Joshua Tree National Park, CA Part 1: Land of Discontent (Traveled Feb. 2013)

Cottonwood Spring, Mastodon Trail

Cottonwood Spring, Mastodon Trail

While I ate in the parking lot, an angry, seemingly nervous man yelled at his young son for picking a rock up off the ground.  A man who appeared to be the boy’s grandfather told the dad to take it easy, and they argued.  “Welcome to the great outdoors, kid,” I sarcastically thought.  Then an elderly couple walked out of the visitor center with glum looks their faces and drove away in a minivan.

I strode into the visitor center and asked the first ranger about the best places to see in the park.  She became tense and flustered.  She told me she didn’t recommend places to people because what she liked, others might find ugly.  I was surprised, as I had previously worked with NPS rangers who were eager to recommend hikes.  I tried to reassure this ranger that I wouldn’t hold her feet to the fire, and she apprehensively pulled out a topo map and started showing me trails at random.  I asked her what condition the Jeep trails were in, a

Cottontop Cactus, Mastodon Trail

Cottontop Cactus, Mastodon Trail

seemingly innocuous question.  She replied that she had no idea.  “You all don’t go out into the park?” I asked.  “We go into the park,” she fumed, “but nobody takes the four-wheel drive roads.  Not even the LE’s (law enforcement) go out there.”  “That’s funny,” I said.  I was losing patience.  It is the rangers’ responsibility to know the trail conditions.

Just then, a friendlier and more competent ranger made eye contact and recommended some nice places.  Armed with her detailed instructions, I set off to make camp and hit the trails.  Had it not been for the second ranger’s warm assistance, the prevailing negative mood may well have afflicted me.  The mood in this area was palpably tenser and less social than the laid back Texas and Arizona from which I had come.  I felt culture shock.  At the ranger’s recommendation I made camp ½ mile south of the park boundary on free BLM land.  I

Mastodon Trail

Mastodon Trail

four-wheeled my Xterra ¼ mile to the edge of a deep, dry wash to enjoy a secluded camping spot.

My first hike took me past a palm-tree lined oasis, through the desert to the top of Mastodon Peak.  This would barely be considered a hill in my native Rocky Mountains, but it was in fact the highest point in the area.  The hilly terrain primarily featured brown rocks one to six feet in diameter on a base of light tan sand.  Cacti, short grasses, woody shrubs, and a very few deciduous trees decorated the land.  This area, like much of Joshua Tree National Park, did not actually have Joshua trees.


About Jerry
Working in Corporate America for many years, I wanted to break free of the office walls for a bit and explore the world. Having put the pieces in place, I am first exploring the USA by road. Colleagues and friends expressed interest in my travels, giving rise to Office Escape. It is my honor to share my adventures.

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