Near Vegas, is the Hoover Dam, amazing for its scale, technology and art deco detail. We spent an enjoyable day exploring the dam and the vistas across from it up the canyon to the new super bridge and down over Lake Mead. Dixie sent a flock of pure white cranes soaring as she charged at Lake Mead for some stick chasing. A hearty number of Marathoners plodded across the desert seeking out the finish line.
A few experienced sailors braved the lake despite the high winds. Many families were swimming and picnicking along the desolate stony sand beach.
Next stop; Mohave Desert; 29 Palms RV Resort. Once again we were in a flat dry valley surrounded by distant mountains. We were treated to a most spectacular moon rise. The full moon showed its pale opal back behind a crisp profile of the mountain range. The silhouettes turned deeper blue and their crests glowed orange as the disc pushed higher up into the sky.
Our campground was dusty and hot. A golf course ran along behind it with grass dry enough to burst into flame any minute. The "greens" were spray painted on! We filled our canteens and headed into Joshua Tree National Park. There were many similarities to Death Valley but with more abundance of grasses and trees. As Chris noted in Death Valley, many miles of rocky fields and boulder-mountains looked like they'd been constructed by a couple of giants in competition using over sized steam shovels and bulldozers. Similar expanses could be seen in Joshua Park. The rocks in many places are much larger and rounded. They are blond coloured and textured like rough grade sandpaper. Many sit atop one another reminiscent of "cartoon" Coyote waiting, ready to push the boulder onto the unsuspecting roadrunner below. Remarkably, cactus, juniper and mesquite are able to sprout and grow in the cracks of these monstrous rocks against all odds. Quail, about the size of our blue jays are a common sight rolling along the sand or flying with their odd headdress-feathers bobbing.
The park is named after the Joshua Trees common to the area. Looking like a cross between a cactus and a palm tree, they are actually part of the lily family. When studied closely, each is very unique; some with single and tall stalks; some with many branches and some twisted with a combination of live and dead "arms" on the same tree. They really add a specific character to the desert. We also saw a number of huge Yucca cactus with curling white threads along their sharp green fronds and metre high ivory blooms blowing in the breeze. Standing on Keys Mountain at 5185' we could look out over the valley across to the Salton Sea and Mexico. It was most exciting to view the St.Andreas Fault meandering along the valley floor. On a trek into the Barker Dam, we saw some cave pictographs. Remains of a stone wall tumbled into the dried river gully. In the cattle days of old, livestock depended on the water that collected there.
Travelled south along more desert valley dotted with groves of palm and stands of green trees edging the highway. Irrigation channels refreshed the area and agriculture of vegetables is huge. It was a nice change to see fields of green and purple lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and carrots and a few fields of sheep. Providing power for the farms and surrounding cities are miles of wind mills. They were a staggering site in numbers alone, some standing still, others turning at random and others glinting in the sunlight keeping well choreographed time with each other.
Drove south for a 3 night stay at Oasis Palms RV was refreshing and relaxing. Dixie had green grass to lie on and we enjoyed drinks by the fountain and pond. Formerly an orchard, the motor homes were all parked beside lemon, orange or grapefruit trees. We had our daily fill of citrus and stocked up for the week. Palm Springs may have its share of glitterati but it remains a lovely oasis of homes, golf courses(with real grass), great restaurants, shops and museums and gardens packed with luscious petals. A film festival was on during our visit and although we encountered no famous folks, we did see many "sidewalk stars" with Hollywood heroes like Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore! The Palm Springs Art Museum has a great permanent collection and current shows included Contemporary Glass and wonderful retrospective of Andrew Wyeth drawings, watercolours and egg tempera masterpieces.
We are now near Yuma camping in the desert at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sight. The only service is a garbage bin and security from the many nearby Border Patrol. It's a chance for peace and quiet and survival based on our solar panels and conservation of water. We toured the famous Yuma jail yesterday and were treated to some fun old time gun play and theatre by folks costumed in traditional garb of Ye Olde West. Walked about the very tired Historic Yuma; one old art deco hotel was memorable. An old steam engine, broken wall and bridge beside the Colorado River, told the story of earlier days. Ended our day eating dinner round our campfire under the stars, cowboy style.
Our next travel will take us into Quartzite in Arizona for a week or more of desert camping. Look on-line to see the craziness that awaits us there. It is one of the more popular places for RVers to spend the winter.