With three National Parks behind us, we hit the road for the Southern California Mojave desert. We made a quick stop to visit our cousins and then headed to Twenty Nine Palms.
As we left the central valley, we couldn’t help but notice that the orchards were in full bloom. It looked like a snow storm in Idaho.
Along the way we passed the Southern California Logistics Airport. This is currently used as an airplane storage area. Due to the area’s ideal weather, planes are stored here while not in use. During the recent Covid-19 crisis, this area is/was used to store hundreds of planes that were not needed due to air travel reductions.
We have found that there are RV friendly places to park at over-night. One is at Walmart and the other is at casinos. We stayed the night in the overflow parking at the Tortoise Rock Casino that overlooks Twentynine Palms.
The Twentynine Palms area is home to the largest Marine Base in the world. It is also home to Joshua Tree National Park.
The visitor Center had good information about the park. It was established as a national monument in 1936, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and protected 825,000 acres. The monument was reduced in size in 1950 to open the area to mining. It was changed to a national park in 1994 and in 2019 expanded to encompass a total of 773,000 acres.
The Joshua tree, is a slow-growing yucca. It was named by Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-1800s. The tree remind them of the Bible story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Early American Indians used the Joshua Tree’s leaves for baskets and sandals. They ate the flower buds and roasted the seeds. The local Cahuilla call it humwichawa.
An overnight storm had left a covering of snow, which is rare for this park. From the visitor center to Keys View, there is a 3000 feet rise in elevation, so the higher we drove in the park, the more snow we encountered.
We stopped at Split Rock, which is an unusual formation, splitting from the bottom up.
While there we talked to a gentleman who was touring in his 1963 Ford Falcon. Cindy’s family had one of those when she was young.
Not being prepared to hike in the snow, and with a 40 mph wind, we decided to sight-see from the road. The snow, actually added to the experience and made for a beautiful landscape.
We drove down Queen Valley Road, and continued the trip tradition of a picture between trees.
We headed to the highest point in the park that you can drive to, Keys View, which sits at 5185 feet. We were hoping for a good view the Coachella Valley and the San Andres Fault. However, it was not meant to be. With a stiff head wind, it made the short hike a bit exciting.
To make the walk to the overlook even more exciting, Cindy fell backwards, off the pathway, onto a rock. Luckily she fell the right direction, away from the drop-off and only about a 3 foot fall. Some scraped knuckles and bruised ribs were the reward for trying to take a picture (which ended up being only of her hand)
The most unique feature of the entire park is a place called Skull Rock. It is eerily weird and fascinating at the same time.
We had enjoyed our time at Joshua Tree, but we needed to be in Phoenix, by 7:00pm. We were making a short detour from National Parks for another kind of past-time, baseball. As we left TwentyNine Palms on Highway 62, we kept thinking about Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page”…on a long lonesome highway.
It was a nice drive across Arizona, with some palm tree groves and a bit of rain.
A NASCAR semi passed us just before Phoenix. Jim remarked, “I never thought I would be drafting behind Jimmie Johnson” 🙂 LOL
It had already been a full day, but we had some place special to be. Jim has been a life-long Oakland As fan and we were headed to a Spring Training game. The Oakland As play in the Cactus League in Arizona. Their home field is in Mesa, Arizona at Hohokam Stadium.
Before the game, Jim got to meet one of his childhood baseball heroes, Bert Campaneris. He played for the Oakland As from 1968 – 1976.
We had seats on the front row behind first base…home team side.
We were able to get Stomper, the Oakland mascot’s autograph and picture. The game had been a win win situation,everyone had gotten the autograph they wanted.
It was a bit chilly but was a great game, with the As beating the Chicago Cubs 5-2. Stomper did a few victory laps with the flag.
What an awesome adventure it had been. We had driven 599 miles over 2 days, visited relatives, a national park, and attended a baseball game. We deserved a rest, but we wouldn’t be getting it. Off to another national park!!