We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot
It wasn’t long before we saw signs for Blythe, the California town just on the west side of the border. Erin was getting excited and wanted to make sure that I was prepared to take a picture of the state sign. She had a few very specific expectations on this trip and most of them involved a picture of something that she had anticipated as important – the California sign was at the top of the list – the granddaddy – the one worth turning around for. We entered Ehrenburg (notice the pronunciation is ‘Erin’ burg – weird coincidence?) and slowed down… it turns out that the state line is in the middle of the Colorado river which divides the states and we were on a bridge, on a highway… there was no where to stop.
California has border check points especially for livestock and produce… they are very protective of their produce, thankfully. We were waved through and immediately noticed a ‘Welcome to California’ sign on the right side of the highway. We pulled off on the side of the road while eighteen wheelers whizzed past us as they accelerated back up to speed, so that Erin could stand under the sign and have me snap a few photographs. We had arrived.
And yet, we were still several hours away from our next overnight stop. Since we gained another hour of time crossing the border we agreed that we would divert through Joshua Tree National Park. While I had heard about it, I didn’t know anything about the park or about the Joshua Tree. The park consists of almost 800,000 acres where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts converge. It is home of the Joshua Tree – a unique specimen that was named by the Mormons because they believed that the tree was welcoming them to the West and urging them onward.
We entered the park on the south side and drove north toward Twentynine Palms, a city infamous for its Marine training base. It was instantly apparent that we were entering a desolate desert landscape and once again, there was basically nothing… it was as if we were on Mars, I think. I’ve never actually been on Mars, but it’s exactly what I imagine Mars to be like… rocks and fine silty sand with little variation in color.
Looking across the landscape it was as if we were in the bottom of an empty ocean. You could clearly see the drifts of sand up against the mountains as if there was a soft gradual rise exactly opposite what we see/experience when at the shore and walk into the water on the sandy bottom. The road seemed to disappear into the gray sand and we couldn’t tell which way it went unless we happened to catch a glimpse of the sun bouncing off a car coming toward us. Only then could we decipher the road as it wound its way through the martian’esque surface. We had no cell service and no GPS… we simply followed the road; trusting that it was leading us toward something worth seeing or experiencing.
And it did… suddenly we were facing a field full of a type of cactus that is totally ‘unworldly’. In fact, it looks like it belongs under the water or specifically in a terrarium. I imagined it to be a natural habitat for tarantulas because they kind of look alike. It was the Cholla Cactus Garden and there is a quarter mile nature trail meandering through it but thankfully, we were short on time as I am not sure I could move away from that tarantula vision long enough to motivate myself onto the trail. And so, we kept driving.
Erin was reading the brochure about what ‘sights’ were in front of us and she started reading about Jumbo Rocks… explaining that they were created by magma pushing up through the earth’s crust til just under the surface and then over millions of years, the earth around them washed away leaving the magma remains. For you Geology lovers, I included the link so you can read about it but I assure you – there is no comparison until you actually SEE them. I have yet to see a photograph that captures the magnificence of those rocks… they are massive and they are strewn across the desert in random piles. It’s not an ‘ice age’ kind of thing – it’s not similar to ‘boulder fields’ that exist in the north but it is as unique and one of the most beautiful and interesting things I’ve seen in my life. My bucket list now includes another trip there – in a camper – with time to walk and walk and see the sunset. Around every turn thereafter we were both exclaiming “oh my goodness” and “look at that”.
Eventually we arrived at the Joshua Tree forest and it isn’t a forest per se… not the one you imagine when you say the word but I suppose it is by definition – that is, a large grouping of trees. I totally understand why there are so many UFO sightings in this part of the world… those aliens probably think they are ‘home’ when they come upon this landscape. For all of my East Coast friends and family… it will be mind blowing for you; treat yourself with a trip to Southern California and make the drive!!
We came down out of the mountains into the north side of the Palm Springs desert and once again I was amazed at the number of wind turbines capturing the currents moving through the valley. I am impressed with the implementation of alternative energy and for some reason – enthralled with wind farms. When we were in Europe a couple of years ago I stood in amazement of them and the fancy of it has not tired yet.
I arranged to meet up with a longtime friend for dinner. I would say an ‘old friend’ but we are both of the age that ‘old’ has a different connotation. We met 35 years ago when she was my boss and after my brief stint with the company, we became friends. She is one of the only people in my life still that remembers me as a young woman madly in love with my blonde prince and it was really fun seeing her again. When we arrived at the restaurant she immediately commented on how much Erin looks like the young me. I’m never sure how Erin feels about that but she is always gracious. What is odd to me, just a little … is that I left California when I was 23 – almost from that very spot and here we were connecting with someone I knew back then as my 23-year-old daughter is entering California… how weird is it to think of that night as some kind of ‘portal’ for the continuation of some cosmic unfinished business??
Ummm… sounds like a sci-fi novel and I offer it up to anyone who has the energy to create it!
We had been on the road for six entire days and it was almost over. This roadtrip, a priceless adventure with my daughter was almost over. For the benefit of our budget we opted to stay out there in the East Valley overnight and drive into the city so that Erin could view LA in the daylight. This had been a dream for almost half of her life and I wanted it to be special for her.
To be continued…
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