March 11, Friday
I open my eyes in the morning, and immediately know something is off. Where is the sun? It’s a rare overcast day in the desert. Around noon the wind is suppose to pick up, the park is under a wind advisory. Well, not making any day trips today.
Luckily there are other things to do here outside the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park to keep me occupied, like take more pictures of Cas in stunning desert environments.
If I’ve been showing a lot of pictures of the RV since January it’s because I was deprived of scenic campsites my first three years on the road, stuck in employee campgrounds most of the year and rarely are those worth a picture. Consider this making up for lost time.
When getting these pictures, I need to tread very carefully. Sure, there are snakes and scorpions and whatnot, but my primary concern is all the flowers. Many of them are tiny, only a couple inches tall and it’s easy to squish them if you’re not careful. I’m glad I got to see the desert in bloom, it was something I was hoping to see when I departed on my boondocking adventure.
After getting the flower pictures, I keep walking down the road. Because this area is sloped, an earthen dam has been built just uphill from the road, to keep it from getting washed out when rain comes down from the mountains. It also protects the campsites. In a couple places it’s been intentionally left open where washes come through, here the road dips down into the wash and climbs back up the other side.
It’s been two days and I still haven’t been in the park, I’m getting cabin fever. The clouds are clearing, but the wind is starting. The Cottonwood Visitor Center at the south end of the park is less than seven miles away, I’ll just pop in there for some literature so I can plan future trips while the wind keeps me holed up in the Casita.
The yucca are in bloom, wow! The white flowers grow on tall stalks, unlike the flowers near camp they’re hard to miss. I pull over to get a picture.
At the visitor center, I pay $80 for the annual pass. That gets you into every National site (parks, monuments, historic sites, seashores, etc.) for a year. There are better deals for seniors, disabled, and active military, but I meet none of those requirements. I know I’ll get my money’s worth out of it. By the time I leave with my pamphlets and maps, the wind is howling and more clouds are moving in. Time to be getting home.
Remember last post how I said one should always make sure there is no rain in the forecast before driving down a road that is susceptible to erosion? I really was taking my own advice, there was no rain in the forecast on Wednesday when I arrived here. In fact there was no rain in the forecast until about three hours before it happened. The rain clouds roll in from the west, blotting out the sun. There are severe thunderstorm warnings and flood advisories not too many miles away.
Luckily, the drier air this side of the mountains soaks up the worst of it. Enough falls to wet the ground and that’s about it.
March 12, Saturday
Tennis shoes, check! Water bottle, check! Trail snack, check! Sun hat, check! At 9 am I’m in the Cottonwood Springs parking lot ready for the ranger led hike advertised at the visitor center yesterday. There’s a bonefied palm tree oasis here, au naturale. Oases use to be common in the desert southwest, but with the arrival of man most of them got piped as water sources or turned into tourist attractions. Joshua Tree has three of them, and they’re really neat to see.
The hike starts by climbing out of the valley the oasis is in and I take a picture looking back at it from a distance. Shrubs and cacti, then boom! Trees. They look so out of place, how cool.
The hike is three miles round trip out to Mastodon Mine. No, there are no Joshua trees. Those are found in the northwestern half of the park, which is part of the Mojave desert. The southeastern end is in the Colorado desert, lower in elevation, hotter, and drier. There are still plenty of cool rock formations around though!
Mastodon Mine was started in the 1930’s, but never made a fortune for it’s owners. There was a gold vein that looked promising, but faulting in the rocks due to seismic activity shifted it, it was lost and never found again. There are a large number of mines located inside Joshua Tree, some of which are privately owned and still worked today. The ranger says it makes managing the park more of a challenge.
At the end of the hike I take a quick drive through Cottonwood campground as it’s right there. No hookups, flush toilets and water spigots but no showers, small sites crowded close together.
Many of them are walk in sites for tent campers, a few of them would have enough space to park both Cas and Bertha, but not many. There’s also no Verizon service here. No thanks, I’ll take the free spot outside.
* * *
Sunday through today (Tuesday) I’ve been hard at work, redoing the caulking on Cas. Nothing’s been leaking… well, let me rephrase that. There’s a good probability something was leaking, but it wasn’t leaking enough for me to notice. A lot of the caulk on the Casita’s vents, storage doors, light fixtures, etc. was starting to peel up on the edges. It was time for a major redo.
I won’t give you all the play by play because it was rather boring. All told it took me 15 hours spread between these three days, the majority of which was spent scraping the old stuff off. I didn’t redo everything, things that had been caulked since I purchased the trailer are still in good shape and the door frame is beyond my skill level as it requires a very large bead and has a few tight spots my tooling doohicky can’t fit in. That still left about 15 things to do, I didn’t know there were that many holes in a Casita!
Anyway, I’m glad there were no other surprise rain events while the Casita sat unprotected and as 4 pm it’s ready for the next downpour, bring it on! Within the next day or two I hope to move to a boondock just outside the north entrance of the park so I can get to the trails up that way. There’s still a lot more of the park to see.
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