Joshua Tree National Park
April 13, 2013
Joshua Tree National Park
Prior to heading over to Palm Springs and attending the three day Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Kathy & I wanted to spend a full day exploring the Joshua Tree National Park. The amazing natural desert landscape that is Joshua Tree is unique in America and is really a variety of landscapes collected in to one park. The park features twisted trees, prickly cacti, towering rock formations and includes large portions of two Deserts, the Mojave and Sonoran and includes some of the nation’s most interesting and surreal scenery.
We only had time to really explore in the Mojave area of the park, which is all above 3,000 feet in elevation. This portion features thousands of the Joshua trees that give the park its name and is also filled with large rock formations, many as tall as twenty story buildings. Plenty of interesting attractions are found in this area of the park and Kathy and I tried to see as many as possible as well as take a decent hike that would take us in to the heart of the landscape.
Among the attractions that we checked out was the Wonderland of Rocks, which is one of the crown jewels of the park. Featuring jumbled rock formations, some of which tower hundreds of feet attracting numerous rock climbers. The huge area is supposedly home to the large desert bigfoot creature known as the Yucca Man- though sadly Kathy and I saw no sign of any such beast.
Next we took the hike to the Barker Dam, a trail through rock canyons that leads to Barker Dam which was built in the 1880s to try and trap the small amount of rainfall for cattle. In wet seasons a small pond forms, but in dry seasons such as this year the pond is bone dry. The hike to the dam is still pretty interesting. One of the interesting aspects of the trail is the Native American petroglyphs which can be found in Piano Valley. Sadly the original petroglyphs were deemed not dramatic enough for Hollywood filmmakers in the 1960s so they were painted over by film crews and a tragic loss of the original heritage was lost.
After hiking, we were back in the car to visit places like Skull Rock, which is famous for its semi-resemblance of a human skull then on to Cap Rock which is named for the broad flat rock that is perched on top of a large rock formation. It is in this location that friends of the late rock star Gram Parsons brought his stolen dead body after his death from a drug overdose in the nearby Joshua Tree Inn and attempted to cremate the body, as per his supposed final wishes. I had hoped there would be some sort of marker or memorial at Cap Rock, but apparently the Park service removes whatever fans leave behind.
Finally before departing and heading to Palm Springs, we drove up to Keys View for the panoramic view of the entire Coachella Valley including the Salton Sea, Palm Springs, Indio and Rancho Mirage which are visible from the mountain top. It was a clear and beautiful day and provided fantastic views of the valley where we were headed.