Joshua Tree NP - 3 days
It's been a bit difficult to update the blog because a. we had little internet availability b. my computer finally decided to expire. Very sad. My 8 year old MacBook Pro is no more :(
Finally getting access to Sarah's computer, I'm going to try to briefly summarise the days in Joshua Tree National Park:
The weather dramatically improved, so we left the car park that we settled for in Cathedral City, to drive back to Joshua Tree National Park. The entry fee is $15, but thats for 7 days, and the camping on Belle Campground, in the centre of the park, was a massive $10 per night. (Absolutely no services; no water, nothing).
When we arrived and found our pitch, I must admit that we had a little dance in the desert - such a perfect spot:
Using the bikes, we cycled around the area (speed limit is 35mph on the roads, but surprise: few people stick to that).
Behind the next-door camping area (White Tank), we discovered the ... White Tank.... by following a rocky trail behind the Arch Rock. This involved a scramble over and under a few boulders, and was well worth the effort. One hundred years ago, cattle ranchers built these dams to create small pools of water amongst the rocks, effectively creating a 'water tank'.
Apparently this was enough to support a few cattle! It must have been a tough life. Temperatures in the summer easily top 40 degC, and drop to well below freezing at night in the winter.
Winter daytime temperatures are a much more bearable 20-25 degC, and we used this narrow climatic opportunity to head out on a few hikes. Besides finding and hiking to the old gold and silver mine previously mentioned (Silver Bell), on the second day we hiked half-way up to the Contact Mine. A fantastic walk through the desert, following the line of the summer flash-flood washes and dykes, and up into the pre-Triassic hills towards the north end of the site.
Geologically and historically fascinating. It is truly hard to imagine living out here day in and day out, spending most of your time hundreds of feet underground in passages shored up by wooden logs! Today, most of these mines and shafts are extremely dangerous; even within the area of a mine, the ground can be insecure, and the shafts often drop vertically.
Some animal life too; the coyotes were howling and squabbling around the campsite each night, although the snakes and tortoises (they can be really aggressive, but as long as you can crawl more than 1m per hour, you can outrun them) were all hibernating.
There are mountain lions, bobcats and the occasional bear here too, but we didn't see any sign of them.
The evenings were simple enough; watch the sunset, the stars (and the odd comet), then early to bed. Sarah kept up her culinary extravagances by baking cakes (I know; but I wasn't complaining).
Our neighbours were fantastic; we met Liz and Matt, Ashley and Jake next door, who were all in the medical business (techs, emergency responders, nurses), from Modesto (plenty of drug and gun related emergencies apparently).
Really, really lovely people. We had quite a laugh with them around the campfire.
We've got some audio/video files of the coyotes, and of Comet Lovejoy (in the still, the green ball in the upper right of Orion), plus a poor attempt at capturing the rising and setting of Venus and Mercury together at sunset; but struggling for computer access/tools etc, so will try to come back to that over the next few days.
Finally full of waste water, and running out of fresh water and food, we left Joshua Tree to drive west to the coast, stopping in another RV car park along the way.
Now a couple of days spent on Emma Wood State Beach near Ventura.... we asked for the spot near to the Pacific, and they gave us the 'Honeymoon Suite':
For now; enjoy. Hopefully updates soon.