After the Flashflood and Before the Partial Government Shutdown
The Little San Bernardino Mountains of JT overlook Thousand Palms Oasis. It’s a nice counterclockwise, day-drive loop from the south to west entrances.
It’s our day off and we want to look down over Thousand Palms Oasis from Keyes View.
Entering from Exit 168 off I-10, the south entrance, we see why this portion of JT was closed after the October flash flood. Dried mud still stains the park road and sandy remains are still piled up where the washes intersect the route.
From the Cottonwood entrance we drive through the Colorado Desert on the way to the Mojave Desert.
The rocks really rock the washes blooming in green.
Piles of boulders stand alongside desert yucca.
Smoke trees and creosote line the road as we continue.
We arrive at the Pinto Basin and learn that a now extinct river once ran through here offering a cooler, wetter climate for a native culture to exist along its riverbank. (National Park plaque)
Between 1931 and 1935 self-taught archaeologists, Elizabeth and William Campbell, discovered many small campsites and chipped stone tools throughout the valley. These leaf-shaped points, scrapers, and choppers were different from other tools discovered in the area. Radiocarbon testing confirmed the existence of a vanished people from over 9000 years ago – – – The Pinto Culture. (National Park plaque)
As we continue along the Pinto Basin toward the Ocotillo Patch and Cholla Gardens, we notice a large desert plant with dark leaves and withered white flowers tinged with the color lavender. Since no cars are behind us, we stop and back up so I can get a picture. Later we learn that this plant is called Datura, or Jimson Weed, often found along roadsides and washes where the sand is constantly disturbed. (desertusa.com)
A perennial that loses its leaves in the winter, the flowers open at night and shrivel in the day. But don’t be fooled by this exquisite trumpet-shaped bloom!
Datura is extremely poisonous; all of its tissues contain chemical compounds known as alkaloids. The concentration of toxic levels varies from plant to plant. All parts of all datura plants are poisonous and can be fatal if ingested. Despite the grave risk, this night-blooming plant has been used since ancient times by spiritualists, holy men, medicine men, witches, and modern day recreational drug users as an hallucinogenic. (desertusa.com)
So… moving right along, we discover a patch along our drive dotted with ocotillos.
This thorny multi-stemmed shrub is not season dependent, but rain dependent. Following a sufficient rain, the ocotillo puts forth a cluster of leaves above each thorn with a flourish of green. The ocotillo may grow and drop leaves as many as 5 times per year. (National Park plaque)
We arrive at where we visited before, the amazing Cholla Gardens! Seriously, out of nowhere, cholla cacti are EVERYWHERE.
Soon after recovering from our “cholla overdose”, we turn west onto Park Boulevard and are greeted by our first joshua trees in the Mojave Desert.
This area is more heavily trafficked. We pull off across from Skull Rock and walk a less popular but awesome trail filled with spectacular photo ops!
Up close and personal with the desert mistletoe “sponging off” the mesquites…
And pencil chollas…
Rocks… mesmerizing rocks…
Finally we head to Keyes View… our main destination:
Keyes View overlooks Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve and the San Andreas Fault. With binoculars, Jeff helps me locate the Preserve parking lot.
Circled in the photo below is the location of Keyes View as seen from Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve:
Leaving Keyes View through a forest of joshua trees…
This is our third visit to Joshua Tree NP and it never disappoints. Next time we want to explore the north entrance and hike Ryan’s Mountain.