ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
[personal profile] ilanarama
As many of you know, my husband Britt was working in Bakersfield, CA for much of this winter. As his project began to wind up, I flew out to stay with him (I worked from his hotel, since I telecommute anyway) and then on Friday, January 27th, we packed up the Sportsmobile (he'd driven it out, originally) and headed home, taking our time and visiting tourist traps and national parks along the way.

Joshua Tree

Our first destination was Joshua Tree National Park. We are both rock climbers - or used to be, anyway - and had heard about the climbing there; we were not prepared to actually climb there, but we wanted to see the rocks, and hike around, and so on. We spent two nights at the entirely gorgeous Jumbo Rocks campground, and two days visiting pretty much every corner of the park accessible from the main road.

Of course we had to scramble around on the extremely cool rocks:

Britt bridging

Ilana on the rocks

holey rock

We also enjoyed looking at the variety of vegetation in the sub-ecosystems of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, most of which doesn't really resemble anything most people consider plants. Of course we live at the edge of the desert, and have spent enough time in desert ecosystems to be familiar with many kinds of cactus, but the Joshua Tree (a variety of yucca) is still strange to us.

Looking up

Oasis at Cottonwood Spring

cacti on a rock

We drove out of the park at its south end, into the Cochella Valley. From there we drove east, to where what is left of the Colorado River forms the border between California and Arizona, and turned north, following the river past patches of preternaturally green irrigated hayfields surrounded by dry desert hills covered in ORV tracks, and miles and miles of skeezy, sad-looking trailer parks calling themselves "RV Resorts" in what is clearly a desperate attempt to look cheerier and more upscale than they actually are.

Just below Parker Dam we got out to look around, and I spotted what I first thought was a dog, down in the wasteland by the river's edge. No human around, though, so then I thought maybe it was a coyote, but it was too big for that; Britt grabbed the binoculars (and the camera) and we decided she (as we could see through the binoculars) was probably a Mexican gray wolf, which have been reintroduced in the southwest.


We crossed the dam and camped for the night in a wash off the main road, then continued the next day to Lake Havasu City, where we nosed around the London Bridge (really!) which had been purchased from London, disassembled, shipped, and reassembled in 1971. It's made up into a bit of a tourist trap, with a bit of gate from a country estate separating "London" (with chip shops and theatres) from the rest of Arizona.

London Bridge

We continued north to hit I-40 east of Needles, and turned east again. The freeway quickly took us from low hot desert to high cold desert, and I found it interesting to watch the roadside plants shift from greasewood scrub and cactus to pines. This is basically the path of old Route 66, and the small towns we stopped in for food and fuel had all sorts of memorabilia and signs up, but of course now that people mostly just whiz past on the interstate, they're all just barely hanging in there, with lots of empty storefronts.

We turned off at Meteor Crater Road, because Meteor Crater looked very cool on Google Earth and I wanted to see it. I almost turned around when we got there, though, because it's on private land and the owners charge a ridiculous $16 per head to see it. Britt decided we should go for it, though, so we forked it over. Actually, it wasn't bad, as they have a nice little museum with good displays about meteors, and various craters worldwide, and the history of how this particular site was the first to be identified as a crater caused by meteorite impact. Plus, you get to look at this great big hole in the ground!

Ilana surveys the Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

From there we continued to Holbrook, where we turned off on a side road and found another small dirt road that we could camp on. The next day we continued on the side road to the south entrance of Petrified Forest National Park.

This is really an amazing place. In the days of Pangaea, 225 million years ago, this part of Arizona was a swamp. Trees fell and were covered in muck and water, and slowly silica replaced their organic material and they became petrified wood, which was much later exposed by uplift and weathering in the desert this place had become. It must have been incredible back before Route 66 brought hordes of people who carried off the smaller chunks, but there are still a mindboggling number of rock logs lying around. And the desert is lovely - it's the "painted desert", in hues of blue and red, dramatic and impressive.

Britt and a big log

petrified log sections

petrified wood

the painted desert

We exited the park back onto I-40, where we continued to Gallup and headed north, and home.

Oops, I almost forgot: more photos (a total of 30) at Flickr.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-04 05:56 pm (UTC)
malnpudl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] malnpudl
I have a huge crush on this post and everything in it. Especially OMGWOLF!

What a great road trip. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-04 06:22 pm (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
Wow, so cool! The Joshua tree looks so foreign, and you saw a wolf! I've never seen one.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-04 07:05 pm (UTC)
riverlight: A rainbow and birds. (Default)
From: [personal profile] riverlight
What a great trip! And gorgeous photos. Goodness, it makes me want to go to Joshua Tree!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-04 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very cool pics especially of the oasis and wolf. 1000% better than Bakersmog

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-04 11:00 pm (UTC)
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
From: [personal profile] hedda62
Wow, trip down memory lane. We visited Joshua Tree National Park on our honeymoon 24 years ago. The other spots are new to me, though - very cool pictures!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-05 03:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That oasis at Cottonwood Spring is ka-razy!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-06 05:20 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Art by Peter Holck (Peter Holck)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I've long wanted to go to Joshua Tree, Meteor Crater, and Petrified Forest, but didn't make it there when I was in CA (whoa, in 1995). Meteor Crater (it's a meteor crater!) and the Petrified Forest are especially fascinating to me. Maybe one day.

Gorgeous pics - and wolf!

Wtf on the London bridge :o)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-08 09:34 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Running (running)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Aww, I want to come visit. And now that you've said it again, I may actually take you up on it. I may be going to the States with work in fall (don't know where yet); maybe I could stay longer and swing by you. I want to go running in your beautiful area, *grabby hands*. And get sad getting winded after 100 m, because of the altitude :o)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-07 11:00 pm (UTC)
ext_794226: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
This is SO very different than where I live. I love the desert! We went through this area about 10 years ago and I got to see the famous London Bridge, but never got to see the petrified trees. Great photos! It would be hard not to be a kids and climb on those rocks :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-12 01:22 am (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
You are really really reviving my desire to go see the Southwest someday! (I should just say screw it and do a proper go-west road trip this summer, finally.)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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