From Mary’s desk:

Everyone was up for the 1.4  mile hike into the oasis. The terrain was rough and steep but the weather was mild in the early morning. Joshua Tree has many designated hikes like this one, with well marked pathways. Hikes are designated by their difficulty and length, some long, some short.

Everyone had hats and we carried plenty of water. You feel quite rewarded when you’ve hiked a hill and come around a harsh rocky corner to be greeted by a fragile beauty such as this one.

Cactus are complex and fascinating plants. Its hard to imagine that a barrel cactus less than a foot tall,  is older than the kids.

There were skinks and lizards scooting around rocks. Some lizards do “push-ups” which the boys loved to watch.

We met birders on the trail who helped us identify some of those we saw and heard.

It helps to be part mountain goat between flower or special rock sitings. On the hike we didn’t see vast swaths of wildflowers. That came later when we drove through a lower elevation of the park.

Cactus blooms are showy;  the wild flowers fragile and often tiny to survive the harsh environment.

The oasis was a refreshing goal, a place to sit and rest, have an energy snack and head back. We found things we missed on the way in, just a different perspective. The hike was well worth the three hours it took to hike in and out. We met people with even younger children that our 8 and 10 year olds.

Back at camp, Theo discovered a pit viper in a little crevice of rock where he’d been climbing all afternoon. It was chilly by then and it tolerated all of us looking at it. Nearby campers to came to look at it as well.

The snake is poisonous and very small. When discovered, it was next to a rock and hard to see, it was so well camouflaged. It moved about 10 inches into some covering plant debris and stayed quite calm with the flash going off half a dozen kids and adults watching it.

Our drive into lower elevations of the park brought us a grand vista of flowers in the fuzzy Cholla garden, the ochetea were blooming, and huge yucca plants along with the joshua trees.

We spent the evening around the campfire, eating s’mores and enjoying the day in review.

The next day we drove home past Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

Room here doesn’t allow for the many photos we took. For a link to more photos, Virginia’s Picasa album address is: http://picasaweb.google.com/vmatzek/SoCalTrip?authkey=Gv1sRgCPLX9q7R1vTrnwE&feat=email#

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