Saturday, 25 April 2009 (continued from here):
After our hike to Twentynine Palms Oasis, we drove to the town of the same name to check out the main Joshua Tree National Park visitor’s center, and the adjacent Oasis of Mara.
Oasis of Mara
The visitor’s center was surprisingly devoid of interpretive displays, and after picking up a book on cacti & a book on desert wildflowers, we walked around the paved trail to the Oasis of Mara.
This oasis is right in the middle of town, and is rather windswept and only of passing interest. I was happy to see a Bullock’s Oriole in the trees, but we didn’t linger long, and headed back to the house and made lunch
After lunch we headed to Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum
The museum’s address is not listed on their website, presumably to prevent vandalism, but I’d printed out directions from a Yelp review. They were very convoluted (and needlessly so), but we eventually got there. This was my kind of crazy desert place – the sculptures, all made from found objects ran the gamut from trains to toilets to houses and so on. If you’d like to see more photos, check out my previous photo set post.
After an hour or so wandering amid Purifoy’s interesting creations, we decided to head into the national park and get the lay of the land.
Joshua Tree Road
The drive in was beautiful; Although I’ve seen plenty of Joshua Trees in the past, I had never seen an actual forest of them! The weird trees had fascinating lumpy rocks for a backdrop (the so-called Wonderland of Rocks), and the whole area was quite surreal.
By way of getting the lay of the park, we decided to head out to Key’s View, an overlook at the edge of the park high above the Coachella Valley. It was a pretty drive of 5’ish miles to the lookout, however the view to the west was very smoggy, courtesy of not-that-nearby Los Angeles. Towering Mt. San Jacinto was directly across from us, and to the south we could see just a sliver of the accidental Salton Sea (its story, in the wiki link on the left, is rather interesting).
Desert Mallow / Sphaeralcea ambigua
There’s a (very) short, paved interpretive trail at Key’s View, and after walking around it, which took all of a minute or two, we headed back.
Cap Rock Nature Trail
Our park map showed a short nature trail at Cap Rock, so we pulled into the parking lot and walked along this wide, well-signed path, which had quite a lot of information about the natural history of the area.
Joshua Trees / Yucca breviflora
Joshua Tree B&W
There were funky rocks a’plenty, and a good number of Joshua Trees. It felt like we were walking through Dr. Seuss story, half-expecting a Lorax to pop out from behind one of these weird yuccas.
Mesquite, strangled by miseltoe
A dead mesquite bush provided a good example of the dangers of being a parasite – it had been thoroughly invaded by miseltoe, and had subsequently died – a similar fate awaited the miseltoe that had not yet perished.
Joshua Tree woodland
Flora- and fauna-wise, it was very quiet, being midday. A few Common Ravens flew by, and some lizards skitted about, and that was about it.
Cap Rock – I guess it sort of looks like a cap….
We soon arrived back at the car, and went to the Visitor’s Center in the town of Joshua Tree, which was even smaller than the one in Twentynine Palms, however it had an excellent photography exhibit that opened this evening, and we enjoyed seeing the beautiful photos made by a years-long resident of the area.
After that, dinner, a hot tub, and bed. Not a half-shabby second day in Joshua Tree!
Sunday, 26 April 2009:
I woke up at 6am and watched the sunrise over the nearby mountains, then walked around the property and photographed some of the flora in the warm early morning light.
Mojave Aster / Xylorhiza tortifolia
Mojave Asters were beginning to unfurl, and a good variety of cacti were around as well.
Diamond Cholla / Opuntia ramosissima
The aptly-named Horse Crippler / Grusonia parishii
Horse Crippler Cactus AKA Dead Cactus, although it looks dead, is not, and atop its fearsome spines grows a very odd-looking flower & glochid when it’s in bloom. It’s pretty obvious why it’s called Horse Crippler!
Black-throated Sparrow / Amphispiza bilineata, w/nesting material
I watched a Black-throated Sparrow pulling nesting materiel from a dead yucca, it’s dainty beak stuff with strands.
Desert Live Forever / Dudleya saxosa
A succulent caught my eye, and I immediately knew it to be a Dudleya sp., and a quick look in our newly-purchased desert flower book confirmed that it was Desert Liveforever.
Acton Encelia / Encelia actoni
Acton Encelia bloomed everywhere, at least I think that’s what it is – there are a pretty large number of yellow Asteraceae in the Mojave!
Our rental at sunrise
The morning chorus of calling Gambel’s Quail and Mourning Doves began to quiet as the sun rose above the eastern mountains.
Silver Cholla / Cylindropuntia echinocarpa & Engelmann Hedgehog / Echinocereus engelmannii
A nicely back-lit Silver Cholla caught my eye – I was so far very much enjoying my new’ish Canon G10, with which I took the majority of the non-bird photos in this travelogue.
By the bird feeder, I caught another Black-throated Sparrow, then went inside to make coffee and rouse Sarah for the day’s hike
(to be continued)
- Part I – Getting there, settling in
- Part II – Twentynine Palms Oasis
- Part III – Oasis of Mara, Noah Purifoy, Key’s View, Cap Rock <– You are here!
- 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