Joshua Tree National Park

On Wednesday, January 26, 2022 the Road Scholar group left the Palm Springs Hyatt at 8:15 am for the short drive to Joshua Tree National Park. The Mormons, early travelers to this area named the Joshua Tree. They thought the trees looked like Joshua raising his hands to heaven. It isn’t really a tree. Its a species of yucca. Joshua Trees are only found in the Mojave Desert. This is the western part of the park at elevations 3000 feet and above. Joshua Trees can grow over 40 feet tall, at the leisurely rate of one inch a year.

We started out on a short, looped trail. It was flat and easy to walk. Although the Joshua Trees were interesting, since I had never see anything like them, I was most interested in the “staked or piled rocks” along the trail. In this part of the park we saw many of these stacks. “No one piled these boulders. They began underground as a result of volcanic activity. Magma, in this case a molten form of rock called monzogranite – rose from deep within the Earth. As it rose, it intruded the overlaying rock, the Pinto gneiss formation. As the granite cooled and crystalized underground, cracks (joints) formed horizontally and vertically. The granite continued to uplift, where it came into contact with groundwater. Chemical weathering caused by groundwater worked on the angular granite blocks, widening cracks and rounding edges. Eventually the surface soil eroded, leaving heaps of monzogranite scattered across the land like careless piles of toy blocks.”(quote from Joshua Tree National Park’s informational brochure).

Next we went to Key’s View (elev. 5185), another part of Joshua Tree NP, from which you can see the San Andreas Fault line. Beyond the mountains in the distance is I-10, the Coachella Valley (the date farm) and Palm Springs.

Then we headed for lunch at the Hidden Valley picnic area where I had a turkey sandwich (#3 for this trip), with an apple, potato chips and a cookie. There were also the ubiquitous vault toilets we were becoming accustomed to. The picnic area is the trail head for a hike through Hidden Valley.

Hidden Valley was once the clandestine hide-away for the McHaney Gang. Legend says the McHaney brothers, Bill and Jim, formed a gang of thieving cowboys in the 1870’s to rustle cattle from Arizona and horses from California. The stock was rebranded and pastured here, eating the then abundant grasses until they could be sold out-of-state. As the area become filled with miners, law men and respectable cattlemen the gang disbanded and left in the early 1900’s.

Again, according to legend, in 1936, just months before Joshua Tree National Monument was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Keyes blasted open the Hidden Valley. He wanted to provide access to the lush and plentiful native grasses of the valley. A perfect place to raise cattle.

Heading back into Palm Springs on I-10 we passed a windmill farm. It seemed to go on forever. There were hundreds of windmills at this site.

That evening we walked several blocks to Lulu’s, a very nice restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. We had about six options we could choose. I had meatloaf (it had no mushrooms, I asked). I think it must have been made with ground Kobe beef. It was very dense. There was a meat/balsamic vinaigrette sauce on it. It came with au gratin potatoes and garlicy green beans. I barely got through half of it. To get into the restaurant we each had to show our vaccination card and wear a mask until seated. That was required in all Palm Springs restaurants.