WE HEADED SOUTH TO FIND SUN AND FUN IN THE DESERT on January 20th. We found plenty of sun and had fun exploring Joshua Tree National Park on the first leg of our trip. Lots of short and medium length hikes and walks. Lots of wind, too. We had been through the park twice before but had never camped there until this trip.

AT JUMBO ROCKS Campground we had our own private grotto of boulders for a campsite–awesome.

After securing a campsite we drove up to Keys View with a sweeping look out over the Coachella Valley, south out to the Salton Sea, the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino mountains, and the San Andreas fault line directly below. The wind was howling here. Back down the road and a short hike through Hidden Valley, once a hiding place for cattle rustlers and now a haven for rock climbers.

Big piles of boulders are everywhere, jumbled up in piles large and small with Joshua trees dotting the landscape. The sky is so blue here it is almost unreal. Surprisingly, the elevation here is at 5,000 feet and more. This is what is known as high mountain desert and two deserts overlap here, the Mojave (higher) and the Colorado (lower).

This opuntia species cactus in Hidden Valley reminded me of Mickey Mouse!

Leaving Hidden Valley we drove over to Ryan campground and picked up the trail out to the remains of Ryan Ranch at the base of Ryan Mountain. The ranch belonged to a mine owner and was built in the early 1900’s. Very picturesque.

And our first night we were treated to a beautiful and colorful sunset. The biggest drawback of the stay here was the wind once the sun went down; it was cold.

DAY TWO was a hike to Barker Dam. A naturally wet seep was dammed up to provide water for livestock. It was a pleasant walk, about a one-mile loop, but as always we managed to spend two hours at it.

This photo was already in the washed out color zone, so I helped it along a bit. Seems to fit the era when it was created, I think.

Here’s a second look, straight from the camera.

A lot of mining and cattle grazing activity took place here through the 1800’s and into the early portion of the 1900’s before mines played out and folks moved on. But there are a lot of remnants left behind, old ranches, mining equipment, mills, and buildings.

ON DAY THREE we drove west to Morongo Canyon Preserve, a great place for bird watching, walking and hiking. This was our fourth trip here. Not too much bird activity this trip, but we did manage to see thirteen species and a hummingbird in the process of constructing its nest! The willows and cottonwoods were starting to ‘bloom’ so there was a great deal of honeybee activity and the hum of bees was quite loud at times.

The bee is not quite in focus, but the willows were beautiful in the sunlight.

Next post: Red Rock Canyon State Park.