a stormy afternoon at joshua tree

Sunday, July 19:  This morning, I pick up Rosie of Wandering Rose and we drive about 3 hours from LA, or 140 miles, to Joshua Tree National Park. It’s been about a year and a half since I last saw Rosie in California, so we have a lot of catching up to do.  Three hours in the car, plus some, gives us lots of chat time.

We arrive in the town of Joshua Tree just in time for a late lunch, so we stop at a little health food cafe near the park entrance.  We sit outdoors and have a chat with a young man who’s in the military, and his wife.  They’re really talkative and laid-back and they tell us we should check out the Cholla Cactus Garden, their favorite spot, while in the park.

A young married couple in Joshua Tree
A young married couple in Joshua Tree

After lunch, we drive into the park, making a number of stops along the way for pictures.  Our route, coming in through the Joshua Tree Visitor Center in the northeast, brings us into the Colorado Desert part of the park. Further to the west is the Mojave Desert, at elevations above 3,000 feet.

The eastern half of the park, below 3,000 feet above sea level, is a sun-baked bowl composed of creosote and punctuated by ocotillo, green-barked palo verde, and patches of jumping cholla cactus.

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree

The forecast is for rain this afternoon, but upon entry, we don’t see any signs of it.  It’s been quite strange to be in Los Angeles during a number of big thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.  My sister has been shocked by so much rain in July, as she says it rarely rains at all in California, much less in July.

We are told by the park ranger that the best hike in the park is Hidden Valley, a one-mile loop starting in a picnic area and winding through massive boulders.  The path traverses a legendary cattle rustlers’ hideout.

Joshua Tree before the storm
Joshua Tree before the storm
the clouds move in at Joshua Tree
the clouds move in at Joshua Tree

Besides the wonderfully distinctive Joshua Trees, we also see some hedgehog cacti.

prickly characters
prickly hedgehog cacti
cacti at Joshua Tree
cacti at Joshua Tree
the Joshua Trees of the desert
the Joshua Trees of the desert

As we arrive at the Hidden Valley picnic area, we can see the sky is becoming quite ominous. We wonder if it is wise to take the one-mile hike, and ultimately we decide we better not try it until the storms have passed.

the desert
the desert
rocks in the desert
rocks in the desert
solidity
solidity

I love all the desert plants, including the Mohave yucca, seen below.

curlicues
curlicues

I’m attracted to the purple stems of this cactus.

purple mania
purple mania

We decide to drive further on, and we make several brief stops to explore along the way. The skies are becoming darker and more threatening, so we drive back toward Hidden Valley, making a stop at Jumbo Rocks to explore.

leaning Joshua Tree
leaning Joshua Tree
Boulder City
Boulder City
orange prickles
orange prickles
desert wildflowers
desert wildflowers
dried flower arrangement
dried flower arrangement
piles of rocks at Joshua Tree
piles of rocks at Joshua Tree
Boulder-ific
Boulder-ific
beckoning
beckoning
destruction
destruction
cloud engagement
cloud engagement
the clouds in the desert
the clouds in the desert
fallen
fallen
and decayed
and decayed
ominous clouds in the desert
ominous clouds in the desert
the clouds move in to Joshua Tree
the clouds move in to Joshua Tree
Joshua Trees
Joshua Trees
the desert before a rainstorm
the desert before a rainstorm
reaching out
reaching out
darkness
darkness
the gathering of storm clouds
the gathering of storm clouds
hovering
hovering

We come across more hedgehog cacti and soon after this stop, the deluge begins.  We decide we better make our way out of the park.

pricklies in the clouds
pricklies in the clouds
prickly cacti
prickly cacti

As we drive back toward the park entrance in the midst of thunder, lightning and heavy rains, we have to drive through numerous rivers that are flooding the road.  I tell Rosie that this is similar to the wadi floods I encountered in Oman, on some of the few occasions it rained.  I generally feel confident crossing the rivers in the car, but then we get to one that is quite deep and raging.  We pull off the road at a high spot to wait for the water to go down.  We get out of the car to check out the flood.

and the flooding begins
and the flooding begins
floodwaters across the road
floodwaters across the road

It takes us quite a while to get out of the park because of all the flooding.  When we finally get out on the main road, Route #62, we have to head west to Twentynine Palms, where our hotel is.  We come quickly to a traffic jam.  The traffic heading west is not moving at all!  Periodically cars come from the opposite direction, heading east, but in the westbound two lanes, we are at a dead standstill.  People are getting out of their cars and walking around.  What’s so frustrating is that we’re not on a divided highway, just a highway with four lanes.  Seeing the eastbound traffic go past means that the traffic is not being properly managed; we should be alternating going around what we assume is partial flooding across the road.  It turns out we sit in this traffic jam for nearly two hours without moving!!  By the time we get to our hotel, The 29 Palms Inn, we are exhausted and frustrated from sitting in that traffic with no idea what was happening and when it would end!

Hopefully tomorrow, we can go back into the park and explore Hidden Valley and the Cactus Garden.

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23 thoughts on “a stormy afternoon at joshua tree

    1. That’s for sure, Carol. It was quite the adventure, and I think Rosie was a little worried when we started crossing the rivers in the car! I was a little worried myself, but I’d done it before in Oman (however I had a 4WD then!).

    1. I’m so glad you liked the pictures of Joshua Tree, Bert and Rusha. It was really an adventure with all that flooding! Reminded me of being in Oman! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. By the way, I first saw your blog before I went to China and now I’ve just returned from spending nearly a year there. It was quite an experience!

  1. We had a great weekend Cathy. I was really impressed how you kept so calm as you drove through the flooded roads.
    Love the post. You’ve got some wonderful pictures of the Joshua trees.

    I look forward to our next adventure 🙂

    1. It was quite an adventure, wasn’t it, Rosie? I luckily did manage to keep my calm through most of the flooding, but some of the rivers were a little too deep and raging for my comfort! I hope we can have another adventure before long!! Have fun in Toronto!

  2. What amazing scenery and vegetation and so deserted, so different to China. Good job you didn’t go for that hike. The rain seems to follow you around Cathy.

    1. Oh yes, the deserted desert, Pauline! It was great to have a place with so few people. Our national parks in America are so much different than China’s (and dare I say, better?).

      It was a good thing we didn’t go for that hike as the downpour came shortly after. However, we did get to go the next day (post to follow before too long!). It does seem I’ve had my share of rain, especially in China! However, I have to say, the weather in Virginia since I returned has been mostly sunny with clear blue skies!!

  3. It’s such a recognisable and hauntingly lovely landscape, Cathy, and the atmospheric skies just enhance. Adventures with Rosie has a certain ring to it 🙂 I still find myself looking for temples though! Have a good weekend 🙂

  4. What an adventure, Cathy, through an incredible landscape. Fantastic pictures. Have had to cross through creek beds in North Carolina mountains, after rains, and it does feel daunting at times. How nice that you and Rosie could reconnect.😊

    1. It was a fun, and a bit harrowing, adventure, Lynn, and the landscape was fabulous. It is daunting crossing sudden flooding rivers in a car, especially if you don’t have an SUV. It was great to reconnect with Rosie. 🙂

  5. Loved these photos! Not sure how come I did not get a notification for this blog! Your photos make me so wish I could drive, then I could get out and see these amazing part of the United States which you cannot get to without either a tour or a car. I love rain whenever and wherever it falls, especially in places you least expect it, like a magical desert. Wonder why there was so little desert vegetation in Oman when there is so much in Joshua Tree!

    1. Hey there. I’m not sure why you didn’t get a notification for this post. Maybe you’re not signed up for notifications on this particular blog?? It is quite an experience to find rain in the desert, and it certainly makes for a real adventure! Oman did have its share of vegetation, but of course there are lots of factors that make each desert unique. 🙂

      1. Indeed! I am signed up and now I am getting notifications! Perhaps it was my oversight as I get tons of notifications in my email now for some reason and I may have simply missed it in the deluge!

        Speaking of deluge, my facebook page is full of images of submerged cars and flooded plains in Nizwa from colleagues who are either still there or sharing from people who are still there. It still amazes me that every year the people are as unprepared as ever as their tiny ditches and man-made gullies are never a match for the rainy season floods. I just think of the cats who get caught up in it and drown, though because of how horrible their lives are perhaps it is a blessing that so many do not survive them. xx

      2. It doesn’t help that I have 16 different blogs so if you want to get notifications, you actually have to sign up individually for each one! It’s really a pain and now that I have some blogging experience, I probably wouldn’t have done it that way. But they are more like diaries for me. That organization is good for me, but not for anyone else!

        It is crazy about the flooding in Oman; when it happens people really are ill-prepared there!

      3. I like finding new blogs I have not yet read, so I don’t mind!

        Yes you would think the Omanis would have clued into their shocking unpreparedness for a very common, annual occurance. The students go mad when they see the rain though, I did like to see them all run outside to look at it. I am just sad no one ever invited me to go camping with them once Sara took an instant dislike of me for reasons I never found out despite how much she helped me with the cats before I arrived and how I tried to not impede or invade her space either. That is my biggest regret, the camping trips I never got invited to knowing every weekend there were people inviting each other for overnights in the desert and I was never invited once. xx You were the only one who invited me away and I will always be grateful and cherish those memories. xx

      4. I was rarely invited for camping trips in the desert either, but then I’m not a fan of camping and I made that generally known. I was very particular anyway about who I wanted to spend time with, and Sara was never a person I cared to spend time with! xx

      5. I guess just the idea of not being invited when for the whole time I was there I made it clear I was very keen to go camping, and Bev and the lady with the tiny jeep, all sorts of them went camping every weekend. I was invited once the day I arrived with Sara and that Humaid and his little American boyfriend to their home for dinner that same week, but apparently I pissed Sara off royally when I was never even anywhere near here ever and I made sure to not bug her about questions just like I did not want to impose on your because you both helped me so much before I arrived, yet… she badmouthed me so badly it shocked me how nasty she was when I had never said barely two words to her plus I always fed her strays 3x a day when she was out of town, and I bought up 50% of what was on sale at her cat fund the first week or two I was there, where I first met Warwick actually. Anyway. I am more pissed off my camping matress was stolen along with all that booze I left Lucy Jane by that Saneeta a royal drunk Indian lady who weighed about 85 pounds but a total lush. She was fired within a month for that, but of course Gavin got away with much worse behaviour because he was a man I suppose.

        What series are you into now on Netflix?

        xx

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