Joshua Tree National Park, located in Southern California,
encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays in
California's deserts. Two deserts, Mojave Desert (High Desert)
and Colorado (or Sonoran) Desert, come together at Joshua Tree
National Park. The Joshua trees, growing in the higher, moister, and slightly
cooler Mojave Desert, are the foremost attraction in the park. Below 3000 feet,
the drier Colorado Desert is indicated by much sparser plant life and is
dominated by the creosote bush.
Getting there ...
It's a long drive (~ 8 hours including some rest stops) from the Bay Area to
Joshua Tree National Park in the southern California. We started early on the
Saturday morning (after the weekly call with my parents), had a long wait for
drive thru at a McDonald's at Bakersfield at noon, and finally arrived at Joshua
Tree just before 4PM.
- Spirit Wind
This was the first time that we used Airbnb for our lodging option.
Spirit Wind is a modern architecture on a 5-acre ground with lots of
native cactus, Joshua trees and other native trees. The check-in
process was simple without any contact with any person (using Airbnb app and
keypad at the door).
- Intersection Rock
I headed to the park alone at ~6PM (since Woanyu
had to stay home to have a Zoom meeting at 6-7PM). Intersection Rock
is centrally located in the park, and it has good combinations of the park's
main features: Joshua Trees and formation of rocks.
- Star trails
||I went to the front yard of our lodge after dinner
to set up my tripod for some night shots. After a few test
shots, I set up the interval timer on the camera to start taking a
series of photos (25sec exposure for each shot). After about
2.5 hours until the battery ran out, I got ~ 280 photos which I can
stack them later to create star trails (by a free software
After some tweaking in Photoshop, I think I am happy with the
The Second Day ...
It's a good sunrise with right amount of cloud for the golden
light. The challenge to photography Joshua trees is to find the
"perfect" one: you always feel the next tree will be better...
- Willow Hole Trail
Willow Hole Trail is a 7.2-mile (11.5 km)
out-and-back trail which travels through Joshua tree forests and boulder
landscape. The last 2 miles of the trail is along the sandy
washes into the Wonderland of Rocks, and it can be tough to walk through the
soft sands. The trail dead ends at Willow Hole where you’ll find lush
Willow trees and occasionally water (but no water this time). This is the
perfect spot for us to take a snack rest before heading back towards the
beginning of the trail.
We finished the hike after about 4.5 hours (including a
short snack break at the Willow trees). We went back to our lodge to have
a home made lunch, and had a relax afternoon at the
hot tub to avoid the heat.
- Hall of Horrors
We went back to the park in the late afternoon after 5PM. The name
of "Hall of Horrors" may sound daunting, it is actually an easy fun walk
around great bouldering areas with narrow passages that you can scramble up
and down these rock formations.
- Jumbo Rock
We went to Jumbo Rock campground for the late afternoon
light on the rock formation. We were lucky to find the last parking
spot just outside the campground (you need a campground reservation to park
inside the campground), and walked toward the jumbo rock area. The
famous balanced rock and the weathered bonsai-like juniper tree (right
behind the camp site #19) was bathed in the golden late afternoon sunlight.
On the way back, I stopped at a few roadside spots to enjoy
the last light of the day.
The Third Day ...
- Stars and Sunrise
I got up early and went to photography the Milky
Way at 4AM. Boasting some of the darkest nights in Southern
California, Joshua Tree National Park, an International
Dark Sky Park, offers many visitors the rare chance to admire the Milky
- Barker Dam
One of the most popular trails in the park, Barker Dam
Trail is an easy 1.1 miles loop wandering through Joshua Tree's iconic
monzogranite boulders, namesake Joshua trees, a rock art site telling a
story of the desert's human history, and past the historic Barker Dam.
pervious visit in Dec 2010, there was no water in the dam this time in
- Wall Street Mill
The Wall Street Mill was a complete and operable
gold ore crushing mill featuring late-19th century two-stamp
mill machinery. The mill was built and operated by William Keys, a local
rancher, miner and character, from 1930 to his death in 1966. In the
1940s, Keys was involved in a dispute with Worth Bagley over access to the
Wall Street Mill. Keys shot and killed Bagley in 1943 and placed
a stone commemorating the event.
- Skulk Rock
After a nice lunch break and another hot tub relaxation, we went back to the
park in the late afternoon. We passed by one of the most famous rock
formations in the park, Skulk Rock, and had some easy rock climbing exercise
around the area.
- Arch Rock
Arch Rock trail is an easy 1.4-mile round-trip trail
winding through sandy and rocky terrain to another famous rock formation,
Arch Rock. Arch Rock is about 30-feet across and shaped somewhat like
a brontosaurus or an elephant trunk. Though certainly not in the same league
as the spans in Arches National Park, Arch Rock is still a fascinating
The Fourth Day ...
I was thinking to take a break to sleep late as it will be a
long drive home today. However, I still woke up at 5AM and decided to
go to the park for the last sunrise. Although it was too clear to have
a dramatic sunrise sky, it was always good to feel the first light of the
day on your face.
Going Home ...
After a simple clean up for our Airbnb lodge, it's time to start the long
drive back home. During this pandemic year, we have revisited a few main
national parks within our driving distance in California, such as
Death Valley, and
Yosemite. It is good to go
back to these natural treasures and to enjoy places where we had a lot of memory
with our family.
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