We arrived home last night from what I can only describe as an epic desert road trip. I had planned to start doing posts on specific places and plants today, but decided that one more overall post is in order. I saw, learned, and experienced so much in those ten days… my head is absolutely reeling. While I may have tweeted and posted a lot of cellphone pics over the course of the trip, what I have shared so far is only a speck of sand within a vast desert of STUFF. Wow, wow, WOW. What a place!
This trip was really great, but also, in hindsight, a little bit crazy. Not including local trips within specific areas, we drove approximately 1000+ miles in a heatwave. Everyone we met responded to our route and agenda in exactly the same way. “You’re doing all of that now? In the summertime?” The bad part about going in the summer is that it was unbelievably hot. Temperatures rarely dipped below 100°F and maxed out at around 116°F. There were moments when I could not believe the heat I was experiencing. One woman told me she had experienced 125°F and I am gonna go out on a limb and say that that must feel like your organs are being cooked. At the same time it meant that we were sometimes nearly alone inside the National Parks and on the backroads we travelled. And our hotel rates were the cheapest I have seen since the early 90s! Unfortunately, it also meant that many roadside rest stops were closed so we had to make sure that we always had an abundance of water, food, and a full tank of gas just in case.
As a survival and sanity preserving measure we did end up having to make a few adjustments to scale the trip back slightly from our original agenda as we went. For example, we knew within hours of the first day that we would not be making it to New Mexico and that we would not even consider the possibility further. By the afternoon of the second day I had already suggested that we stay in Joshua Tree a third night and that was before we even got there. That turned out to be a very good decision. I loved it there! While in Joshua Tree, we elected not to drive north to the Mojave National Preserve as we had originally intended, but instead spent the day driving the loop inside Joshua Tree National Park. We stopped to take photos so often that it took us hours longer than we anticipated and would have slowed us down considerably the next day when we drove out through the park and down to the Salton Sea. We eventually arrived in Tucson, Arizona exhausted and feeling out of sorts so we decided to skip Saguaro National Park entirely, a choice that is somewhat ironic given that learning about the park years back was the sole reason we opted to go into Arizona at all! That said, I don’t regret the decision. We drove backroads and smaller country highways the entire trip save for one stretch where the I-8 was literally the only way forward, so we saw a heck of a lot of saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea). Not going was worth the small amount of downtime.
And in case you’re curious, the song we played most often on the trip: “Child in Time” by Deep Purple. That song perfectly captured the mood in an array of desert environments. Driving alone through the desert is definitely where you want to break out your vintage heavy metal.