The great mountain beyond can scarcely be seen. I am so glad when all the errands are done and we are back at our campsite.

In the afternoon we hike to Cottonwood Springs, as there is a trail that leaves from our campground. At a wide wash, we head north toward a group of very tall tees we could see as we were walking along. The tall trees are eucalyptus, the cottonwood trees are old and dead, and there is one enormous fan palm tree.

Eucalyptus
Fan palm tree

Sitting at the base of a giant fan palm tree

The trail doesn’t seem well-defined, which seems surprising, since this is supposed to be a popular attraction. Later, looking at the postcards, the postcard of Cottonwood Springs doesn’t seem to match and we decide we somehow had veered from the trail and ended up somewhere else, which means we still get to look forward to Cottonwood Springs.

Friday morning Clifford woke up at 5:00 a.m., and since he is still on Mountain Daylight time, that means it is really 3:00 a.m. here. He is talkative, considering moving north in a week since the air quality is bad in this part of the state. I am unable to go back to sleep, so get up and make tea for us and write in my journal. After a couple hours, we go back to bed and get in a couple more hours of sleep.

There is no cell service here and my laptop needs charging, so I explore the desert, take photos, and write in my journal.

Exploring the desert at Joshua Tree NP

In the afternoon we head to the Bajada Nature Trail at the southern boundary of the park, as we can get cell service there.  While Clifford is on a business call, I walk the nature trail, chatting with daughter Becka on the phone and taking photos of desert plants.

Ironwood tree at Bajada Nature Trail
Ocotillo with leaves and getting ready to bloom – not an every-day occurrence in the desert

Before we head back to camp, Clifford and I walk the nature trail together; interesting how different the light is now.

Sidelight on a snag at Bajada Nature Trail

Back at camp, while Clifford naps, I do some editing since my laptop charged while we were gone. We sit outside at dusk, enjoying the desert ambiance. After dinner, he works with his ham radios and I continue editing until time for me to get ready for bed. Even though we are close to the road, this is a quiet place and we are happy to be here.

Camped at Joshua Tree National Park

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