The Mojave Desert

First night… Kingman, Arizona

We leave the Sonoran Desert behind as we travel northeast into Arizona.

The Ocotillo are blooming in blazes of orange on US-95 North.

Gnarly rock formations have seen it all standing guard throughout the ages and stages of the life of the Mojave Desert.

The Colorado River separates California from Arizona near Needles.

About 50 miles later we arrive in Kingman, Arizona…

My photography skills from the passenger seat of a moving RV are out of practice. At least the windows aren’t too stained with bug juice yet!

We spend the night at the Zuni Village RV Park. “After the solitude of the Oasis, this is a bit depressing,” says Jeff. But we have a pull-through site and we don’t have to unhook the car and tow dolly.

Easy Peasy…

See You In September

I still have a few entries to post about our 7 months at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, but we are getting ready to hit the road again and I want to stay current with our travels. So, I will journal about our daily adventures as we drive to Colorado to visit Jernigan Land and backdate the rest of of my posts about the Preserve when I finish writing them.

Bye-Bye, So Long, Farewell…

Today is the last day of the 2018-2019 Coachella Valley Preserve October 1st through April 30th season. The glass half empty — we are leaving tomorrow… the glass half full — we are coming back!

Lots of hugs have been exchanged with once new acquaintances who have so quickly become family, and what a wonderful family we have here! We will miss you. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge and experiences with us. We learned so much and enjoyed our role as onsite hosts. Thank you for loving us as much as we love you…

Goodbye, Thousand Palms Oasis…

Goodbye moon, rising over the valley…

“Where Can I Go To See The Wildflowers?”

That is the Question…

… most asked by the constant stream of visitors coming and going on the Preserve.

Since most folks have never been here before and will probably never return, we recommend the signature trail to Simone Pond and back with a short detour to Vista Point before heading back.

However, less crowded and just as aesthetically appealing hikes are across the street. Both the Pushawalla Ridge and Wash Trails are lined with blooms and planted bouquets of color.

Today, however, Jeff and I explore the trail alongside Bee Mesa, parallel to Thousand Palms Canyon Road.


Desert Rock-Pea…

Jeff and I think this is some kind of Sun Cup…

Nipple Cactus…



White Phacelia…


Desert Dandelions… pure yellow

Five-Spots… unopened they look like rose buds

Desert Trumpet…

California Evening Primrose… a tall sparse plant with yellow flowers

A Painted Lady Butterfly resting on Pincushion…

The trail cuts through the super bloom field of yellows, purples, and whites… eye candy!

Desert Rock Daisies, White Phacelia, and Purple Phacelia…

A close up of White Phacelia…

Heartleaf Primrose…

More Gilia…

Purple Mat… a belly plant because you have to lie on your belly to get a good pic!

Broadleaf Gilia… beautiful, but sticky and stinky

Yellow Plumes

On our way back we run into our Preserve Manager, Ginny. She’s on a hillside pulling these invasive weeds…

Mediterranean Needle Grass or stipa capensis is native to the Persian Gulf and is an annual grass now found in the Coachella Valley of the Sonoran Desert. It is now becoming so widespread in the Palm Springs area that it is becoming a serious fire hazard to the California desert ecosystems. The sharp florets of the plant can injure animals and may attach to their fur as a dispersal mechanism, thus decreasing the abundance of native wildflowers. (

So we start pulling these suckers and stashing them into trash bags which we carry out to the Pushawalla parking area for Ginny who will pick them up in her truck.

Upon returning to our RV we discover these sharp needles stuck in our shirts, shorts, socks, and shoes. So we carefully remove each one and properly throw them away instead of allowing them to disperse and propagate.

Desert Rains and Mountain Snow…

…Make the Wildflowers Bloom and Grow

Valentines Day 2019 brought rains and flash floods to the Coachella Valley.

Cold temperatures dropped snow on the mountain tops… from San Jacinto to San Gorgonio to Joshua Tree…

February 21st

Harlan asks me to join him on a walk along the Indian Palms Trail. He is searching for an unknown wildflower he saw a few days ago and one that even stumped Ginny, our Preserve Manager. You betcha! Any walk with Harlan is a special treat.

We don’t find the whereabouts of the unknown wildflower, but I enjoy identifying the flowers I see with Harlan and capturing the threatening sky surrounding the valley.

California Evening Primrose…

Cheese Bush and something else I don’t know…


Some type of Box Thorn? Not sure…

Indian Tobacco…

Later in the afternoon

Jeff and I walk along the McCallum Trail in search of Spectacle Pod. We spy with all 4 of our eyes…

Wild Heliotrope aka Phacelia Distans…

Also called Blue Phacelia, the flowers are a light lavender color.

Arrowweed blooming…

California Croton…

And a small patch of Spectacle Pod along the return loop from Moon Country back to the Visitor Center… It’s my new favorite wildflower!

Look at the leaves on the stem…

Sooooooo awesome and unusual!

I turn around and capture the field of wildflowers blooming on the Moon Country Trail.

On the way back we discover…


Desert Velvet or “Turtle Back”…

And purple clouds over Simone Pond…

Wild About Wildflowers

And Harlan…


Harlan is our resident desert guru who has taken a hiatus from leading nature walks due to a flair up in his back. As he undergoes physical therapy, he is slowly getting back to his game. On this Thursday morning he asks me if I want to walk with him to Pushawalla to check out the wildflowers. You bet I do! I never turn down a chance to spend time learning and exploring with Harlan. Judith is the docent today in the Palm House and she is also excited to tag along. So Jeff takes care of the Visitor Center and Harlan, Judith, and I take off to view wildflowers.

Brown-Eyed Primrose



Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Indian Tobacco

Wishbone… again

Not sure… Harlan is stumped about this one… Maybe more Desert Tobacco?


Notch-Leaved Phacelia and Rock Daisies

Cryptobiotic Crust

Also known as “desert glue”, this hidden layer of biotic organisms plays a vital role in desert health. They hold the place in place! Cyanobacteria in the desert form filaments surrounded by sheaths. These filaments become moist and active during rains, moving through the soil and leaving behind a trail of sticky sheath material. The sheaths stick to soil particles and form an intricate web of fibers which stabilize erosion-prone surfaces from wind and water. They not only protect the soil from blowing away but they also absorb precious rainfall and reduce flash flood runoff. They contribute nitrogen and organic matter to the desert. The boot of a hiker or the weight of a tire, however, can destroy these cryptobiotic crusts which take 5 to 7 years to return. (

Chicory… again

Whispering Bells

A cool rock Judith and I really like!

Sand Verbena


Quiz Time

Okay, I’ve been taking pictures of desert wildflowers for awhile now and identifying them in my journal posts. How many can you identify?








Answers at end of blog…

January 26th

We wake up to an unpleasant surprise…

Yikes! More palm fronds have fallen from the same palm tree in front of the Visitor Center. Jeff and I live right behind the Palm House and sleep with our windows open, yet we heard no noise from such an incredible explosion!

I take pictures and send them to the Preserve Manager, Ginny. She tells us to leave them there while awaiting estimates to trim the skirts off the exploding palm tree. Dan and David secure the dangerous area with caution tape and orange cones.

Meanwhile, Harlan invites me on another wildflower walk. Jeff, Gregg, and Mary join us.

Quail Bush

Cryptantha or Popcorn,aka Forget-Me-Nots

Indian Tobacco



London Rocket

Phacelia (Notched-Leaved)

Desert Dandelion… one is pollinated… which one?

Answer: The one on the right is pollinated. (No red dot in the middle)

Bonus Question: What plant is below the dandelions?

Answer: Primrose

Answer to Quiz:
1: cheesebush
2: wishbone
3: pygmy cedar
4: lupine
5: phacelia
6: primrose
7: whispering bells

Dying to Find Dye Weed

Burro Bush, Cattle Spinach, Dye Weed, Four-Winged Saltbush, Sandpaper Bush… Oh, My!

Okay, all of these desert bushes are pale green in color and to the untrained eye have similar leaves.

Way back in October when Jeff and I first arrived on the Preserve, Harlan took me on a mini plant hike. He showed me Indigo, Brittle Bush, Cattle Spinach, Alkali Golden Bush, Four-Winged Saltbush, Cheesebush, and Dye Weed. I remember Dye Weed the most because when I squished my fingers on the dried flower bloom, my fingers turned yellow-orange.

So…. as Jeff and I become increasingly obsessed with correctly identifying desert plants and blooming wildflowers, I wonder where Dye Weed is. I know Burro Bush leaves a lemony scent on my fingers and Sandpaper Bush is REALLY scratchy. Cattle Spinach can be a little scratchy and Four-Winged Saltbush is still a mystery to me. But where is the finger-staining Dye Weed?

Finally, we ask Harlan and he sends us to the pink  boarded up “jack-rabbit house” on the  McCallum Trail…

Eureka… We found it!

We continue hiking through Moon Country. Just look at the lush fields of yellow Desert Sunflowers!

It’s January. Wildflowers usually start blooming in March!

Below, I capture Brown-Eyed Primrose blooming and Desert Sunflowers getting ready to burst open in yellow splashes.

Here is Four-Winged Saltbush in the wash below the ridge to Moon Country. It’s all about the dried flowers that resemble the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter.

As we return to the Visitor Center we follow a trail that loops from Moon Country back onto the McCallum Trail.

We discover some California Croton.

And some kind of grass growing in the wash.

Dye Weed or not, these delightful desert wildflowers are to die for!