Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Sedona and California

by Kathy 17. April 2012 16:53

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Joshua Tree National Park

Almost seven hours southeast of Kings Canyon was another amazing national park—Joshua Tree.

I always think of Joshua trees as “Dr. Seuss trees” because they look like something that sprang from an outrageous imagination.

Joshua trees are not traditional “trees” made of wood. Instead, they are part of the yucca plant family, and they store water in their trunks and limbs. They grow in the Mojave Desert and have adapted to the arid land by developing extensive root systems to locate moisture underground. The spiny leaves on their branches are designed to capture moisture in the air.

We stayed at Indian Cove Campground, located in the northern section of the park.  Mounds of boulders rose all around us:

Arriving near sunset after a long day on the road, Genevieve and Sebastian immediately bounded out of the RV, intent on doing some climbing. (Got rocks? Must climb!)

As a parent, I found myself walking that fine line between wanting to give my kids freedom to explore and also wanting to keep them safe from harm. I watched with a blend of trust and trepidation as they scrambled higher and higher. Genevieve’s turquoise and white striped jacket made the kids easy to spot:

Ben eventually joined them and took this photo at the top:

On the other side of the rocks, the desert stretched out to the distant hills:

Genevieve was in seventh heaven:

The next morning, the kids were off to explore a different set of rocks. I think they scoped out which set of boulders was tallest and also presented the greatest challenge; and then they made a bee line for it.

We could hear their voices somewhere on these rocks:

Then, searching for a blip of turquoise, we zoomed in on their ant-sized bodies:

They disappeared for a while, and then we spied them again—they had reached the top!

Before venturing into the heart of the park, we stopped at the Josua Tree Visitor’s Center to take a look at the exhibits and pick up Junior Ranger booklets for Genevieve and Sebastian.

We were going to travel throughout the park today, doing two different hikes, and transitioning from the northern, high-elevation Mojave desert down to the southern, low-elevation Colorado desert.

All deserts are not alike!

The Mojave Desert contained the vast forests of Joshua trees that we were seeing this morning:

Less than thirty miles away, the Colorado Desert had natural cholla cactus gardens and red-tipped ocotillos among scrubby creosote bushes:

Our first hike today was a 1.3 mile loop to Barker Dam. The start of the trail led into a narrow canyon with boulders on either side:

Thanks to Genevieve and Sebastian’s Jr. Ranger requirements, we were on the constant look-out for various plants, animals and signs of life. We found plenty!

A flowering barrel cactus:

A prickly pear cactus:

A budding beavertail cactus:

A lizard:

Juniper tree berries:

A dirt mound left by a burrowing animal:

There were lots of cubby holes for hiding or resting among the rocks:

The backside of Barker Dam revealed the two stages in which the dam was constructed:

The lower rock portion was built in 1902 by the Barker & Shay Cattle Company, when this area received about 10 inches of rain each year (now it gets 2 to 5 inches), and ranchers fed their cattle on the abundant desert grasses. The Barker Dam was built for the purpose of catching rainwater and runoff in this natural basin so the cattle would have more water. 

The rainfall decreased dramatically in the early 1900’s, and most ranchers moved away. The Keys family remained nearby at the Desert Queen Ranch, and improved the dam in 1949-1950 by adding the top concrete portion. They also renamed it “Big Horn Dam,” but the name didn’t stick.

A local woman who lives outside the park said that the water level was unusually low this year; usually the pond covers almost the entire expanse of sand in the basin.

Hanging over the pond was a rock formation that resembled a water serpent rising up:

A pipe once carried water from the pond to cattle troughs behind the dam:

One of Genevieve and Sebastian’s Jr. Ranger tasks was to identify things that could have been used for play by Native American children. We found these rock holes that could have been incorporated into a toss-the-rock-into-the-hole game (similar to a modern bean-bag toss):

Another rock area had petroglyphs (rock carvings) that had been defaced by someone who had painted over the carved lines:

Gangly Joshua trees provided shade along the trail:

The trees came in all shapes and sizes, and never failed to fascinate us:

A fallen trunk revealed the hollow center:

The second hike we did today took us into Hidden Valley Canyon, where cattle rustlers in the 1870’s purportedly kept secret herds before ranchers and miners started moving into this area.

The 1-mile trail had a lot of carved stairs that took us up and down through rocks:

Mounds and cliffs on either side of Hidden Valley shelter the area from wind and also help trap moisture.

This area draws rock climbers from all over the world, and we paused to watch them at play:

Here, you can just barely see the red helmet of a climber on top of the rounded rock:

We found many lizards scampering about on the rocks, some doing their “push-ups” (moving up and down)—a common behavior to assert dominance or ward away intruders.

Leaving Hidden Valley behind, we drove about 7 miles south, past thousands of Joshua trees:

Our destination was a lookout point called Keys View. With an elevation of 5185 feet, it provided a grand view of the Coachella Valley, which was 4000 feet below. At the base of snow-streaked Mount San Jacinto lies the town of Palm Springs, which was barely visible through the haze.

The lush Palm Springs area was once an extension of the arid Colorado Desert. However, entrepreneurs began diverting water from the Colorado River at the beginning of the 20th century, in order to grow dates and citrus in the valley. Now a canal system irrigates the residences, golf courses, and farms there.

The small hills that run across the Coachella Valley mark the path of the San Andreas Fault, where the Pacific Ocean Crust slides against the North American Crust (see the red line on the 2nd photo below).

The spot on which we were standing moves about two inches to the southeast every year due to the sliding of earth along the Faultline.

Here is one more photo of the Joshua trees before we dropped down into the southern portion of the park:

We paused briefly to search out a rock formation called Skull Rock, named after the obvious eye sockets and nose bone:

Then we zig-zagged our way to the Colorado Desert below, and crossed the flat valley:

At the Cottonwood Visitor’s Center, Ranger Pam Tripp reviewed Genevieve and Sebastian’s booklets, awarded them badges, and swore them in as Junior Rangers for Joshua Tree National Park:

Our family has benefitted immensely from the Jr. Ranger programs in national parks and monuments throughout the United States. With all the detailed questions and other badge requirements, we must travel through places more slowly, carefully reviewing exhibits, paying close attention to the landscape, identifying subtle things in nature that we might have overlooked, and absorbing a wealth of cultural history and geology. We send a heartfelt thanks to the creators of the overall program, and to the many wonderful rangers who have generously shared their knowledge and love of the parks with us!


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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
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   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
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   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
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   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
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   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
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   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
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   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
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   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
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   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
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   Navajo Nation, AZ
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   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
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   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
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   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin