Joshua Tree National Park
Jan 19, 2011
|Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Had a couple of super nice days at Joshua Tree National Park. We had been in the park a couple years ago but it was mostly a driving tour. The park is desert with (surprise) a lot of Joshua Trees. These “trees” look a lot like deformed palm trees. But mostly the park is known for climbing. Apparently rock climbers come from all over the world to climb on all the rocks. What makes it so popular, besides all the neat rock formations, is monzogranite. Never heard of it? Me neither. It looks like sandstone but has pebbles in it so it is much easier to grip with hands and feet. Gives new meaning to the term “sticky fingers.” And much of the park has these huge piles of jumbled monzogranite sticking up thither and yon.
We went on a couple shorter hikes. The first was to a small reservoir that had been dammed up to provide water for cattle. Prior to this becoming a national park a lot of cattle ranching went on here. There are many broad, flat valleys in the park. However back in the late 1800’s and early 19’s 5 – 10 inches of rain fell hereabouts, now a days only 2 - 5 inches fall and all the grasses have withered away so it looks a lot more desert like.
The second hike was out to a stamp mill that was owned by a fellow named Bill Keys. So what is a stamp mill you say? This was a contraption that pounded rock into a fine powder and if you were lucky released the gold that was trapped there. Back in the old days this was the easiest way for small hard rock miners to have their ore processed. This was a 2 stamp mill that we hiked to. That meant it had 2 smashers. They operated on a simple principle, think of a cylinder in a car engine. They have a vertical shaft with a hunk of solid steel on the end and they get lifted up and down with a crankshaft. Must have made an awful racket. The mill still stands mostly and you can walk all around it. Ya just had to duck under the fence. But hey, it was a weeny fence and if they really wanted to keep people out they would have put a REAL fence around it. There were several old car and truck remains to explore also.
As we hiked out to the stamp mill we passed an interesting stone. If you look at the photos you’ll see that on that spot Bill Keys shot a guy named Worth Bagley and kilt him dead. Now ol Bill claimed self defense but a jury decided otherwise and Bill got sent to San Quentin. After 5 years he got out and was pardoned. The shooting happened in 1942 when Bill was 63. Ya see Bill had a ranch just a couple miles from the stamp mill. Sometime in the 19 teens Bill went to work at a gold mine. The owners went bust so Bill claimed the mine for back wages. Then he put a house there, got married and homesteaded 160 acres around the mine and started cattle ranching. They had 5 kids there. It would have been in the middle of nowhere back in them days cause it sure as hell is in the middle of nowhere nowadays. But he must have liked it here cause after he got out of prison back to the ranch he came. The old character didn’t die until 1969 at the age of 88 and died at the ranch. He had sold the land to the feds to include in the park in ’63. Unfortunately we could only see the ranch at a distance as you have to be on a ranger guided tour to get up close and that didn’t work out for us.
That evening was just beautiful with a great sunset. Check out the pics. The next day we took a longer hike to a 5 stamp mill at the top of a peak. Was a good climb and actually worked up a sweat as it was another gorgeous day. Wind was blowing pretty good so kept you just comfortable. Apparently a lot of gold was taken from the shafts that were sunk around the peak. Then we drove to a viewpoint that overlooked Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. Awesome but REALLY windy. And smoggy down below. The yukk must be blowing in from L.A.
We were going to pull out in the morning but Barb wanted a haircut so we stayed over so she could run back to a place called Yucca Valley and get a chop. I took a hike to the top of a big peak next to the CG. Unfortunately I didn’t bring the camera so can’t prove I went anywhere but the view was awesome for 360 degrees.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
We pulled out this morning under (now typical) beautiful blue skies and drove back into the park and traversed north to south. This saved many, many miles instead of driving totally around it. First we climbed for about 6 miles and then dropped for at least 10 miles. The park changes as you go north to south. It is 37 miles across by road. You leave the Mojave Desert and travel into the Sonoran Desert by the time you get to Interstate 10. There are no Joshua Trees in the Sonoran Desert as it is too low in elevation for them. At I – 10 we hung a left, went about 5 miles to the General George Patton Museum. We had stopped here 2 years ago but I didn’t have time to go thru it then so today was the day. In case you were born yesterday Patton is the general who thinks he single handedly beat the Germans in WWII. He thought highly of himself.
The reason the museum is in the middle of nowhere is this is where Patton established the largest training base ever established in the US back in 1942. It was called the Desert Training Center. Patton was a tank man and he knew the first place troops and tanks would do battle in the European Theater would be in the North African desert. So he made the troops live in the desert to get acclimated. It was an interesting museum with a lot of WWI and WWII equipment, a good film on Patton and Medal of Honor and Holocaust sections. And ladies if you think Barb is bored to tears in all the war museums I want to go to, she has a personal interest. Her father fought with the Army in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France, was wounded twice and was awarded the Silver Star. He also said he saw Patton go by in a jeep once upon a time.
After the museum we went looking for a home. We drove over to the Salton Sea and are camped in the exact spot we were 2 years ago right on the shore. Oofda, it stinks, but you get used to it. Just a strong ripe smell like the ocean only stronger. Kind of that rotting vegetation and salt air smell. Great sunset and then we watched that full moon rise right up over the hills. Man, that was a sight! Lordy, lordy is it warm tonite. The nicest we have had by far. Still 70 at 9 PM. Lovin it.