Joshua Tree National Park

Southern CA has been cool, windy and cloudy, frost overnight and day time temps trying unsuccessfully to reach 60 degrees. Unfortunately this, and a bad blister on the bottom of my toe, has interfered with our hiking frenzy. And it’s even cooler in the higher elevations where we prefer to hike.

Fortunately, Joshua Tree National Park is about 62 miles away and we have found a challenging but do-able hike in the Park. Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. The hike ends at Warren Peak with panoramic views of the western part of Joshua Tree.

Unfortunately, it’s overcast and windy and we aren’t quite prepared to deal with this. We have water and trail mix but hats and gloves would make this hike more enjoyable. So we decide to postpone exploring this trail. I leave with this picture taken near the trailhead.

Fortunately, driving through the National Park is no disappointment. Keys View, from its vantage point of 5,185 feet, overlooks a stunning expanse of valley, mountain, and desert.

That’s Mt. San Jacinto above.

And circled below is part of the San Andreas Fault.

Mojave yuccas?

Mt. San Gorgonio…

And of course the other-worldly Joshua Trees photo-bomb the western landscape.

The rock piles add texture and personality…

…And attract rock climbers…

As we drive past this rock, another climber is repelling down the backside.

So, what’s the story about these rock piles?

According to the plaque at one of the roadside exhibits, these rocks started out 85 billion years ago, 15 miles below the earth’s surface, as crystallized magma. Earthquakes stressed, cracked, and uplifted these formations of solid granite.

Ground water seeped into the cracks, rounding and shaping theses rock blocks. Ongoing erosion and uplifting continue to sculpt these rock formations today.

Now, where are we with the Fortunately/Unfortunately? The pattern calls for an Unfortunately, so… It was unfortunate that we opted out of the Ryan Mountain hike but fortunately we find a trail to explore in the Pinto Basin.

The Cholla Cactus Garden is a .25 mile nature trail that loops through 10 acres of a surreal landscape dominated by teddybear cholla cactus.

Unfortunately, the name teddybear is misleading for these cute fuzzy wuzzies with their densely interlaced yellow spines, tightly clustered stems, and dark lower trunks. (

The cacti seeds are infertile so this plant reproduces vegatively, meaning that new plants are started from fallen stem joints. So, do not attempt to “cuddle with or pet these teddybears”.(

The stem joints can easily detach and “hitch a ride” due to the minuscule barbs on the spine.

Also known as “jumping cholla”, once the stem joints latch on, the spines can be painful to remove. Check out this YouTube video.

Fortunately, the loop trail minimizes any possibility of direct contact with cholla cacti yet lets you get up close and personal.

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