TO Guy and his beautiful family:
We too enjoyed the vacation with you all, and we were glad to be exploring the beautiful park with your family.
We spent the evening driving the eastern road of the park to the Cholla Cactus Garden in the Pinto Basin. The pictures of these cacti glowing in the setting sun can't do it justice. There were thousands - growing 3-5 ft. apart, many as tall as Sierra! We also spied many calico cacti topped with luscious blooms of magenta and red. The Ocatillo Patch just down the road was more sparsely populated, but one plant right near the road offered some impressive red flowers atop its tall spikey branches.
On Monday, Chip and I woke before sunrise to capture some great photos of the peaceful desert waking. We then explored the Oyster Bar, watching climbers scale the impressive "Cap Rock" in the distance. Gabe, Chip and I climbed as high as we could, where I spotted some mammoth red barrel cacti below. Once back on the ground, I hiked through a rocky wash, passing many varieties of cacti, and happened upon a desert tortoise! I was thrilled to find this endangered animal in its element! The others joined me in watching this tortoise make its way over the uneven terraine, stopping to hide only briefly as it caught sight of its audience. It was about as large as this laptop, a drab gray color, a miniature version of the giant tortoises we see in the zoo.
We then had a picnic lunch before hiking Hidden Valley trail, once a meadow enclosed by granite hills, where cattle rustlers would hide their pilfered herds. I enjoyed this 2 hour hike as much as the Barker Dam hike, but on this Monday, it got hot! We saw large lizards sunning themselves on the rocks, and later discovered that they are known as Chuckwalla. We also photographed a speckled snake emerging from a Creosote bush.
It was good to have a day to explore as a family and soak up the enduring peacefulness of the beautiful desert. Feeling refreshed and inspired, we packed up on Tuesday morning, had heavenly showers at the Joshua Tree Park Store, and had smooth sailing for our travels back home, pulling into our garage at 1:55 a.m. Wednesday. The kids slept in until 10:30 before heading out to school, and we have all been moving in slow motion since returning home, only half-heartedly trying to kick our jet-lagged minds into gear...
Your little troopers did so well, climbing rocks and playing contentedly, enduring the cold, wind and sun! I was amazed that your boys were up for the challenges of climbing every mountain, excitedly testing their strength and autonomy in the process, yet able to call out for a hand when feeling unsure. Your family shines in your seemingly endless activity. You and Meg were equally exceptional in handling it all !!! You impressed us with your skills as parents, in your ceaseless communication, patience and supportive teamwork that is so admirable of two so busy! Your efforts will continue to be stepping stones for well-adjusted, happy children. Thank you for sharing the adventure in good spirits, and for the efforts you made to share a week with us! You all deserve gold medal camper awards! : )