March 28, 2019 – Last I wrote I believe we were in Yuma, readying to travel north into the deserts of Southern California. We’re now out of the deserts so must be time to take you on that part of the journey.
3/2/19 – First we went up to the Salton Sea, a short drive. Short history: The Salton Sea is 236′ below sea level, and is in the Colorado Desert. Over many thousands of years the Colorado River has shifted course and alternately filled & emptied this low area, but the most recent inflow was accidentally created by engineers in early 1900s. As the Colorado R. has increasingly been controlled by dams and canals for development and agriculture in the desert, canals were dug from the river to the valley. As the flow increased, it overwhelmed the engineered canal and the river flowed into the Salton Basin for 2 yrs, filling the historic dry lake bed and creating the modern sea, before repairs were completed. In the 50s it enjoyed success as a resort area, but in time the salinity increase, pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources, and dead fish contributed to the decline of the tourist industry, it’s popularity to decrease and basically be abandoned.
It’s an interesting thing to see and walk miles of salty shore. There’s more to see, abandoned resorts and settlements, but geothermal activity is also visible, mudpots and mud volcanoes. We camped right on the salty shore but only stayed one night.
3/3/19 – After a nice sunrise over the sea we headed a few miles west to Anza Borrego Desert State Park. You heard all about the super bloom in the Calif. desert? Well this is where it was!!! OMG, it was so gorgeous!! You wouldn’t believe. Flowers I’ve never seen or heard of.
A lot of other interests at Anza Borrego too. Huge metal sculptures all over the place, miles and miles. Some rich guy (or I believe his estate) commissioned the sculptor to construct them on his lands and is now open to the gawking public. They’re amazing tho, representing creatures who once lived on this land. You can just see them roaming the badlands.
There were canyon hikes to climb: Hellhole Canyon, these very different from the Big Bend Canyons, they’re all up, up and up from the valley of flowers through rocky washes, to little waterfalls . . . or not. Jackalopes among the flowers. Lots of spiny cacti.
More creature sculptures in another location. Look at the detail of the feathers and the claws. Beautiful flowering barrel cactus.
A difficult hike up a stony hill to ruins of an old homestead. Why did they build up there, they had to CARRY everything up!!!! For the breathtaking view! In the photo of the view looking down, if you can zoom in and look closely you might be able to see the dot that is my car, just left of center.
An area with petroglyphs and morteros and other evidence of ancient cultures living in these rocks. Amazing rock formations.
A drive over 4×4 roads (I’m so glad I have all wheel drive! It has paid for itself many times.) out into the badlands to view them from breathtaking, I mean took my breath away as I approached the cliff’s edge!!! points within and above.
I spent my birthday here at Anza, this is the hike we took looking for Glorietta Canyon. Started out innocently enough, then where did that trail go? Bouldering, scampering over rocks and boulders, and seeing lovely flowers and views along the way. Never found Glorietta.
Another somewhat difficult straight up hike on Alcoholic Pass Trail. Spotted a horned toad, tho it’s really a lizard. Great views, in one direction toward the valley below were farm fields, citrus orchards, right in the middle of the desert. Irrigated from the Colorado River canal system, via the Salton Sea!?! And of course more great flowers who don’t need artificial irrigation.
There was more, so much more, to Anza Borrego. I think my favorite so far. I know I said I’d post fewer pictures, and these aren’t even very good, and we still have more desert to go to. We were here more than a week, had trouble leaving. But leave we did.
3/11/19 – On to Joshua Tree National Park. The flowers may have been even better here, but only in one area. Right where we were camped in the middle of them. Could smell them from the campers. Ahhhh!!!
And of course there’s more to JT. Joshua Trees for example. They’re yucca that grow large and branch like a tree. And they’re blooming too!!! And Cholla Cactus. They say their spines will jump out at you as you pass! Watch out!!
And more amazing rock formations. Yep, that last one’s called skull rock.
We were here 5 days and a couple of them were quite windy, too windy to even enjoy a walk among the flowers. The hikes were mostly among flowers and interesting boulders, so I actually enjoyed a couple of days just sitting out with the flowers near the camp. On the 17th we moved on north to the next desert.
3/17/19 – Mohave Desert National Preserve. I had very special camp neighbors, Theresa and Ed, musicians from NC so got to enjoy some fiddle & hammered dulcimer music. Nice!
Another highlight here was a trail called the Rings Loop Trail. It circles around a ridge then cuts through via Banshee Canyon, a twisted passage through a rock barrier with rings embedded in the rock for hand and footholds in the steepest areas. !! Ha!! I hiked around the ridge which in itself was pretty amazing – changes in the rock formation all around and the views. Made it climbing over boulders into the canyon to the wall of rocks that I wasn’t willing to even try since I was by myself. I was hoping to at least SEE the rings, knowing there was a good chance I couldn’t climb them, but I didn’t. Disappointed, I hiked back the mile and a half around the ridge.
The next day I hiked to the other end, to see the rings from the top. Ha again, not even. It was a struggle for me just to get to the overlooks (the blue railings). This is one of those times I say loudly “I wish I’d done this earlier, when I was younger and more fit”. A reminder to you, do it now, don’t wait until . . . .
Parts of I-40 is now what was the infamous Route 66. Some of Rt. 66 is not on I-40, fun to hit some of it. The Oasis at Goffs.
3/19/19 – On to the next desert – the BIG one! Death Valley National Park, the largest NP outside of Alaska, with over 3 million acres of federally designated Wilderness. You might expect a desolate, baren place, but it’s anything but. Lots of variety of landscapes and terrains: rocky peaks, sand dunes, colorful volcanic residues, mining ruins (including 20 Mule Team Borax) twisted slot canyons, salt flats, and fantastic views of it all. View of the Basin of Death Valley from Dante’s View, 5000 ft. above. The Badwater Basin, a surreal landscape of salt flats, the lowest point in North America, 282 ft. below sea level. The top right photo looking up from the basin, Dante’s View is up there, and the white dot in the middle is a sign that marks sea level. The bottom 2 are views of wonderfully colored and designed hillsides viewed from Zabriskie Point.
The fabulously multicolored hillsides on “Artist Drive”.
The hike not to miss in Desert Valley – The Golden Canyon Trail to the Red Cathedral!! Yep, another canyon, another challenging scramble up, over, around and through boulders and rocks. More wonderful amazing rock formations and color, as the names imply. It was edgy and questionable toward the top, but I managed this one all the way. All those rocky photos are OF the trail!! And the reward at the end! Beautiful and majestic. Worth every step, over, under and squeeze.
I met Theresa and Ed on the trail!! Fun. Much more, but lets scramble on.
3/22/19 – Drove all the way through Death Valley. Did I mention that it’s BIG!! Over mountains, into valleys, continuing west, more mountains, more valleys, fabulously beautiful drive. Landed at Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney. This part of the journey was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, Mt. Whitney is where my partner, Yahoo, died in a mountain climbing accident. For many years I’ve wanted to come here to see where she launched into the next realm. She had flown into Las Vegas, rented a car and driven through Death Valley to Lone Pine, so I retraced much of her drive getting here. It was a powerful experience to be here with thoughts of her and wishing she was here with me this time.
It is a beautiful place. Campground right at the base of Mt. Whitney and the Sierras. And in front, the Alabama Hills. What a view in all directions!! Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 at 14,494 ft., the campsite was at 5,000 ft. I couldn’t hike into Mt. Whitney because it was closed, still winter up there. I did manage to get to the snow line, where it was in the misty clouds.
Had a great hike and drive through the rocks and arches of the Alabama Hills. Many old westerns have been filmed here, looks very familiar. And Theresa and Ed were here too!!! We knew we were on the same course, but it sure is fun to have a traveling community to run into sometimes.
Look at those beautiful red flowers (may be Indian paintbrush) growing right out of the rock.
3/27/19 – So, that’s pretty much the end of the California Desert Tour. It is too cold in the higher elevations still so I’m headed south and west to the coast. Stayed overnight in Bakersfield where I wrote most of this. A real culture shock!! But at least nice to have some internet to get some work done.
Next time, see you on the Pacific coast.
Lynn and Xena