Joshua Tree: Day Four

Our last day in the park was spent hiking the easy but gorgeous Hidden Valley loop and the steeper Ryan Mountain trail.  We soaked up as much heat and sun as we could.  We cooked our last meal on our teeny stove, and we toasted Barry's 40th one last time before heading home.

We revelled in how incredibly rejuvenating a trip to a warm climate can be in the middle of a cold, wet winter, and we hope to make travel like this a habit.  We had fun on our way out of the park, checking out Yucca Valley for a bit and enjoying the selection at The End - a fantastic little shop along a sweet stretch of the highway.  We made one stop in Palm Springs before going to the airport: Palm Springs Fudge & Chocolates for a date shake.  And we noted that the only draw back to the entire trip was that the park rangers we encountered at Joshua Tree (five of them to whom we spoke in person one to whom we spoke on the phone before the trip) were not very well-versed on the trails in the park.  That's not been our experience at any other National Park, and it frustrated us at times on this trip.  While the rangers were able to suggest the popular view points in the park that many visitors reach by car or a short stroll, they weren't able to make recommendations on good longer hikes with backpacking options.  So, know before you go.  But know that it's worth it.  So worth it.


Joshua Tree: Day Three

Determined to check out Lost Palms Oasis, we packed up and hiked back to the destination that had seemed so daunting the night before.  That morning, it had transformed into a tranquil spot that we had all to ourselves.  We climbed down into a valley where, in the middle of an otherwise dry desert, there was enough of a water source to sustain a trail of grand palm trees.  We were giddy with excitement over how magical the setting felt.

We took a detour on the hike out and checked out the views from Mastodon Peak, then made our way to another corner of the park to check out the West Side Loop trail.  Slogging along with gallons of water on our backs, we hiked and hiked, looking for the perfect spot to set up our camp for our last night in the park.  After completing almost the entire loop, we realized that the perfect spot wasn't going to materialize - this trail wasn't suitable for camping.  We drank in the scenery before making the decision to go into town for the night.  We took much needed showers at a motel and indulged in a diner of fajitas and margaritas at a Mexican restaurant on the highway.  So satisfying.


Joshua Tree: Day Two

After hiking out of the park on the Boy Scout Trail, we went back in via another entrance and stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden - a crazy little section of the park where these cacti grow like mad - on our way to the Lost Palms trailhead.  The trail to Lost Palms was filled with awesome ocotillo.  We passed a few day-hiking groups on their way out from Lost Palms and got the feeling that we were spending the night out in this somewhat remote part of the park by ourselves.  Yes!  That would have made for the perfect scenario, but the final destination of Lost Palms ended up having no safe options for sites to set up our tent.  The wind was whipping, the land was exposed, and there was no flat space large or level enough to accommodate our little tent.  So we hiked back on the trail a bit, set up camp in the safest, most sheltered spot we could find, and hunkered down for the night.  The sky was unbelievable, which was payoff for the wind that kept us up all night.


Joshua Tree: Day One

Barry turned 40 last month among the cacti, rocks, and blue skies of Joshua Tree National Park.  We made an extra long weekend of his birthday and backpacked through several different corners of the park to celebrate.  The first day we hiked Boy Scout Trail to a site where we set up camp, watched the moon rise, and marveled at the beauty of this part of the world that is so different than where we live.  Not bad to be in the middle of a sunny, dry desert in the middle of February (at least when you call Portland home).


Up-potting Day

I get excited about my annual Spring plant repotting in the middle of winter.  I start scoping out a couple new pots months before I need them.  I make a plan in my head, then on paper, then in a physical train of pots on the floor to determine what plants will move up into newly empty pots once the largest plants get repotted into brand new ones.  I referenced the Pistils Nursery website a lot this year before doing the repotting - I love their retail location and find the staff to be accessible and knowledgeable.  I waited as long as I could.  I tried to make it to the first day of Spring before repotting, but I just couldn't do it.  Here's hoping the plants take to their early move.