Joshua Tree National Park in California, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE YOU NEED MORE THAN A DAY TO FULLY APPRECIATE THIS PARK! We arrived in late afternoon on Feb 22, 2018 and decided to wait until the next day for our first visit to the park. We found a place to camp on the BLM land south of the park that had been recommended to us by a Super amazing man, Byron. Byron was the Camp Host back in Midland, where we camped for almost 2 months.
Our campsite on the BLM land was right beside the wash and the Edison Power Line Road. This gave us an excellent view of the highway far below us and the city lights of Indio in the distance. Pretty cool at night. 🙂 The link above, refers to this as
Dispersed Camping(borrowed from website)
“Public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offer free dispersed camping north and south of the park. Camping is allowed anywhere in the indicated areas (see images below) except within 300 feet (91 m) of roadways. There are no developed facilities in dispersed camping areas: no restrooms, no water, no trash collection. Bring what you need and pack out all your trash. All vegetation, living or dead, is protected by law. Campfires require a permit, available from BLM offices or online.” (the campfire permit is free, you just need to answer a few questions on campfire safety).
Our first official visit to Joshua Tree
Waiting was the best thing we could have done! We started out about 10 am or so. The plan was to drive from the South entrance of Cottonwood Visitor Center to the North end to 29 Palms Oasis Visitor Center. Then we drove west on Hwy 62 to the Joshua Tree visitor center and entered back into the park and headed south to the Cottonwood Visitor Center..
Our plan was also to do some site seeing along the way. Bill’s plan was to take MANY MANY photos. It took us almost 6 hours to complete the round trip! lol
Our first stop was at the very FRIENDLY Cottonwood Visitor Center. These folks were super helpful and so outgoing. We purchased our annual Park Entrance pass at this location. You could get a day pass or annual pass. The annual pass was $80.00 + tx. This pass is good for all of the parks at the following six agencies:
Looking at the various prices we decided the annual pass made the most sense to us. Now we could visit any of the above agency parks along the way home and get our entrance for free. We would still have to pay to camp if there was a fee, but we would not have to pay the entrance fee.
While at this Visitor center Joy was also looking for a Giant stuffed Tortoise. haha, She had spied this tortoise on our previous scouting trip last week. Joy dearly wanted to purchase this stuffed animal for our granddaughter Anna. She is a collector of stuffed animals. To Joy’s great disappointment, they were sold out. Apparently they only get 12 in stock for the whole park because they are large and take up so much room. The Ranger suggested Joy try one of the other visitor centers. So now the hunt was on. lol
Our next few stops along the way.
Bill made multiple stops along the way for the incredible views we kept coming up on. There were also Attraction Notices where you could pull over and find a sign directing you to something special.
We were quite surprised when we came upon the Choilla Catus Garden. The sun was shinning down on this fascinating garden. Unfortunately the wind was howling and making you feel winter’s presence. Still, you had to brave the winds and stop to admire this colorful site.
Borrowed from the website:
“Approximately 12 miles (20 km) south of the park’s north entrance is the 0.25 mile (0.4 km) Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail; this flat loop leads hikers through nearly 10 acres (4 hectares) of landscape dominated by the teddybear cholla. This unusual stand of cacti is located in the Pinto Basin, a large expanse of alluvial fans covered with creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) and burrobush (Ambrosia dumosa) for as far as the eye can see. There are very few teddybear cholla stands in the park.”
“Where two Deserts Meet”
The most intriguing stop was where we found a sign reading “Where Two Deserts Meet” with the Quote below “The faster the eye is moving the fewer things it will see. ” by Barry Lopez, California Desert, A Worldy Wilderness, 1987.
This sign went on to ask if you noticed a difference in the landscape in front of you. You were on the line where the Mojave and Colorado deserts met. The sign continued on to say, there was no real boundary line between the two, just a gradual difference in plants and elevation as you traveled between the two. Temperature changes would become cooler as you went higher (we sure noticed that) in the Mojave Desert.
We finally found the Joshua Trees. We knew what to look for because Joy had purchased a book on cactus from the Visitor center (a Joshua Tree is a desert Yucca) on our first visit. Joy learned so much and had enjoyed reading this book a great deal. WHAT KINDA CACTUS IZZAT?by Reg Manning. (“Who’s Who” in the Desert).
White Tank and Belle Camp grounds
We had to check out White Tank and Belle camp grounds as we passed by. Both were absolutely gorgeous. Each campground had unique campsites, with a winding road giving each site privacy from the other but not necessarily from the road. Some were tucked in between boulders and were only suitable for very small campers or tents.
Both campgrounds had vault toilets. They also had signs reading no trailers or pulling vehicles over 25 ft. Unhappily that let us out, with our rig we are about 50′. The campgrounds were sure beautiful to see though.
Oasis Visitor Center
As we wound our way to the Oasis Visitor Center, we came upon the spectacular view of Joshua Tree town in the distance. Nestled in the valley of the surrounding mountains. Of course we had to stop and take some pictures lol. We already had stopped several times to take pictures of Joshua Trees in the camp grounds. These trees are quite eye-catching. 🙂
We stop at the Oasis Visitor Center and that is where Joy found her Tortoise, WOOT!! They only had 2 in stock and this one was on a high shelf. That was the one Joy wanted. The one, that hadn’t been touched or hugged a lot already lol.
Once passed the Oasis Visitor Center, we made it to the 29 PALMS highway and turned left. We were headed for the 3rd Visitors Center at the North West side called Joshua Visitor Center. Once again, we had to show our pass. (We had to show our pass to leave the park as well).
Grow your own Giant Joshua Tree
We stopped at the Joshua Visitor Center. Only Bill went in this time. He found a GROW YOUR OWN – GIANT JOSHUA TREE. Comes with its own little pot, soil and seeds. Germinates indoors/anywhere in 11 to 21 days. When it gets to 4″ tall, you are supposed to bring it back and plant it back in the desert :).
Entering the park again, we drove on Park Boulevard and traveled south now. Back towards the Cottonwood Visitor Center. Quail Springs picnic area was the first place we passed. We were lucky enough to catch some people rock climbing. Bill captured some terrific shots of them. Joy was a little nervous to watch in case they fell.
Then we came upon several interesting spots that are not on the map but we plan on going back to see.
The Southbound trip was much more picturesque with almost forest of Joshua Trees. Literally acres and acres of Joshua Trees. Each one more unique or more beautiful then the next. We kept stopping trying to get the perfect shot.
At this point we were passing by 4 or 5 more campgrounds, but it was starting to get on in the day. We had driven almost 100 miles and we still hadn’t seen the whole park yet. What we had seen had taken us 6 hours lol. We are so impressed with Joshua Tree, we are extremely glad we took the time to come here.
Our plans for this coming week are growing by leaps and bounds. Friends of ours are joining us early next week, so we will have company to hopefully go hiking with.
Plans for Day 2
Tomorrow, Bill and Joy plan on going for a short hike at Barker Dam. Hopefully it wont be windy or as cold as it has been these last few days. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on any of the hiking trails in the park, so the girls will have to stay home. Walks for them, when we return :).