Joshua Tree National Park
We often heard 'if you run out of time during your road trip on the west coast of the USA, don't go to Joshua Tree National Park. If you have seen one tree, you have seen them all.'
Originally, we had no intention of visiting Joshua Tree National Park, but decided to make a detour to visit this park. Luckily we did, as we really enjoyed our stay at Joshua Tree National Park. We understand why some people don't like the landscape or get fed-up by the trees, but we loved it: a desolate landscape with beautiful rock formations... Do we need to say more? More and more people seem to have discovered Joshua Tree National Park as is a becoming a very popular climbing destination (well, it has already been a climbing destination for years).
Because we had not planned to go to Joshua Tree National Park, we didn't bring any information about it. First stop, therefore, was the visitor information center in Twentynine Palms. The lady behind the counter showed us all her favorite spots in the park on a map. We knew exactly where to go to get the best views. As soon as we headed into the park, we saw the iconic Joshua Trees. Lots of them. They only grow in this part of the Mojave Desert.
Because we arrived rather late in the afternoon, we first drove straight to the campground we got advised: Hidden Valley Campground. The rock formations give each campsite a lot of privacy and because of the rock formation, the sites are popular among climbers. Although we had no intention to go climbing, Hidden Valley Campground was the perfect campground for us.
Because of the high temperatures during the summer, most tourists visit Joshua Tree in low-season. Not a lot of overnight visitors were expected. Yet, because it was already late in the afternoon, we wanted to be sure of a campsite. Hidden Valley Campground is a first-come, first-serve campground. When we arrived, there was luckily plenty of choice for us. So we got ourselves a great spot between a couple of huge boulders.
After we pitched our tent, we went out and drove to a viewpoint that overlooks the Mojave and Colorado Desert.
What an area! When we returned at the campground, all sites were taken. Luckily, we went their straight after arriving in the park and secured ourselves a site.
The next day, we planned to explore the park. Because we were quite used to walking in extreme conditions, we planned to climb Ryan Mountain.
According to the information we received at the visitor center, this was supposed to be a strenuous hike. Hmm..., if they call this strenuous, we wonder what our hike in the Grand Canyon is supposed to be called. In a mere 45 minutes we hiked to the top of Ryan Mountain. With 300 meter above the park, Ryan Mountain provides a stunning 360 degrees panorama of the park. After making the required photographs, we started our descend. In 40 minutes, we walked back to our car. The total hike took us less than 1.5 hour, where 3 hours were stated in the information leaflet.
We headed further into the park, as the lady in the visitor center advised us to go and see the Barker Dam. The Barker Dam was built in 1900 by CO Barker to store water. In 1949, the dam was raised by the Keys family who owned a farm in the area. According to the lady in the visitor center, the Barker Dam was a must see. Thereby, it was one of her favorite places to go for a walk with her dog. The circuit is just 1.5 mile long and therefore very doable for everybody.
Halfway towards the Barker Dam, we walked past some old rock paintings. Or not really old, as they appeared to be replicas.
They are afraid that the original rock paintings will be vandalized. Not a bad thought, as we heard somebody say at the Barker Dam: 'Let's go down and write our name on the dam.' Probably she didn't realize that the Barker Dam is a National Historical site. Luckily, this person wasn't able to find a path towards the actual dam so she had to abandon her plan to write her name on the dam.
The lady in the visitor center told us that if we would arrive at the Barker Dam early in the morning, chances were that we would be able to see the mountain goats. Well, we were not that early in the morning as we had already climbed Ryan Mountain, but still we were able to see the mountain goats: suddenly a small group of them started to climb down the steep rocks and headed towards the water.
Although they noticed all the tourists standing around them, they had a drink from the water. Remarkable to see that there are still animals that know how to survive in such harsh conditions. While we stood there, time was ticking. Without noticing, it was already noon. Well, without noticing. Perhaps we forgot the time, but we did notice it on the temperature. Which was rising and rising to a steady 40+ degrees Celsius. We therefore left the Barker Dam and headed back to our car. Back to the air conditioning. Back to our road trip along the west coast of the USA.