The Cottonwood entrance to the Joshua Tree National Forest has a campground with water and a dump station. We paid our ten bucks but decided not to stay at that campground because it was early and most of the other campgrounds were in the northwest section of the JTNF where we figured there was more to see, since we had traveled about ten miles in and hadn't seen a Joshua Tree yet.
The Colorado and Mojave deserts meet and somewhat overlap between Cottonwood and the other campground areas. The desert is beautiful and has lots of low-growing plants like creosote, brittle bush and purple bush. (I think a lot of these same plants get different names at different locations depending on who named them. There are a lot that look pretty much the same... to me.) The ocotillo patch had a large variety of sizes of ocotillo. They weren't quite ready to bloom yet, but were getting their tiny green leaves.
The cholla garden was awesome. There were so many, many, MANY of them on both sides of the roadway. The backlighting on the ones on the west side of the road was beautiful. Each little section of each plant seemed to have a bright little glowing halo surrounding it as the sunlight passed through it's protective coat of needles.
We had slowly been gaining altitude and getting more into rock formations and mountains. We checked out a couple of campgrounds that were full and proceeded on to the one we had thought we might like... Jumbo Rocks. It, also was full, so we headed down the mountain to Twentynine Palms and found an RV Park for the night.
We had come across an increasing number of Joshua Trees, but nothing like we had anticipated ... that could be called a forest!
The park we found was a couple of blocks off Highway 62. Knott's Sky park is a city park with a section for RVs. Cool. Pretty small spaces, and we chose to have the works... we had been dry camping for the biggest part of a month. It is great to have electricity, water, sewage and cable TV. Now if these places would just have phone hook-ups for overnighter's computers ...
Activity: Tour day. After reading what we had collected about Joshua Tree National Forest (JTNF) we headed for the Chamber of Commerce to see what information they had about Joshua and 29 Palms. They were closed. Next we went to the Visitor Center on this side of the park to sign up for the tour at Desert Queen Ranch and to trade in the seven day pass we purchased yesterday for a Golden Age Access Pass which will admit me to all the National Parks the rest of my life...for the same price. Yesterday I didn't know I was eligible but I read somewhere that I was... and then some. And it includes everyone in the vehicle with me.
They said we didn't need reservations for the tour so we headed out for the west entrance to the park. The drive in was beautiful. Different terrain again. And this time there were Joshua trees! The further up the mountains we went the more trees there were. Gorgeous, big Joshua Trees. We could finally see why they call it a forest! We headed for an attraction called Keys View. We drove through miles and miles of all sizes and shapes of Joshua trees with a background of all sizes and shapes of huge rocks. Beautiful. When we got to Keys View we had to walk up the last part of the mountain. It was 5000 feet up (not the part that we had to walk... totally) and had it not been smoggy you could see forever in almost every direction. A sign said if it was clear you could see Signal Mountain in Mexico. With my binoculars I could see Salton Sea, 95 miles to the south. I don't think I've ever looked down from so high up, except from an airplane, of course. You could see towns and roads and fields. Fantastic.
Coming down from the top of the world we headed for Desert Queen Ranch. Through the Hidden Valley campground (which was full) the paved road ended and the dirt road took on the persona of a big washboard. We jiggled and jarred for about six or seven miles and were a little bit early for the 3 o'clock tour when we finally got to the gate. But it gave us times to study the rock formations around us and look for climbers.
Larry, a ranger arrived at the gate with the 1 p.m. tour group and at 3 led all of those who waited, in to the ranch. The story of William Keys and his family is great. The tour was lead by Linda Clapp and was most interesting and informative. The scary part was overlapping my life's timeline with the 'historic' timeline of these homesteaders. If that's 'history' you will probably find me on a shelf in an antique shop soon.
On the way home we went the long way to see the sunset over the park. It was beautiful with the silhouettes of the the different shaped trees and rocks against the fiery sky.
It was dark when we got back to the RV park, but the gate was still open. They close it from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.!
Activity: Stay at home day. We did nothing all day. Read, carved, watched TV. Nice Day.
Activity: Drove around to check out Yucca Valley, Moronga Valley, Joshua Tree, Desert Hot Springs and everything in between. Yucca Valley is a pretty big town and pretty nice looking. When we got back to 29 Palms we went to the Chamber and got a map of where the murals are located. The town has 13 murals completed on the sides of buildings/businesses and plans to add more at the rate of 3 per year. They tell the story of the community and all seem to be pretty well done. These murals and their stories can be found at http://www.virtual29.com/murals
We also drove out toward the Marine base. It surely is huge and spread out.
Before we left for the ride I paid for two more days here in this park.
just type your email address in the box below.
Last modified on: Sunday, March 7, 1999.