May 27, 2012

Trip Start Apr 28, 2012
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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today was another cool morning, but thankfully it was a sunny day and we decided to head north east on highway 62 to "Joshua Tree National Park". The drive took us through the city of “Yucca Valley” which was a large community with a lot of new commercial construction. Arriving at Joshua Tree we were greeted with a line of traffic waiting to pay the daily fee at the park entrance, because of the holiday weekend the crowds were larger than normal.  We had previously visited the park so we decided to limit our visit to two of the most popular attractions / views in the park; “Hidden Valley” and “Keys View”.  “Hidden Valley” was a 1 mile walking loop trail winding among massive boulders with some minor change in elevation.  The best part of the walk was watching the rock climbers scale the piles of rocks; some were free climbing while others were using ropes and gear.  The area got its name because it was a valley surrounded with shear rock walls and piles of rocks that kept the area hidden from local ranchers and was rumored to be the hideout of cattle rustlers.  After a picnic lunch we headed to “Keys View”, at 5,185 feet it was the highest point in the park accessible to the general public.  It was a long drive up the mountain, but the views from the top made it all worthwhile; we could overlook the valley far below that consisted of Palm Springs and her sister cities, the windmill farm to the west, the desert and the mountains to the south of Palm Springs.  The haze was not too bad today and so the view was fantastic.  Driving throughout the park we saw many of the trees for which the park was named, the Joshua tree only grows in this part of the state.  Leaving the park we headed north west on Rt 247 and then south on Rt 18 to Big Bear Lake.  The drive on Rt 247 was over the desert floor and uneventful; however the drive on Rt 18 was exciting as it took us from the valley floor to an elevation of over 7,000 feet in a relatively short time up a steep and winding road with grades ranging from 6% to 18%, and many severely tight curves.  After a long climb we came to a large flat grassy area that appeared to the bottom of a large shallow lake that was dried up, and further down the valley there was a very small lake.  Proceeding on for another 5 miles we finally came to the town of Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake.  The lake was huge and to our surprise, although the temperature was 62 degrees, there were many boats on the lake, with some water skiers and a lot of fishermen.  Big Bear City was a picturesque mountain resort town that caters to the lake crowd in the summer and to the snow skiers in the winter, driving through we could see many restaurants and small motels tucked beneath huge pine trees.  The lake was created through the construction of a dam across a narrow but deep pass between two mountains.  Descending from the higher elevation of the lake we saw several winter ski runs along the highway.  The trip down was beautiful, with enormous pine trees, numerous yellow flowering bushes and wonderful views of the valley below.  This side of the mountain range at the higher elevations was green and sometimes lush compared to the barren mountain side of rock on the other side of the mountain.  On the way back to the camper we stopped for dinner.   

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