Day 20: 01/15/2016 – Joshua Tree National Park

Day20RouteDestination: Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park

Route: I-10W, National Park Roads

Mileage: 133 miles                                New state: California

Dutch and his pup.
Dutch and his pup.

It is time to hit the road again! But before we go we spend the morning hanging out with Marilee and the Toyota crew. They are great people and it is educational to check out their rigs to see the modifications they made and pick up tips on living in a condensed space. One such person is Dutch. A Texan who met his wife in Colorado (where she is visiting family at the time of our stop in Quartzsite), they sold their house and became rubber tramps a couple of years ago. Great person to get ideas from and learn about full-time RV living. We finish up our time in Quartzsite chatting with Marilee; we need to leave in relatively good order so we can grab a site in the first come first serve Jumbo Rocks campground.

Lunch of champions: pulled pork fries and funnel cake.
Lunch of champions: pulled pork fries and funnel cake.

As we are leaving, we decide to stop at our favorite food truck and get lunch for the road. Abandoning the poutine, we opt for the pulled pork fries and the funnel cake. Lunch of champions people. Alex got fries and pulled pork, but fruit is substituted for the funnel cake. Alex falls asleep with bits of pork on his shirt, which Penny so kindly cleans (very gently, can’t wake the toddler) off of him.

Follow the green signs!
Hello California! So glad we made it.

As we approach the highway, it is straight ahead, at full speed! California, here we come! Approximately 30 minutes on the road, we see the sign we have spent 20 days driving towards – the California state line! We still have a hurdle to cross before we can be officially admitted into the state – the agricultural inspection station. As we slow down to stop, the agent just waves us through and seems annoyed that we slowed down. Onward!

We reach exit 168 that will take us into Jumbo Rocks. As we are approaching the park entrance, who do we see boon-docking on BLM land? The Wynns from Gone with the Wynns! The solar array on their motorhome and teal logo on their smart car are pretty solid identifiers. Full-timers in a class A, we have picked up helpful tips and hints from their website. Especially in the regard to solar power and coach batteries. A quick stop to say hi and thanks for the inspiration, and we are on the road enter Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree is located where the Mojave (western half of park, 3000 feet plus above sea level) and Colorado (eastern half of park, below 3000 feet above sea level) deserts converge. Mojave flora includes pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, Mojave prickly pear cacti, Parry’s nolina, and, of course, the Joshua tree (a species of yucca). Mojave fauna includes antelope ground squirrel, yucca night lizard, black-tailed jackrabbit, common raven, American kestrel, loggerhead shrike, red-tailed hawk, Scott’s oriole, western screech owl, and the southwester speckled rattlesnake. The Colorado desert’s flora includes palo verde, ocotillo, smoke tree, brittlebush, chuparosa, sand verbena, pencil cholla, and dune primrose. The kit fox, kangaroo rat, zebratail lizard, LeConte’s thrasher, tiny checkerspot butterfly, and the western diamondback rattle snake are the fauna that inhabit the Colorado desert.

The piles of boulders are impressive to see.  The rocks are granite, formed by magma intruding on the Pinto genesis formation underground. As the granite cooled, horizontal and vertical cracks were formed. As the granite was uplifted, ground water caused chemical weathering, which widened the cracks and rounded the edges. The soil eroded, resulting in the heaps of monzogranite seen today.

We arrive at Jumbo Rocks, and there aren’t many spots left. Fortunately, there are a couple of other campground options that we drove by that seemed sparsely populated with campers. Luck was on our side, and we found a spot to wedge ourselves into. Not nearly as bad as our first night at Big Bend, but not ideal. After we settle in, we take a short hike to Skull Rock. Nothing too strenuous and it gets us out of the RV after the day’s drive. We don’t want to be gone too long since there is a special program at the amphitheater tonight.

While we are eating dinner, there is a knock on the door. It was Ranger Doug informing us about the program at the amphitheater. We had planned on going, hence the early dinner time, and finish up so we can be on time. The desert night is a bit chilly, so we bundle up and walk to the amphitheater. Ranger Doug is traveling across the country informing people about the posters the WPA (remember those school lessons about the New Deal?) printed for the National Parks between 1938 and 1941. Many of the original posters have been lost or forgotten in archives. Multiple versions for a single park have also been discovered. It is a fascinating talk at the time and effort into the reproduction process is staggering. If the opportunity presents itself to hear Ranger Doug speak, one should seize it; he is enthusiastic in his mission and knowledgeable. As always, it is early to bed, for what we hope is an early to rise.

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