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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park

Above, the Cottonwood Spring entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The second part of my weekend trip to the Mojave Desert (following my visit to the Gen. Patton Memorial Museum) was to go to the Cottonwood Spring Campground in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park is only a eight miles from Interstate 10 and is not too far from the Patton Museum.

The park is unique as two distinct deserts, the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, meet at the park.

I reached Joshua Tree National Park within 15 minutes after leaving the Patton Museum. The park doesn't have a "traditional" national park gate with a ranger kiosk at the Cottonwood Spring entrance. Instead, one has to drive to the Cottonwood Spring Visitor Center to pay the $20.00 entrance fee and get the park newspaper and brochure. I was told that paying for the campground is at the

Above, The Beast at the Cottonwood Spring campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After leaving the Visitor Center, I headed to the Cottonwood Spring Campground (it is about a half mile away). At the Visitor Center, signs indicated that all other of the park's campgrounds were full and as of 10:15, there were 14 campsites available at Cottonwood Spring.

While on the way to the campground, I stopped off at the turn-off for the dump station. There was a clean (potable) water faucet there and I filled up my fresh water tank. After I filled the water tank, I headed to the campground.

Photo highlights:

Above, a view of some rock formations near the campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Cottonwood Spring Campground Amphitheater. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, rock formations near Cottonwood Spring. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Cottonwood Spring oasis. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, rock formations of the Colorado Desert. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a Colorado Desert rock formation. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

At the campground, I drove around a couple of campsite loops to see what was available. I selected one in Loop A (site 4), which was perfect for The Beast as it was a back-in site. Once I backed in, I took the short walk to the campground's payment and information area to pay for the site. There, visitors take a pay envelope from a dispenser and complete the site's information and their vehicle information. Camping fees at Cottonwood Spring are $20.00 per night. I was only staying one night, so I sealed a $20.00 bill in the envelope and stuck it into the payment slot and I was done. On the envelope is a tear-off tag that visitors also complete with their site and vehicle information. This is clipped onto the campsite's post to let the ranger (and others) know that the campsite is occupied and paid for. Simple!

During the rest of the day, I roamed around the area near the campground and made some coffee. The park allows generator use during certain hours of the day, and since I arrived during one of those periods, I fired up the generator and made some coffee.

There is no cell phone service in the park, except in very few areas.

After dinner (chili and beans) , I attended the Ranger Program at the campground's amphitheater. It was a very informative presentation on the constellations of the night sky. It lasted about an hour. The sky was very cooperative as it was clear out and there were plenty of stars to see. It was clear enough to see a band of the Milky Way galaxy. It was very cold out. It was so cold that it was uncomfortable sitting on the concrete benches, so I stood the whole time.

After this, I headed back to The Beast and jumped into bed. As the campground is 3,000 above sea level, it was colder than at the General Patton Memorial Museum campground the night before.  I had to have The Beast's heater on all night.

This was the fourth national park I visited this year, a record for me. The others were Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Zion National Parks. Thankfully, Joshua Tree National Park is only a few hours away from Los Angeles and easy to access.

It was very enjoyable and if you like camping and seeing nature, I recommend a visit! It would probably be best to visit Joshua Tree National Park in the spring as the desert flora will be in bloom and visitors would avoid the hot summer heat during that time.

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