Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Joshua Tree

Quilted Sunrise
Our Camp next to Little Box Canyon
The sunrise this morning was exquisite.  The sky was quilted with pink and orange which gave the bare canyon walls a warm glow.  We packed up early and drove the few remaining miles to Joshua tree.  Katrina went for a run and I explored the park a little on my own.  The Live Oak picnic area caught my attention and I was surprised to find a full sized oak in such an arid park.  I am uncertain exactly what kind of oak it was, perhaps a Shrub Live Oak (Quercus turbinella) hybrid with Valley Oak (Q. lobata).  The leaves had pointy tipped lobes and the acorns were an even tan color, lacked any fuzz, and were 30-40 mm long and 14-18 mm wide.  The acorn caps were in clusters and had warty tops with short felted hairs.  The Barker Dam area has a number of Shrub Live Oaks, but they had already dropped all of their acorns, were much scrubbier, and didn’t have lobed leaves.  We also encountered Single Leaved Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), which is a scrubby little pine tree with robust needles in clusters of… 1.  I never knew there were any one needled pines.  We played around on the rocks, photographed the shapely boulders, and jealously watched climbers (I wish I had brought my climbing shoes).

Shrub Live Oak hybrid (Quercus turbinella x lobata)

Shrub Live Oak hybrid (Quercus turbinella x lobata) acorns

Katrina in her element(s)

We wanted to find a quieter place to camp, so we left the park before sunset and drove north towards the Mojave National Preserve.  Just after the sunset we past the expansive salt flats at Bristol Lake and stopped to collect a few of the massive salt crusts.  You can see Katrina was pretty happy about it.  We continued east a little further until we found another flat chunk of desert to tie up our horse and poke at the fire while our can of beans cooked.
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