Category: Palm Springs
|March 25, 2017||Filed under California, Palm Springs|
I was not a big fan of Palm Springs, California, where the pool-cocktails-pool-cocktails amusement cycle seemed stuck on repeat with few other diversions. But then, I have not visited in springtime until recently, when I enjoyed amazing hikes in a natural wonderland of high contrasts: palm trees and Joshua trees; arid boulders and lush oases; desert heat and alpine snow.
Less than an hour drive from downtown Palm Springs is the almost 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park, encompassing parts of both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The namesake tree — allegedly named by migrating Mormons after the biblical character Joshua, due to the plant’s outstretched “arms” to the heavens — is found only in the higher elevation Mojave Desert in the Park’s northwest section. Just as iconic are the Park’s incredible rock formations, created some 100 million years ago, some seemingly ready to come alive like the Galaxy Quest rock monster. Many Joshua trees and boulder stacks can be viewed from the road, but it’s definitely better to get out and wander among them.
At 5,185 feet, the Keys View lookout presents a sweeping vista past the Indio Hills — under which the San Andreas fault lies — down to the Coachella Valley, then back up to the still snow-capped Mount San Jacinto range. “Hmm, I’m glad we came,” I overheard a teenager mused, as she stared at the incredible view. “What was that?” her dad asked smugly, highly pleased with himself for dragging his kids to this spot. Ah, family holidays! To get away from the gathering sightseers, I hiked further up on a faint trail behind the parking area, soaking up the sun, breeze and panorama in peace and quiet.
“If you want to see some wildflowers, head to the area around Cottonwood Spring,” the helpful Park Ranger told me when I first entered at the opposite end of the park. So after the heights of Keys View, I took the road down some 2,000 feet in elevation into the Colorado Desert part of the Park. Perhaps still a week too early, I did not spot many flowers, but then “BOOM!” the lower valley opened into a lovely carpet of white and yellow dotted with purple and blue, framed by the dark foothills. Although I hit the highlights of Joshua Tree National Park in just one day, I must return another time to hike further and linger longer. (more…)