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Trip 13, Park 2: Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park includes two distinct desert environments -- the Colorado desert below 3,000 feet elevation (home to creosote bushes, ocotillo and cholla cactus) and the higher-elevation Mojave desert, where Joshua trees are found. The park also includes many rugged rock formations, making it a popular rock climbing area. We spent most of two days in the park, which was adequate to see the highlights and do a number of easy hikes. The weather was nice for hiking during January, although early morning hikes were on the chilly side. There are plenty of camping areas in Joshua Tree, but no lodging. Selection of hotels in the immediate area is limited, so the best choice for nicer lodging is probably in Palm Springs, about 40 minutes away.

Among the trails we hiked were the Hidden Valley Loop Trail (~1 mile), Barker Dam Loop Trail (~1.1 miles), Cap Rock trail (~0.5 miles), Arch Rock Trail (and extension to Heart Rock, shown above; ~1.5 miles); Cholla Cactus Garden Trail (~0.25 miles); and the Skull Rock Discovery Trail (~1.7 mile loop). The Cholla Cactus Garden was particularly interesting as the desert terrain suddenly filled with cholla cactus as the road descended in elevation, providing a great example of the difference between the high Mojave desert and the lower Colorado desert. We also took Keys View Road to the overlook of the valley below. On a clear day, it is possible to see a mountain in Mexico about 95 miles away from the overlook! (We were barely able to make it out through some haze.)

Unfortunately, there were no brew pubs in the vicinity of Joshua Tree; the nearest brew pubs were in Palm Springs. However, we did find Joshua Tree Distilling Company, which offers tours and a tasting room. They make a vodka, whiskey, and gin; they offer a tasting that allows you to pick a combination of four spirit samples and/or signature cocktails made with each. We tried their vodka and whiskey and the corresponding cocktails and they were very good! Definitely worth a stop!

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