Into the Desert

After leaving the highlands of the Sierra Nevada we were greeted with the sweet smell of blossoms as we drove through miles of orange tree groves. We were headed to Death Valley on the 178, a big detour, but we figured it would be worth it.  Luke noticed a little spot on the map just off our route called the Trona Pinnacles, we decided to check it out.  It was a great find and we ended up camping the night there, sitting out under the amazing desert night sky.

Trona Pinnacles

Our camp at the Trona Pinnacles

We headed into Death Valley early the next morning, our faithful old truck ticking over to 400,000 km as we entered the park.  It was a bit ominous but uneventful, we even drove down a few bumpy dirt roads with it and it all held together.  Death Valley is a strange and desolate place, but when you look closely there is life all around.  We found that the spring wild flowers were still blooming and there were creeks full of tiny pupfish.

Death Valley road.

Our first evening in the park we hiked into Golden Canyon and sat high up on the ridge to watch the sunset.  Our homemade shower came in very handy that evening as we washed away the heat of the day.  The campgrounds in Death Valley have water but no showers.

Golden Canyon

On our second day we discovered more stunning canyons, salt flats, and old borax mines.  It really is an interesting place, lots of history and an amazing other-worldly landscape.  Spring is the busy time of year, but I’m not sure I would venture there any later in the year as we already had a high of 36 degrees.

Devils golf course
Bad water

Artists drive

We hadn’t read anything about the Mojave Desert but it was on our way south so we figured we should have a look.  There was a great visitor centre at Kelso Depot, an old railway station, where we were greeted by 2 very friendly and knowledgeable park rangers.  They gave us a map and told us all about the area, even where we could free camp. This National Park has been one of our favourites, and I really think it had a lot to do with the welcome we received.

Mojave Desert

Our first mission of the day was the Kelso Dunes, which at first look didn’t look so bad.  However after an hour of trudging slowly uphill through sand we were finally looking up the sheer wall that made up the biggest dune.  Luke went straight up, I tried, and ended up crossing to the ridge but did get to the top.  It was noon when we got back to the truck, not really the ideal time to be out in the desert sun.

Climbing the Kelso Dunes
Top of the Kelso Dunes

The Mojave Preserve has the largest “forest” of Joshua Trees.  They are strange and amazing plants, not actually a tree but in the Agave family.  We explored Hole-in-the-Wall and Banshee Canyon, fascinating landscapes of rocks and cactus.

Joshua Trees
Banshee Canyon

We did stay at one of the free campsites, the only regulation being that we had to find an existing fire ring.  Camping in the desert among the Joshua Trees was one of our most memorable spots so far.

Our free campsite in Mojave Preserve

We spent a day exploring Joshua Tree National Park, another unusual place full of huge boulders and interesting plants.

Joshua Tree National Park

Today we are enjoying being in air conditioning and swimming in the pool.  It is early afternoon in Indio and the temperature is already 96 degrees and expected to get hotter.  We are enjoying a few days break while visiting my dear Auntie Betty and Uncle Peter and being treated to some delicious home cooking.  This has been our first check point, and we have been on the road now for just over a month.  It’s all going well and we are still having an amazing time, and now planning the next leg of our journey through Arizona and New Mexico to San Antonio Texas!

Flowering Cactus

4 thoughts on “Into the Desert

  1. Oh wow, I’m dripping sweat just thinking about how HOT it is!! (and thinking about how much HOTTER it might be with our planned June/July trip, yikes! Hmmmm… maybe we should back it up a bit and go when its cooler… ? Absolutely stunning pictures! Did you honk the horn when the odometer flipped over to 400km? That’s what Opa used to always do!! Any time a significant number flipped over… we’d get so embarrassed when we were teenagers, haa!


  2. Oh it looks amazing and as always the photos are so great. love reading this and looking at your photos so keep them coming. Well take care and enjoy x


  3. Fantastic photos all the way! But what really made my day was your picture of 400,000km… Three generations of odometer-watching… you can’t fight the power of DNA!


  4. Is the Joshua Tree N.P. where the inspiration for U2’s J.T. album came from ? And is the Mojave where all that Alien nonsense happened ? Either way – amazeballs once again ( how I hate that term but thought it appropriate to use at the mo ! ) x


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