Sunday, April 5, 2009

Favorite Places

My first real desert experience was in Joshua Tree National Monument a long time ago. I was struck by the eerie silences, the vast acreage of Joshua Trees raising their arms to heaven (hence the term, named after Joshua the prophet...) We climbed some huge boulders and looked out over the desert, and could distinctly hear a normal-voiced conversation between two hikers half a mile or so away. Amazing quiet.
Joshua Tree is one of the most traveled desert parks in the USA, along with Death Valley, and Anza Borrego. You go to Death Valley for the dunes and the heat, Anza Borrego for the wildflowers, and Joshua Tree for the rocks. Nowadays Ryan Campground is nearly impossible to use as rock climbers pour into that area all the time. We generally stay at Jumbo Rocks, the largest campground, which is close to all the attractions of the park.
It's possible to visit JT for years and still find new things to do. A couple of years ago a friend and I found the Queen Mine trail to an overlook, from which you could see closed off mines and rusted equipment; this year my daughter, her friend, and I hiked down to it, about a mile or so of which the last bit was uphill, but what wonders we saw! Well, a gigantic boulder, some rusted mining equipment, and closed off mines descending blackly into the earth. It had the same eerie quality of any place which has been heavily used and abandoned, the feeling that MAN HAS BEEN HERE, BUT NO MORE and What Are YOU doing here? In the midst of a very populous sightseeing area we saw no one for over an hour and it was great.
If you go wear kind shoes and take along plenty of water. I don't always, because I'm a dope, but my daughter keeps track and makes me take some, and I always drink most of it up during the hike.

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