Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wide Open Spaces in Southern California

The high desert of Joshua Tree National Park looking west toward Los Angeles
The 'trees' are actually giant Yucca
Where does the time go? It's difficult to believe my last post was three weeks ago. We have been to some marvelous places. After leaving Picacho State Preserve, we spent one night in Quartzite. I wasn't prepared for the number of motorhomes and the profusion of vendors selling everything from rocks and gems to Chinese antiques and generators. However, that was about all there is to the place. I wanted to celebrate Sarah's birthday at a nice restaurant, but after checking the menus at every eating establishment in the town, the best we could do was an acceptable pizza at Silly Al's. One would think with the number of big rigs in the area there would be at least one place to dine that wasn't a "family restaurant". Our impression was even less favorable as we walked around the flea market tents and more than once heard racist and vulgar comments openly made about President Obama. I dared not give a sideways look let alone engage those making the comments.

Fortunately, Blythe, California is just a short drive to the west and is where we had reservations for the 29th annual Blythe Bluegrass Festival and we were allowed to camp at the fairgrounds as early as the Monday before the festival started. Initially, we planned on arriving in Blythe on Wednesday, but were happy to leave Quartzite and secure space for ourselves and our friends from home, Jack and Liz who joined us for the festival.

There were a number of excellent bands showcased on two stages. The music on stage started early and ended just at  sundown when the cold of the desert descended on the fairgrounds. But, there was plenty more music each evening in heated tents or around the portable wood stoves that were provided for the campers. In the campgrounds, the vast majority of campers were in massive motorhomes, many of which ran generators continually from 7AM until 10PM.
Good bluegrass under blue skies
While we enjoyed the festival, Sarah and I could only endure hearing some bluegrass standards so many times in such a short period. So, we left early on Sunday and headed for Joshua Tree National Park where we were to meet with Sarah's sister and brother-in-law, Jennifer and Topher, who drove from Oregon to spend a week with us. Choosing the Cottonwood Campground because it was closest to Blythe turned out to be fortuitous because we had forgotten that due to MLK day, it was a long weekend and the other campgrounds were full. Even still, we had to spend time carefully maneuvering the Mary Joan's 31 feet into one of only a few sites remaining that could accommodate us. The camp host even remarked on how well we did.
Hiking up the Mastadon trail in Joshua Tree National Park from Cottonwood Campground
Abandoned mine on the Mastodon trail. We climbed the big boulder mound for a fine view of the Salton Sea
View from the top of Mastodon trail, looking west over the Salton Sea toward San Diego

Much of what Joshua Tree has to offer requires driving so we combined sightseeing with a drive into the town to purchase some provisions and access the internet to retrieve e-mails. Since we wanted to move to a campground at the northern end of the park and knowing that there were not many sites large enough to accommodate us, we drove through two other campgrounds to scout out our next site. At the Belle campground we found a spacious campsite that was large enough to hold the Mary Joan, our truck and our guests' car.
Our campsite at Belle campground. Jennifer likes this place.
Looking west from Joshua Tree
Key's view at Joshua Tree. Looking west across the San Andreas fault and Palm Springs
Because Jennifer and Topher needed to begin their return to Oregon in just a couple days, we chose to go next to Mojave National Preserve for one night then on to Death Valley from where they would leave us to go home. As so often happens, the decision was a fortunate one because our tow vehicle's starter began to act up. With good phone service and internet at the Texas Spring campground in Death Valley, I made a reservation to stay at the RV park at Circus Circus and an appointment with the Ford dealer in Las Vegas to repair the truck.

Old Route 66 Motel

Roy's is currently an art installation addressing the drought in California. Don't ask what's in those bottles.

At Hole In The Wall Campground (Mojave National Preserve) Sarah is happy to find PETROGLYPHS

Hiking the Ring Loop Trail in Mojave National Preserve

Gas pockets left after massive volcanic explosion
It's called the Ring Loop Trail because of the hand holds needed to climb out of the canyon
Sunset in Mojave Desert
The drive into Death Valley offered a continual display of multicolored mountains. I visited this place 25 years ago, but had forgotten how beautiful this place is.

Death Valley near Furnace Creek, Death Valley

Early morning hike into Golden Canyon, Death Valley

View from Golden Canyon, Death Valley

Red Cathedral in Golden Canyon, Death Valley
We plan to return to Death Valley after having the truck repaired.
Stay tuned

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