Saturday, 25 April 2009 (continued from here)
We drove ~20 minutes from our house to Twentynine Palms, then up a road for a few miles until it ended at the trailhead for the Twentynine Palms Oasis trail. We hit the trail at 8:05, just behind a large’ish group of hikers, so we started slow to let them get well ahead of us. I was slightly annoyed that I had failed to check that I had this region loaded into my GPS, so although it provided hike stats, I had no map to look at, oops!
Hikers on the Twentynine Palms Oasis Trail
The trail rose gently, and many cacti and flowers were blooming. This part of Joshua Tree National Park, however, is completely devoid of the park’s namesake tree.
As we climbed, views started to open up of the valley below and the town of Twentynine Palms.
The well-used trail belied the morning’s quiet, and the largeish group at the trailhead had long since gone ahead at a military clip; We assumed, correctly as it turned out, that they were from the nearby Marine base.
Desert Barrel Cactus / Ferocactus cylindraceus
Near the ridgetop, tall, bright red Desert Barrel Cacti dotted the hillsides, making the already-surreal desert scenery all that much more foreign. Some of these barrels were 5+ feet tall, and their color made them stand out like sore thumbs. In fact, they looked rather like sore thumbs!
Twentynine Palms Oasis Trail
At the top of the ridge, we enjoyed lovely views to the north of Morongo Valley, and then descended gently toward the oasis.
Cushion Foxtail Cactus / Coryphantha alversonii
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel / Ammospermophilus leucurus
Another new cactus, Cushion Foxtail, with distinctive pink blooms, was nestled into some rocks, and a couple of White-tailed Antelope Squirrels (which look more like chipmunks) ran about.
Nearing the oasis
Cresting the ridge, we could see the tops of the California Fan Palms in the oasis, and the trail leading to it. The trail here was very well-maintained and rock-lined – impossible to stray from unless you tried (which of course we did at a few nice viewpoints).
Sand Blazing Star / Mentzelia involucrata
Perched on a rock I spied a Cactus Wren (LIFER!) and soon saw a White-crowned Sparrow, along with a few Black-throated Sparrows in the thickening vegetation. Flowers were more plentiful here too, as we neared the oasis.
Mojave Sun Cup / Camissonia campestris
Nearly all of the flowers we’d seen were new to me, but Mojave Sun Cup was at least easy to identify as some sort of Sun Cup, with its bulbous-tipped stigma.
A few hikers, who had gotten an even earlier start than us, were returning up the trail as we neared the oasis, and the plant & wildlife continued to pick up.
Common Side-blotched Lizard / Uta stansburiana
A rustling in the shrubery brought a lovely Common Side-blotched Lizard to my attention (thanks to Flickr user PrimevalNature for the ID!).
Desert Canterbury Bell / Phacelia campanularia
Another new flower, the dainty Desert Canterbury Bell, bloomed inconspicuously under a rock’s shadow.
75 short minutes after starting, we arrived at the oasis, which is not the sort of shimmering desert lake one might think of, but rather a cluster of (guess how many?) California Fan Palms in a boggy area.
The group of hikers we’d started with was here, and we perched ourselves on a nearby rock to enjoy the locale by ourselves.
Twentynine Palms Oasis
Much birdsong was in the air, and I scanned the trees to see who was present.
Orange-crowned Warbler / Vermivora celata
An Orange-crowned Warbler flitted about in a flowering bush, but that wasn’t the source of what I was hearing.
Scott’s Oriole / Icterus parisorum
A flash of high-contrast black and yellow alerted me to the singer – a lovely Scott’s Oriole (LIFER!). I spent the next few minutes trying to get close to get a decent photo of it, and it hopped about, mostly stymying my efforts.
California Fan Palm
A friendly fellow from the larger group came over to see what we were looking at, and we talked to him for a little bit. The group was indeed from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (the largest USMC base), and most were instructors enjoying a day off. They’d been hiking in the Smoky Mountains just a week earlier, which must have been quite the contrast with the stark desert environment here!
Costa’s Hummingbirds / Calypte costae
Costa’s Hummingbird (female) / Calypte costae
As we were getting ready to head back, a “whirrrr” caught my ear, and we were treated to a male Costa’s Hummingbird (LIFER!) doing its display for a female. It flew high above her, then whizzed down and back up again. She didn’t seem very impressed, and soon went about sipping nectar from some nearby flowers.
We headed back the way we came at 9:45, as several sets of hikers arrived.
Desert Barrel Cactus flowers / Ferocactus cylindraceus
Since I’d already seen the scenery on the hike in, I concentrated on the flora, finding one blooming barrel cactus…
Desert Dandelion / Malacothrix glabrata
… and a Desert Dandelion, which looks quite like any other dandelion, and …
Cutleaf Wildheliotrope / Phacelia crenulata (?)
… a couple of patches of pretty Cutleaf Wildheliotrope, at least I think that’s what it is. Judging from its leaves and flower arrangement, it’s certainly a Phacelia sp. of some sort.
There were more folks on the trail now (it IS a national park, after all), most heading the other way. I was glad we’d started early, as even by 10am, the light wasn’t as nice, and the wind was picking up.
Englemann Hedgehog / Echinocereus engelmannii
A bunch of Englemann Hedgehogs were blooming, and I photographed many of them until I found one whose bloom was both in good shape, and well-list.
Gambel’s Quail / Callipepla gambelii
As we neared the trailhead, a Gambel’s Quail skitted down a boulder, and I was glad to catch a reasonable photo of it, as in my experience, Quail are pretty wary birds!
At 10:55 we arrived back at the car, surprised to find the parking lot nearly full. Despite the total lack of Joshua Trees, this was a great first hike in the park, and one that due to its ease should be on any visitor’s list!
– Distance: 3.5mi
– Climbing: 800′
– 1h 43m moving, 1h stopped
|Birds Seen:||Wildflowers/cacti Seen:|
|Location: 49 Palms Oasis
Observation date: 4/25/09
Number of species: 7
Gambel’s Quail – Callipepla gambelii 3
* = life bird, + = year bird
|- Beavertail Cactus
* Cushion Foxtail Cactus
* Cutleaf Wildheliotrope
* Desert Barrel Cactus
* Desert Canterbury Bell
* Desert Dandelion
– Engelmann’s Hedgehog
* Mojave Sun Cup
* Sand Blazing Star
* = life flower
- Part I – Getting there, settling in
- Part II – Twentynine Palms Oasis <– You are here!
- Part III – Oasis of Mara, Noah Purifoy, Key’s View, Cap Rock
- Part IV – Lost Horse Mine
- Part V – Cholla Cactus Garden, Geology Tour Road
- Part VI – Split Rock, Hidden Valley
- Part VII – Barker Dam, Ocotillo Patch
- Part VIII – Mastodon Peak, Cholla Cactus Garden revisited
- Part IX – Big Morongo Canyon, AKA Birding Paradise
- Part X – Tahquitz Canyon
- Part XI – Living Desert, LA, and home