Friday, December 5, 2008

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Off to explore Joshua Tree National Park today (entrance fees: $15/vehicle for the week; $30 for an annual pass. We have the America the Beautiful Pass, so it was free). After getting hiking information at the Oasis Visitor Center, we set out to explore the park and take a few short hikes. Since we got a late start today and only had about five hours of daylight left, we chose a couple of short hikes and one viewpoint.

Our first hike was Arch Rock at the White Tank Campground. This is a .5 mile moderate hike through some very interesting rock outcroppings to a small arch. The trail takes you through many narrow cracks in the rocks which makes the hike a lot of fun. There are other trails (not sure if they are official) throughout this rocky area to also climb around and see other very interesting rock formations. Next, we made a quick stop at Skull Rock. This is a 30 feet tall rock right off the road that looks like a elongated skull. We then proceeded to Keys View. From this viewpoint you are able to see the entire Coachella Valley which includes the cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, the Salton Sea and more. But the most interesting view from this 5185 ft vantage point is the San Andreas Fault. From here you can actually see the ridge where the continental plates meet. It was very interesting and well worth the drive to the view point.
Our last stop and hike of the day was Hidden Valley. This is a one mile loop hike in the middle of a huge rock outcropping that is in the middle of a yet larger valley. The one mile round trip hike begins by taking you through narrow passage ways in the rocks to where you are inside a bowl or fort of surrounding rock walls that encompass the valley thus the name Hidden Valley. The trail then follows along the internal parameter of the valley winding through groups of Pinon and Juniper pines, cactus and the numerous other desert plants. Also along the walls of the valley are several higher groupings of rocks that look like sentinels of the valley. This is a very unique and interesting hike that you don't want to miss. Surrounding the Hidden Valley and throughout the park are forests of Joshua Trees. These aren't trees but a variety of yucca that can grow to be 40 feet tall with multiple branches. Seeing these majestic trees and you'll immediate know why this is an amazing place.

Speaking of the San Andreas Fault, we experienced an earthquake as we wrote this blog! No kidding!

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