This week has taken a few crazy turns. We started out with plans we had made months ago to visit Joshua Tree National Park – the last of the big California parks we would visit this year. We arrived at the Visitors Center on the north entrance of the Park only to find out that all the campsites in the park are full. What’s with that? Spring break? Still? We’ve been hearing about spring break for a month now, and figured we were finally past the crush. Apparently not. After weighing our options, we decided to drive through the park (about 50 miles), find a great picnic spot to have a lunch, the thought of which we had been salivating over all morning, then camp FREE on some BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land along I-10.
Lots of bloggers and campers spent weeks or months in these free camping areas, but we had yet to try this.
Joshua Tree was pretty much a bust for us. It was hot, and shadeless. We did find a spot for our lunch – grabbed out our camp chairs and spotted them in the meager shade of a Joshua tree (so named by the Mormons because of a likeness to a prayerful figure). The crazy rock formations in the area draw hikers and a few serious climbers – the types with carabiners, ropes, and arms/legs like mythical warriors.
We watched a few scale the smooth granite surfaces, amazed at the strength they display while contemplating their next move.
We witnessed the filming of perhaps the next big kid-ninja movie (doubtful). A young (7-ish) kid in full ninja getup, with a director-type of person, a camera operator, another kid with the little ready/action snapboard, and another person who appeared to be the actor’s mother with a still camera.
They shot several scenes of the ninja on a rock, surveying the landscape, and crawling up to the edge to look for apparent danger. Not sure what that was all about, but it was entertaining in the broiling sun.
The next several hours were taken up by trying to drive through the Park – road construction dictated an endless wait. We hit the last restroom about 5pm, and went in search of our landing spot for the night. Actually, it was pretty cool. We were about ¾ mile from I-10, but the traffic noise wasn’t bad. We had our own fairly level spot, and were within sight of three other campers, although they were each quite a distance away. Now we can say that we are truly part of the dry-camping community. We’d do it again without hesitation.
On to Prescott, where we’re meeting up with Lori and Cindy, T@B pals from our Kartschner Cavern side trip. They suggested that we meet up at a remote campground in the Prescott National Forest. This was probably the best campground/campsite we’ve had so far. What a gem.
The entire campground is 20 sites, each well-spaced from the next. Composting toilets, hiking trails. Best of all? We were just about the only campers there – it was like having this fantastic wilderness campground just for you and your friends. We dined and shared stories and laughs.
Their dog Wylie and Jezzy weren’t exactly pals, but easily accepting of each other’s company. This was truly camping at it’s finest – friends, food, and the most beautiful setting you could want.
We decided to hike on Saturday to Granite Mountain, what we thought would be about a nine-mile round trip. We struck out early, with Jezzy in tow, and lunch and lots of water in our backpacks. After walking for about 2-1/2 miles, we were beginning to hit some of the rocky elevations we had hoped for. The ground was often rock, instead of a gravel path. Jezzy and I were out front, while John lagged behind – working out some minor issue with his hat. Suddenly BZZZZZZZZ!
I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at the huge head of a coiled rattlesnake on the edge of the trail. Never knew that I could move so rapidly backward. Thankfully, Jezzy complied with an extremely sharp tug, and jumped back as well. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! (thanks, Sis). We tried to get the snake to move by tossing rocks behind him and near him, but he wasn’t having anything to do with that plan! The trail was very narrow at the point (less than 2 feet wide), and there was absolutely no way to get around him. We reluctantly retreated, abandoning our plans for conquering Granite Mountain in favor of a more wooded walk. I may never recover from this experience.
Today, we bicycled into Prescott. What a great little town. Had a beer at the historic Palace Tavern, which was threatened by a fire which destroyed much of Prescott in 1900. The patrons of the tavern, dismantled the enormous bar inside, and carried it across the street to the safety of the Courthouse.
The bar was rebuilt the following year. Cool town – a fun ride. There’s not a level foot of roadway in the area – you’re either climbing or descending. Seems like mostly climbing, but somehow it magically works out.
Tomorrow we’re off to explore the Grand Canyon for four days. Weather forecast is awful. Lows in the teens. We may have to winterize. Thought we were through with that.