When we were in California in June so Matt could be a groomsman in a friend's wedding, we decided to get up at the crack of dawn one morning and go for a hike! Matt has fond memories of Joshua Tree National Park from his childhood and teen years. He was a summer camp counselor, and over the years I've heard tons of stories from his camp days. When we realized we'd have a free morning, he insisted that he show me the place where he used to spend so much time! I was all for it!
We woke up at 5am and went on a breakfast hunt. We wanted our usual egg sandwich, but after trying a Starbucks and a local bakery with no luck (everything was still baking since it was so early), we admitted defeat and went through the drive-thru at Del Taco.
Breakfast burritos - they were fairly sketchy, to be honest, but it was food.
It was a bit of a drive from Placentia, but when we got close I began to get very excited about the scenery I was seeing outside of my window!
Wind farms near Palm Springs. I'm reminded of a scene in the movie Rain Man when I see these.
Had to take a few photos of the famous Joshua Trees!
The landscape had so many interesting features!
Ready to get to the trailhead.
We chose to hike up Ryan Mountain, which is a fairly short hike at 3 miles for the round trip, and an elevation gain of 1,070 ft.
The scenery was very different than hiking in the Smokies. The green woods and moist air were replaced with red deserts and smooth rocks.
Mountain ferns were replaced with cacti.
Hundred year old trees were replaced with beautiful gnarled manzanita.
Shaded trails were replaced with open, rocky hillsides.
We saw many interesting plants along the way (I'll let my more green-thumbed friends do the identification for me)
About halfway up. You could see forever and ever!
My body must be more acclimated to the humidity back home than I thought, because the air in the desert was so dry! It felt like I was sucking air straight out of a radiator. Never in my lifetime did I think I'd be wishing for MORE humidity!
Gorgeous scenery. Even though it was a hot day, the tallest mountains in the distance were snow-capped!
See the snow? Way out there?
Pretty light sparkling through the bushes
More smooth rock. In some places, smooth rock was covered in tiny loose pebbles, which created some tricky footing at times.
More interesting plants
More glowing morning sunlight.
The trail may be short, but you gain quite a bit of elevation over a short distance. Matt caught me taking a breather just before reaching the top. Hmph!
"The light is crap when you look at me, so look toward the sun! Now you have to POSE!" Sigh. The things you have to do to get some decent light in high sun.
More pretty prickly spiny friends.
Another Joshua Tree
At the top!
Standin' on the summit. The wind was fierce.
Don't you just love him.
Big pile of loose rocks at the top.
Success! After a quick snack and water break, we got the heck out of there. The sun was climbing higher by the minute and the heat was getting intense. With no shade to protect us from the rays, we needed to bolt, lest we look like lobsters at the upcoming wedding!