Sunday, October 21, 2012

DAY 59- Joshua Tree National Park & Dinner...

In the morning I found myself heading downstairs in mid-70’s weather to have breakfast at the Best Western Plus Palm Desert Resort.  I don’t think it really even cooled off last night at all.  The breakfast is the wonderful part about staying here.  There are four set choices and they cook it to order.  I decided on pancakes with sausage and I took my breakfast outside in a trellis covered patio area where little sparrows are enamoring a little boy.  “Look Daddy!  That bird flew right over me!”  The boy says with wonder in his voice.  Yes, I back to my usual people watching as I eat my breakfast.  A majority of the people I see are retired couples or families.
Photo- Near southern entrance of Joshua Tree Nat'l Park. 
The plan for the day is to head out to Joshua Tree National Park.  I follow the Google directions with some confidence because there’s limited roads in the area.  I head east on I-10 and take an exit that’s about 26 miles out in the middle of nowhere that mentions Joshua Tree National Park.  I passed a sign about 8 miles prior that mentioned no services for the next 28 miles. It so very true there’s nothing out here.  The radio loses reception as I drive north into Joshua Tree National Park.  I also notice that cell phone reception is patchy at best too.  6 miles in there’s a Cottonwood Visitor Center where I stop show them my National Parks Pass and get a map of the Park.  I’m at the southeastern entrance of the park which is kind of the back way into it. 
Photo- A grouping of Cousin It's relatives?
I drive north along the only road through the park.  Quite a bit of the stark landscape is rocky and arid.  Most of the plant life is short and stocky succulents.  There’s a beauty in the starkness of it and the clouds are light wispy trails in the sky.  It’s a wonderful day.  It reminds me a little of driving through southern Utah except there are more rocks and Joshua trees here.  I always thought that the short stubby Joshua Trees remind me of an old slightly graying version of the Cousin It, from the Addams Family.  But in this case, Cousin It also has a spike ‘do’ on top; a green spiked crown.  Joshua Trees were named by the Mormon pioneer settler’s heading out west on the wagon trails.  They actually were called something else but the Joshua name just seemed to stick.

I stop at some of the Exhibits and read about them; like the Smoke Tree Wash which has light thin billowy cotton looking trees that are smoke trees.  This wash seems to have quite a few of them.  The exhibit sign also says I don’t want to be standing by this sign when it’s raining because I would be in the middle of a river; good to know.  As I stand there I hear the pure silence of it all.  It was refreshing after a day of so much activity at San Diego Zoo.  It was a nice day out enjoying the solitude of nature.
Photo- Fried Liver Wash? Really?!?
I continue north going by the Porcupine Wash, the Turkey Flats, and the Fried Liver Wash; quite the list of names.  Then, I come upon the Ocotillo Patch and I stop to take a couple of pictures of this species of succulent.  They look like a grouping of tall branch straws pointing towards the sky with florescent green on them.  Some of them bend out or curve towards a certain direction like the wind has guided and spaced them that way over time.  The ocotillos stand out among the mostly dry sparsely green stubby plant life that’s around them. 
Photo- A wind swept Ocotilla Cactus.
Photo- The Cholia Cactus Garden.
Shortly after the Ocotillo Patch there’s the Cholia Cactus Garden.  This is something to see.  There’s a fenced off trail path that winds through the garden area that maybe goes about ½ mile.  Soon you are surrounded by these alien short rounded forms.  They almost look like they are ready to bloom into flowers.  The buds are puffed up.  The angle of the sun on them makes them even more striking.  It’s fascinating walking through them but the signs warn not to get too close to them because they are prickly lot.
Photo- A Cholia Cactus up close.
Driving past the garden the landscape starts to evolve into an even more alien landscape.  There are larger lighter color rock formations that look like piles of rocks.  The road comes to a “T” intersection and I turn left towards Jumble Rocks.  I drive through the campgrounds that look like a wonderful place to camp for the night.  I see a trailhead called Skull Rock and get out to see if this might be a good second hike of the day.  I read the sign and it says it’s about 1.5 miles.  That would be a wonderful hike I think as I start down the path but then I see a sign saying beware where you step there’s rattle snakes a foot.  Nah, on second thought I don’t think I want to try this trail by myself especially with poor cell phone reception.  Plus, I’m really not too fond of snakes to begin with.  I also notice that the wind that was keeping it cooler to explore the area has stopped and it’s starting to get pretty warm out.
Photo- Almost an alien landscape in Joshua Tree Nat'l Park.
I start to drive further west along the road but then I look down at my fuel gauge.  I should have filled up at the last stop along the interstate.  I look at the map and decide to turn around.  I go back to the “T” in the road and turn left towards the north entrance hoping that I can easily find somewhere to fuel up at the small town of Twentynine Palms; I know what a name for a town, huh?  I stop at the north entrance station and say hi to the gal in the booth.  She starts to wave me through after she sees my annual park pass but I ask her if she knew where the closest gas station is.  Sure she says and gives me the directions.
Photo- A look at Skull Rock where I decided not to hike.
Snakes and me don't mix!
I drive down a hill three miles and then take a left into Twentynine Palms.  I easily find the gas station and fill up my tank.  I go a bit more into Twentynine Palms and am so glad that I decided to stay in Palm Desert instead of this smaller community.  The hotel selection is slim and the restaurant selection is even smaller.  I did however find a McDonald’s where I drive through for a diet coke and a small chicken snack wrap; just a little something to tide me over until my dinner date later on.

I turn around and head back to the north park entrance at Joshua Tree.  I say hi again to the gal and thank her for the directions.  I say I didn’t want to run out of gas somewhere in the park.  She laughs and agrees that wouldn’t be a good thing; as she wishes me a good day.  I start to head back towards the south park entrance.  I look at my cell phone’s clock and realize I’ve spent more time than what I thought.  I should really be getting back to Palm Desert.  I quickly finish the diet coke and decide it might be best to stop at the Cottonwood Visitor’s Center and see about some more water to drink.  The heat is really making me sweat and I’m trying not to run the air in my car to ensure that the car doesn’t overheat.  I purchase a slightly cold bottle of water and head back to the interstate.

I had hoped to get a little pool time in when I get back to the hotel but I just feel a bit zapped after the heat at the park.  I take a quick nap instead.  Shortly after a short nap, I take a shower and try to figure out what to wear for my dinner date.  John had mentioned that the place would be some place where you could wear shirt and shorts; so I figure casual and wear jeans.

I drive over to the restaurant where I’m to meet John.  It looks like it’s on the second floor of a clothing store in the downtown area of Palm Desert.  I walk around and find stairs heading up and discover I’m in the middle of a walking mall with two levels.  I locate what I think is the door to the restaurant.  I walk in and I right away feel like I’m under dressed.  A woman in a short cream linen dress and stiletto heels walks in the door before me.  Then, I see another gal in white designer jeans, a black ¾ sleeve t-shirt and designer accessories and I know I’m under dressed.  This is strange because usually I feel over dressed for stuff in Utah.  But I’ll play it like I don’t know it and see how the hostess reacts to me.  It’s a guy and he doesn’t give my clothes a second look.  I guess I'm alright. Whew!  I don't have that much clothing with me on this trip and the few "dressy" pieces I have I need to wash.  In fact, I need to find a place to do my laundry soon.

John had texted me his was on his way, and I’m always one to be on time or before time.  So I sit at the bar and look over the restaurant and the menu.  The restaurant is a Tommy Bahamas’ and is a bit more upscale than I’ve been in a while.  The description and prices on the menu clinches it, as the most expensive upscale place I’ve been.  I’m a bit nervous that a date is going to be paying for my meal.  As you can guess, I’m not in my element at all. And I’ve haven’t dated that much in a while.

Dinner and the company were wonderful with the exception of a table nearby that was shouting at a football game on TV.  I teased John about needing a remote for their volume.  But I really didn’t mind I was tucked into the rib eye steak I had ordered.  It had been a long time since I had a steak this good and I was really enjoying it.  We ended up sharing a HUGE piece of pineapple chiffon cake.  I kept on teasing John that he needed to take the rest of it home and have it for breakfast.  He kept on saying no you take another bite of it as he sipped on a glass of wine from a bottle of wine we were also sharing.  We were both stuffed.  We talked for a while after we finished eating but the restaurant was starting to close up for the night. 

That’s when John told me that this restaurant was part of the men’s clothing store that was downstairs from the restaurant.  That makes sense now that I could quite really find the “main” entrance to the restaurant.  I had felt like I came in the back door to something.  I guess that there are only certain Tommy Bahamas has these restaurants and as we sat there he talked to the waiter about a recent remodel done to the restaurant. It was all new to me.

John walked me out to the entrance I had come in, gave me a hug and wished me a good night.  I walked across the street to my car and back to the hotel I went.  A short time later, John sent a text to make sure I made it back to the hotel safely.  I answered and thanked him again for dinner.  It was a pleasant way to end the day.

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