April 21, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Joshua Tree Back Roads, Part III

[The full text, with photos, can be found on my travel site, Travels to Distant [Strick]Lands.]

Besides the furry, Seussian tree for which the park is named, Joshua Tree National Park is known for its dramatic topography. The central portion of the park contains vast fields of boulders and massifs on which the experienced rock climber and the neophyte hiker can play with equal pleasure. Upon our arrival at Jumbo Rocks, one of the larger of these outcroppings, I eagerly bounded up the boulders. This was a part of the park I had anticipated with some excitement. I joined my cohorts on the top of Jumbo Rock, perusing the commanding view of the valley. We struck a pose for the photographers below and descended, ready for the next adventure (though I wanted to stay and play on the rocks more).

DanaMite next led us along another back road to the Desert Queen Mine, where we found the ruins of the old ranch and mining residence. Here, I was foiled again in my quest to actually see a mine (having missed the one that Les and the others discovered on Black Eagle Mine Road). Maybe next visit.

We ended the day by driving through White Tank campground, which was our originally-planned camp site before Easter weekend crowds forced us into the southern end of the park. Hopefully we'll stay at this site on future visits. Fifteen sites sit nestled within towering boulders, offering dramatic vistas and fun climbing right in your "backyard." Best of all, camping at the site is free with your paid admission to the park ($10 per vehicle, good for seven days).

Saturday night, we replenished our spent carbs by cooking up enough food for a small army. As Dana observed, 12 people brought fixings for 12 people, so we could have fed 144. I don't think we had quite that much food, but the potluck dinner was aptly named the "All American Pigout." We had Sirpa's salad, Strickland's sausages, Lory's corn on the cob, Jason's Dutch oven stew and so much more. Drew provided the soundtrack for the evening on his acoustic guitar, and Lory's Book of Questions stimulated fireside discussions about religion, politics and everything in between. I felt like I'd known these people I'd just met for years.

Though I was in serious need of a shower, Sunday came too quickly. Loading up the vehicles again, we left the park by way of Pinkham Canyon and Thermal Canyon Roads (again, rated for four-wheel-drive vehicles only). This time, Lory got her shot in the saddle of my Explorer and loosened the reins on roads that were even more fun than Black Eagle Mine Road. Drew also joined the fun in his pristine 1955 Land Rover, looking more like he belonged in the African bush than the California desert. And even a minor setback like Christian nearly running out of gas provided opportunities to see otherworldly caterpillars and blooming prickly pear cacti out in the middle of nowhere.

The denouement of the trip took place on the tram from Palm Springs to the top of Mount San Jacinto, a trip involving a 6,000-foot rise in elevation and a 40-degree drop in temperature. Lory and I, however, skipped this final adventure in favor of getting home at a decent hour. But secondhand reports suggest that the group had a blast avoiding Karen's snowballs.

I feel lucky to have found such a great group of people, and look forward to many more travels "off the beaten path" with Total Escape. So much so, in fact, that I'm going to Baja in two weeks!


Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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4/20: Joshua Tree, Part II
4/19: Joshua Tree, Part I
4/18: Royal Flush
4/17: A Long Strange Trip
4/16: A New Line to Back
4/15: Still Writing
4/14: Conspiracy Theory
4/13: Los Coronados
4/12: Y2K in Y2K3
4/11: Slow Glass
4/10: Freedom of Speech
4/9: Why We're Fighting
4/8: Eucalyptus Memories
4/7: Sleep
4/6: Writing, Just Not Here
4/5: Sci-Files Trivia
4/4: Sobering Up
4/3: Great White Hope
4/2: Entropy
4/1: Peace on Earth
Previous months in The Archive

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