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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Day Hiking in Joshua Tree

The eastern side of California continued to attract me. But, instead of driving through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite National Park, I turned the wheel of my car toward Joshua Tree National Park. I knew it was greatly different from the parks to the north of it, but knew virtually nothing about the place and was hungry to learn more.
 
I sped across the desert, wondering if I’d make the next gas station. I had left San Diego with a full tank, but was nearly empty as I neared the eastern reaches of the state at Joshua Tree National Park. I had anticipated finding a station as I exited Interstate 10, but was now running on fumes and a bit of luck. And that was not exactly reassuring in the desert.

 
I drove the Pinto Basin Road north through park, climbing the hills formed by the nearby San Andreas Fault (above – cutting across the middle of the picture). I passed through harsh desert land filled with cactus gardens, beautiful rocky terrain, and a smattering of the yucca trees for which the park is known. If I hadn’t been so concerned about being stranded amongst them all I may have actually stopped to enjoy it. But, I was too concerned with making the northern entrance to the park and the town of Twentynine Palms.
 
I returned to stretch my legs over the trails and climb the massive rock formations when I was finally topped off. It was a reassuring feeling, knowing I could safely drive through the national park several times over without being stranded under the hot desert sun; it beat down on my while I rambled my way across the landscape, all the while reinforcing an already strong farmer’s tan line.
 
The Bill Keys Ranch, home to one-time Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt, was disappointingly closed. So, instead I trudged around the rocks at the Queen Mine, admired the Skull Rock in the sunshine, and wandered back to relax to the songs of the birds enjoying the afternoon at the Barker Dam (below).
 

I drove the roads and drank in the day while tossing another empty water bottle on to my passenger seat. It was already too hot in March for my thick blood, so I left Joshua Tree National Park, not entirely satisfied with the short amount of time I spent in the park, in favor of the inn that bears its name. There I put my feet up, sore from hiking, and thought about its own interesting story.
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