Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Salton Sea and Joshua Tree National Park

After leaving San Diego we made our way inland and down into the desert.  We stopped at the Salton Sea.  It was kind of a strange place.  Salton Sea Beach is an almost abandoned town, many of the buildings empty and falling apart.  It turns out the eastern shore is the much nicer side, but too far out of the way of our trip.  At least we got a look at the sea.

The salt content of the Salton Sea is much higher than the ocean which is one reason it never caught on as a big tourist attraction, another reason may be the beaches littered with fishbones.

  Just throw your towel down right there.

Pelicans out on the water...

and seagulls.  Mine?

After a couple more hours of driving, and finding an Indian casino where our GPS told us a MacDonald's was supposed to be, and a stop at a WalMart in La Quinta for some last minute camping supplies, we made it to Joshua Tree National Park.  Of course, we put the kids in front of the sign to prove that we  were there.

Our first stop was a short nature trail, where we learned the names of many of the plants found in the park.

Watch out for snakes!

Go ahead, touch it!  I dare you!

The desert just goes on and on.  Then there are some mountains, and then some more desert.  Right below is the Pinto Basin in Joshua Tree.  This is the border between the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts.  The Mojave Desert is higher in elevation, and different types of flora and fauna.

Cholla cactus up close.  Just brushing it lightly can cause it's needles to embed themselves in your skin.  Only the cactus wren can land on it safely.

The titular Joshua Tree.  They can only grow at certain elevations and certain climates, but here they were all over the place.

This one is about as big as they get before they fall over under their own weight.

Our trusty and much abused van.

We were running late all day, but we made it to the campground just ahead of sunset, so we didn't have to put up the tents in the dark, but it was close.

The night sky at Joshua Tree can be spectacular if the air is clear, and fortunately it was for us.  Juan got some awesome pictures of the night sky.  Click on any of the pictures to get a larger view.

The two brightest stars seen here are the planets Venus and Jupiter.  Higher in the sky, you can see the Pleiades (a sort of bright fish hook shaped group of stars)

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