Having lived in Northern climes my entire life, the Southwest is a very otherworldly landscape for me. No forests, no rivers, no dirt. Joshua Tree National Park is an excellent example of all of this. It is Dr. Seuss-ville.
One of the reasons this area is interesting is that it is the meeting/transition of two different deserts, Mojave and Sonoran. The actual strange looking Joshua Tree only grows in the upper Mojave sections of the park, however, the whole park is an big mix of cacti, Jumbo Rocks, creosote bushes, and sand.
The rocks were a huge hit with the kids. They loved scrambling, scaling, conquering, clambering, and scaring their parents all over them. We joked that giant kids had been playing with stones and then got called in for dinner by their giant parents. They didn’t clean up and these rock piles were the result. I found an indentation in a low rock on the backside of one of the outcroppings and enjoyed a vista and some quiet moments of nature observations while the boys performed more death defying climbing with dad.
When asked 6 days later for memories of the park, I got:
David: You playing U2 on your iPhone so that the kids could hear one of the things that made the park famous, the rocks, and that view from Keys Vista.
Carter and Bennett: The rocks.
Travel Notes: The Keys View is not to be missed. (Could see all the way to Mexico!). There also appear to be dirt roads you can take during daylight hours – didn’t know about that until the end. The roadside exhibits (pull off to read the signs) were actually interesting and informative to those of us who know little about deserts. No food for purchase in the park. You can do a loop through this park from Palm Desert – go in on one end and come out the other.
We also stumbled upon a great adventure the next day at Whitewater Preserve outside of Palm Springs toward LA. The Wildlife Conservancy was donated an old trout farm. They made great hiking trails out of the surrounding area and cleaned up the trout farm. Every couple of weekends they let kids learn to fish. They provide all the equipment and some older male Palm Desert Area retirees help out with the release of the ‘catch and release’ portion of the event. Bennett and Carter both caught fish (the term ‘fishing in a barrel’ does come to mind), but they both had a good time and it’s always exciting to pull in a fish. We then enjoyed a beautiful hike up to a great vista of the area. My memory of this hike will be Carter exploring a cactus a little too closely and getting scores of tiny barbs in his hands. He showed great humility (for the stupidness of touching a cactus), perseverance, and maturity by completing the hike with little complaint. I was reminded of the poem On Turning Ten that a friend just sent me. Watching him grow up is sometimes bittersweet, but has its rewards, but it’s hard, but it has its benefits, but it’s awesome. (Can you tell I’m a little conflicted?)