Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Couple Recent Trips

Last week and this weekend I/we went on a few trips around and near Southern California.  Last week Nolan, Maggie and I drove to Joshua Tree National Park.  It was on my list of parks I really wanted to see.  It was about a 3 hour drive from here and with HOV lanes through the busiest parts, the drive wasn't too bad.  It rained most of the way out, but on the way back the view of Mount San Jacinto was really nice.  There was more to Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms than I was expecting.  There is plenty of food and gas, and the gas was actually cheaper than LA!

Joshua Tree National Park
I have to admit I didn't really know much about Joshua Trees, or even what they look like.  This park has more to offer than just some Joshua Trees.  It was great views of the Pinto Basin, lots of rock formations to climb on, and a great view of the San Andreas Fault.  We first visited the visitor's center in Twentynine Palms and stamped Nolan's National Park Passport book.  They had some nice information about the area to.  From there we drove down to Cholla Cactus Garden.  On this drive there are nice views of the Pinto Basin.  The cactus garden was a nice little walk and some of the cactus were in bloom.  Next on our drive back north, we stopped at White Tank, which is a campground along with some rocks to climb on and a trail to an arch rock.

Next we started the drive west to Keys View, which is an overlook of the San Andreas Fault.  On the way, drove through some valleys full of Joshua Trees.  It was a nice little drive and it was interesting to see how quickly the landscape changes through this park.  Keys View was pretty with many sites within view.

Panoramic View from Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park
Pictures from Joshua Tree National Park
Death Valley National Park
Last weekend we decided to meet Maggie in Las Vegas for a day and a half.  I had always said that my first driving trip to Las Vegas, I wanted to drive there via Death Valley.  It is a little out of the way, but Death Valley is out of the way from everywhere, so it kinda makes sense.  The day we were there, it was cold (50-60), windy, and rainy.  So this meant that it wasn't unbearable heat and that the mountains were a little different color.  We started from the west end of the park and drove to Furnace Creek.  This is where the main visitor's center and hotel are located.  On the way there, there are some nice views and windy roads.

We got our maps and our stops picked so we started driving toward Badwater Basin.  This is the lowest point in the United States.  Along we way we stopped at Devils Golf Course.  This landscape looked like plowed land, but it was all salt blocks.  On the way back out of Badwater Basin we took Artist's Drive to see Artist's Palette.  This little road was carved out of rock and leads to a beautifully colored rock.  As we were leaving the park, we stopped at Zabriskie Point for one last look at a colorful landscape.

We finished the drive to Las Vegas and found a room at the Stratosphere for cheap (where you get unlimited trips up and down the tower for views of Vegas).  We found some yummy pizza at Albo Pizza and then decided to go up the tower, even though it was late.  It was neat to have that view of the Strip at night!

Pictures from Death Valley

Valley of Fire
The next day we went up the tower again, and then drove out to Valley of Fire State Park.  Maggie had been here a few days prior, but didn't get to spend much time.  This is a really nice state park with lots to see.  The colors and formations are great, and from there we took the scenic route back to Henderson via Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Valley of Fire State Park

The next day was Hoover Dam day.  Both Maggie and I had been there when we were young, but Kacey had not yet been there.  It was much more developed than I remember as a kid.  The elevators were down that day, so there were no tours.  But we still went through the Visitor's Center and walked across the Dam.  After that, it was just a quick 6 hour drive back to LA!

Pictures from Valley of Fire and Hoover Dam