Joshua Tree National Park
Having a day to spare while in San Diego a friend of mine and I decided to visit the Joshua Tree National Park. So up we got a 6am in the morning, jumped into the car and drove to Joshua Tree via the Interstate 15, the CA 79, CA 74 and the Interstate 10. About three hours later we arrived at the Cottonwood Visitors Center in the south of the National Park. We paid the entrance fee of $30, which covers the admission fees for the passengers of a single non-commercial vehicle on the day of purchase (and for the next 6 days) at the visitors center and then set of for our hike to the Lost Palm Oasis. Beforehand, we had donned our sunhats and sunglasses, covered ourselves in sunscreen and stuffed our backpacks with water bottles and snacks (and more sunscreen). In addition we told the rangers at the visitor centre were we were heading. The trip to the Lost Palm Oasis is a 12km round-trip (we stopped short of climbing down into the canyon were the palm trees are located) through the Mojave/Colorado desert and gets pretty hot. By the time we returned from the Oasis the thermometer had climbed above 30 degrees and there was no shade in sight. Nevertheless it was a fascinating hike giving you plenty of opportunity to look at the local fauna and flora – well actually more the flora since most of the fauna is hiding apart from a few lizards who are sunning themselves.
After the hike we then proceeded to drive slowly to the northern entrance frequently stopping to wonder around. In my opinion it would have been better to do it the other way round as the scenery near the northern entrance, with all its funky rock formations, is slightly more stunning. Unfortunately we were advised to start in the south and not knowing any better we did exactly that. Nevertheless we still had plenty of time to scramble among the rocks.
The park’s oldest rocks called Pinto gneiss are about 1.7 billion years old and can be seen in the Cottonwood, Pinto and Eagle Mountains. Much later, about 250 to 75 million years ago, tectonic plate movements forced volcanic material toward the surface at this location and formed granites which were eventually exposed by erosion of the softer surface layers. The rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park owe their shape partly to groundwater which filtered through the joints of the granite and eroded the corners and edges of blocks of stone, and to flash floods, which washed away covering ground and left piles of rounded boulders. These prominent outcrops are known as inselbergs.
At 7 or 8pm we finally decided to leave the park and drive back to St. Diego. Wish we could have stayed longer and hopefully I will be able to return one day.