We always seem to do things last minute, and this time, it was a last-minute trip over the long 4th of July weekend to visit family in Wisconsin and to meet our newborn niece! It also magically worked out that ALL of my sisters and their husbands were able to be in town at the same time, which is pretty miraculous since two of us are out-of-state and one is even out-of-country! It was fun because we got to introduce our hubbies to the 4th of July traditions we grew up with, such as the parade in the morning and fireworks at night. [Read more…]
Did you know that Joshua Trees bloom? I didn’t! Oh, what IS a Joshua Tree? Keep scrolling and you’ll see pictures! I found out last week from a co-worker that they were in bloom when she visited Joshua Tree National Park over the weekend, so I called up the Ranger Station to find out how long before the blooms died off. They warned me that the blooms had already peaked and were on their way out. :-O That meant the Lins would take an impromptu trip to Joshua Tree on Saturday!
We both had a long week, which meant crawling out of bed early on Saturday was tough, and we didn’t leave the house until 8:15am. With no traffic, it’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes to the West Entrance Welcome Center, so after stopping for breakfast and taking a pause at the Welcome Center, it was about 11:00am.
Our first destination was Ryan Mountain, which is a three mile there-and-back hike to get some great aerial views of the park. Although the views did indeed give us great perspective, both of us decided it wasn’t worth the time when there’s so much other fun stuff to do. (And we only had one day to do it in!) We decided we could have hiked up one-fourth of the way and gotten all the views we needed. Because it was hot and we rested for a bit at the top, the entire time spent was 2 hours and 40 minutes.
This was, however, the first chance we had to see the blooming Joshua Trees, so I took the chance to snap some pictures.
There were also some little baby flowers thriving in the hot, desert climate. To contrast with their delicacy, a bushy cactus was growing on the top of Ryan Mountain.
We could actually enjoy the views a bit more on the way down, because we were constantly facing the park below. What I thought was the coolest was the bunches of rock seemingly scattered all over the place.
We were also fortunate enough to come across a pretty big lizard that seemed to have longer forearms than what we were used to seeing! He could really raise himself up pretty high, in contrast to the other little guys running around.
Cholla Cactus Garden
After the Ryan Mountain hike, we were feeling very hot and a bit drained. We had decided to do it first because we knew it would only get hotter during the day, but starting at 11:40am meant it was already in the 80s. (Peak heat is around 3pm.) So instead of going to the next place on our itinerary (Skull Rock), we made the longer drive down to the Cholla Cactus Garden. It was essentially a nature walk amongst Cholla cacti, which was neat, but the real treat was the pink blooms on the cacti growing near the road.
Because the Cholla Cactus Garden did not take much time, and we were still feeling hot and drained (it was now in the upper 80s), we decided to add a destination to our itinerary: Cottonwood Spring. This meant driving all the way to the South Entrance of the park, but we weren’t up for more scrambling around in the heat quite yet, and the half hour (or so) car ride in the AC sounded very inviting! Furthermore, I had read online that Cottonwood Spring was where the flowers were blooming. We figured since blossoms were what drew us out to Joshua Tree that particular weekend, that blossoms should be our priority! So we hopped back into the car and took off.
We were not disappointed! We saw tons of blooming Joshua Trees on the way there—blossoms that were much more full and beautiful than the ones we saw on Ryan Mountain. We stopped at the small Visitor Center to fill up on water and use the facilities, and then drove the short distance to Cottonwood Spring. The picture above is after we walked for awhile from the parking lot, and you can see the splash of green that is the oasis. It was weird to see Cottonwood trees (which I assume they were, based on the name of the place) and palms growing and green…I can get some sense now what an oasis would seem like to a desert traveler!
One plant that really amused us was the “Ocotillo”, a plant that looks like octopus arms. Along the drive, we saw a bunch of really tall ones with red blooms. This one wasn’t really blooming, but we thought it was worth documenting!
By the time we were done strolling around Cottonwood Spring, the sun was at an angle and we felt more refreshed. With a bit of a car ride to go, we were ready to go find Arch Rock—a feature that we couldn’t find the last time we visited Joshua Tree several years ago. Now we knew where the trailhead was, though (at White Tank campground), so off we went to discover more! We were now on our way to what I was most looking forward to—scrambling around on the rocks!!
After parking near the White Tank campground and starting our hike, we soon met this chuckwalla sunning itself high up on a rock! It was even BIGGER than the lizard/iguana(?) we saw on Ryan Mountain. He was a bit more shy, though, as he scurried away when I tried climbing up for a closer view. Shortly after, we turned around a bend and were gifted with the sight of Arch Rock!
Of course, I had to conquer the Arch. What else would you expect from me? 😛
Junwen asked me how I got up there, so I gave him a little demonstration. The funny thing was that a couple was there taking a photo shoot, and after the boyfriend saw me scamper up, he was like, “See honey, you can do that!!” The poor thing was in a dress though, and didn’t seem too excited about the prospect…
But Junwen was going to do it. No way he was going to be left behind!
I quickly ran back to the other side so I could get some pictures of him on top of that bad boy. Now, one thing you should know is that Junwen has a fear of heights. I share this not to make him seem “less”, but to show you just how badass my husband is. I do not have a fear of heights, but even I felt a bit of that adrenaline rush that comes from your instinct telling you that you need to be careful, because falling would be disastrous. For him to get up there and face that instinctual response shows a deep well of courage and stubborn attitude. (It’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, but a fall towards the camera is farther than that rock that looks like it’s sticking out in front of the arch.)
I once read that it doesn’t take any courage to do something you’re not afraid of. Climbing Arch Rock is kind of a parallel to our story, and a reminder to me of just how courageous and adventurous Junwen is. He relocated to a completely different country, married a foreigner, and is now living and working in an environment nothing like his hometown. He often tells me that I am constantly pushing him outside of his shell, such as “getting him to climb Arch Rock”. But I never told him he should try…he did that on his own. I think this “city-boy” Singaporean has a very real adventurous bone in his body, and I simply provide the avenue for him to flex it. 😉
We had A LOT of fun scrambling around this area, and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon here exploring and climbing instead of trying to make it to another destination point. We both had so much fun that we were completely content not seeing everything on our original itinerary. I was so stoked that Junwen’s favorite part of the day was the same as mine—scrambling around on the rocks near Arch Rock! Now I’m super looking forward to coming back and focusing on scrambling. ^_^ We hit our main objectives: see the blossoms and scramble on the rocks.
The sun was starting to set at this point, which is every photographer’s dream. I don’t have a DSLR—I use a Canon PowerShot SXX230 HS, a powerful point-and-shoot with a 14x optical zoom—but I have a lot of fun capturing beautiful moments.
It was so beautiful and the weather was finally so pleasant, that we had a really hard time tearing ourselves away.
We knew we needed to get going, though, because we had at least three hours of driving to get home, plus we wanted to stop for dinner somewhere. We got a lovely farewell from the park though as we drove out, with gorgeous pinks and purples splashed across the horizon with misty purple mountains in the distance. If you ever wondered weather the desert could be beautiful, just take a trip to Joshua Tree National Park.