Three days of wind at Joshua Tree was enough. The sunny days with a cool breeze made for good hiking, but relentless wind is tiring. So we’re heading north up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. It’s a spectacular drive, with mountains lined up like sand dunes, only most of them are 12- 13- or 14,000 feet high. That’s on the west side of Highway 395. The desert, with a distant mountain range or two, is on the east side of the road. We’re looking forward to it.
We got a good campsite at Jumbo Rock in Joshua Tree and went for a walk to Skull Rock. The trail was replete with loads of wildflowers, including lots of blooming cacti, Yucca and Joshua Trees. It’s going to look boring the next time we come here in the fall; the wildflowers really add to the ambiance. The next day we did a couple of short hikes. The Split Rock Trail is short but takes you past such wonders as Tulip Rock and another formation that looks like a profile of George Washington. Later in the day, we walked to Barker Dam, a small lake in the middle of the desert that’s always fun to look at.
Friday was set for our big hike – the famous 6.6-mile North View-Maze Loop. We tried to hike this trail a couple of years ago, descended down a wash to the point where there were 4-foot drops and our clothes were getting torn up by Cats Claw, and turned back. This time, there actually was a sign designating the trailhead. So we confidently went down the wash, following the directions in our little trail guide. Again, the wash began to get dicey and we seemed to be past the point of the expected turnoff. Dave spotted a small, unsigned trail taking off in the right direction, so off we went. After a mile or so, we seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so we backtracked and found a different turn off that went more in the direction we wanted. It eventually led us back to the roadway and our car, but it definitely wasn’t the trail we wanted. We were grouchy, but did another trail we hadn’t done before, to Pine City, a rocky area with a few small Junipers. It’s a flat, easy trail and Pine City has great sets of boulders with lots of nooks and crannies where cacti, lichen and yucca thrive. We poked around there for a while and walked back, as the wind finally died down a bit. We soothed our wind-frayed souls with barbecue potato chips and Mojitos.
Saturday, I went to the Visitor Center to complain about the unmarked North View Trail, and the ranger said that many people complained how inadequate the trail markers were. I know that cairns get washed away in washes, but how hard is it to pile up a few rocks here and there? I wrote my little complaint out and we’ll try the trail again the next time we’re here.
My Homeland Security Wristwatch battery went dead and we stopped at a JC Pennys in Yucca Valley to replace it. The lady who helped me in the small store was fascinating; I could have stared at her hands a long time. She worked at the jewelry counter, and had long, fake nails done with a French manicure (I’m not so sure what it’s called) with little blue glitter designs on several of them. She had shiny, pretty rings on every finger as well as both thumbs. It made me want to do the same, but it wouldn’t look so great on my bony, freckled hands. While I was waiting for the battery, a little girl next to me was talking to her Teddy Bear: “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, pull down your shirt and don’t let people see your diapers.” I wonder where she got that line from?
We’re heading north now; yesterday was our longest drive (190 miles) in weeks. We stopped at Red Rock Canyon State Park (the California one), which has a really nice campground, but the price has risen to $25 a night. And the dump station is out of order. I think that they should give a discount for that. When I’m 62 (getting closer!) there’ll be a Senior Citizen’s discount of $2 per night for camping, that doesn’t reduce $25 by much. Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger! I think we’ll be staying in fewer state parks from now on.
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