Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 1

Our inspiration to explore National Parks this year is that we have a 4th grader and the National Parks have a promotion to get every kid in a park, so that was the impetus to get our kids and ourselves out exploring!

 

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The Almond grove at sunset

 

 

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A Peach in the Almond Tree
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The Almond Orchard next to the RV

 

We drove down via Shafter where we made an overnight stay at an RV to break up the trip, tired from the drive and wrapping up school and work we were ready to relax and we were in holiday mode at long last! With a beautiful sunset, we took a walk through the almond fields before heading on over to the RV for dinner of lentil shepherds pie heated up in the microwave. Our host made a huge fire to roast marshmallows for a treat, we stayed out there with the fire for a while until it was too chilly and we were back in the RV for some reading and sleeping. The stars were out and we enjoyed a dark sky with a sliver of a moon.

After our night in the RV we arrived at our next destination the Air BnB called the Atomic Tiki Ranch (I will feature in another post!) and settled in there before we headed out to the Joshua Tree National Park for our first day of adventuring in the park

We wandered down to the visitor centre to get a plan on what to see and do and our first stop was the Cholla Cactus Garden AKA the teddy bear cactus. As cute as they are, they are super spiky, there were so many in this area by the carpark with their shades of yellow and brown. There was a nature walk around the cacti and I just loved the changes in colour on the plant and the detail even in the dried up stalk of the plant – you can really tell this is a desert plant when you look closely. The kids also decided they wanted to do their Junior Ranger badges and this began their time researching and exploring!

 

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So many gigantic rocks to climb!
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Even little caves to hide in.
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We had our binoculars to look for birds or animals
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A circle called a Dike – features in rocks that are resistant to erosion
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Arch Rock

 

For our trip down from the gardens, we looked at the rangers recommendations and decided to explore other parts of the park so the kids could climb and check out smaller hiking trails for our first day. We found Arch Rock at the White Tank campground – it is a small walk but well worth the journey to see this incredible rock formation lying atop many other boulders, my hubby is in the pic and climbed up to go beneath it. I also climbed up to get up there but I had the camera so I couldn’t really capture myself up there, it was easy to get up but not so easy to climb down with a camera around my neck! Eventually, I just came down the way I went up and all was good, thanks to the help of Missy.

 

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Desert flora

 

The cool thing about the desert is its expanse but look closer and you find these amazing plants and even though they are dry from the heat they still look beautiful in the light.

After out Arch rock climb, we stopped off at Skull Rock and totally lost the trail so we had to climb in and out of the boulders to get back to the car. It was certainly a mission though I do recommend if you are climbing rocks be super careful with your camera and have somewhere to pack it safely. I had to hand my SLR over to my hubby to look after while I was scrambling up and down over the rocks to find the trail with my son. We made it to the top of a rock and it was very exciting!

For this trip, I have to break this up into smaller bite size days as I took over 600 pictures and it was really hard to edit it down to just a few, but these are my faves and I wanted to focus on the highlights of the desert landscape.

The Pinnacles on Earth Day 2017

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Another weekend away this time with the Camping Crew from our elementary school. We have a super team of Camping organisers at our school and they found this great camp location the Pinnacles National Park on the weekend of Earth day. We were warned that it would be busy this weekend but I did not predict the crowds we experienced on Saturday. Earth Day coincided with National Park week which meant that it was free to visit the park so it was packed, lucky for us we had a group camping reservation for 80 of us adding to the crowd!

We had visited the park in March 2013 with our camping buddies and the only thing I really remember from the trip was that our 2000 Honda Civic broke down on the way home. I tracked down video footage of what it was like exploring the caves back in 2013 with the kids so small! And home from the Pinnacles is close to a 1.5-hour drive and 90 miles (144 km) away we had to tow our car back home – thank goodness for AAA. Looking at a map of Australia – it is a similar drive amount from Melbourne to Lorne, and from what I remember we camped there too (B.K. Before Kids) in the rain.

It was just three of us exploring the caves this weekend as the older one stayed with his friend at the campground with the other families. Missy was very excited to see the inside of the caves and explore with her headlamp and of course, it needed batteries! Anyway, we powered on in the dark for moments in time until we came out of the tunnels and back out into the daylight after being in the caves, we all enjoyed exploring the caves with moss covered rocks and hearing a water fall, that I could not see.

Pinnacles National Park unique rock formations were created from a volcano which eruped 23 million years ago. The movement of the earth created talus – broken rock fragments that have collected over the years to make the caves. It was crazy to look up and see a massive boulder held up by an arrangement of rocks below it.

It was the perfect hiking day but there were so many people on the trails as well so we went back. We wandered a bit more and we ended up taking a loop turn back to the entrance. On the way back to camp, we did wander by this mini cave that Missy worked out that birds lived in by the amount of poop residue on the ground.

The rock formations are like pieces of nature art with their colours and textures. I especially loved this rock with the coloured lichen of yellow, orange and green. This rock looks like a dinosaur mouth next to Missy who was excited to have found another small cave.

The photo opportunities were endless at the park and unfortunately, the sky was a bit overcast which was a shame as the rocks would be amazing with a blue sky behind them. The colours and formations of the rocks were amazing. As we were camping we hung out at the pool afterwards where a few kids were brave enough to go for a swim in a cold pool. It was hot enough for a t-shirt and skirt but not hot enough for a dip in a cold pool for me!

 

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Scooting around the campground
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The potluck area and the other group camp where we saw California quails

 

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Our group campground hangout

 

Such a beautiful spring weekend to be away and enjoying a National Park on Earth Day 2017 and hanging out with friends from school. It is always a perfect way to relax as the kids entertain each other and the adults are free to chill out and do whatever.

 

 

A nature lovers paradise

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All I can say is that I am planning another trip back to the wonderful Washington State. Washington is a nature lover’s paradise, from the tiny little fungi to the massive old growth trees. It was such a perfect way for us all to recharge and revive ourselves at the end of the year. I wanted to capture Whidbey Island in all its glory and our memories of this wonderful getaway.

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Getting used to the island we did some exploring down to the most southern end of the island, Possession Beach which was quite small though full of small wonders including a harbour seal washed up on the shore that had been attacked by birds revealing its skeleton and inside – with the kids it was an anatomy lesson right there on the beach. My favourite is photographing the log sculptures washed up on the beach they are so picturesque and make excellent props in photographs.

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A view from our house was this beauty Mt Rainier sitting at 14,410 above sea level so it is visible from all over Seattle. This snow covered beauty revealed herself the morning we were leaving for Deception Pass, and we finally enjoyed a clear morning to see this glorious mountain and have a beautiful sunny/shady day.

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An hour drive up north was Deception Pass State Park where a Discovery pass is $10 for a day and you can see as many as you can fit in. The best deal is the annual pass for $30 that is if you are planning to spend more time wandering in the woods. If you are prepared for hiking here with a raincoat with a hood you are so set! Across the water, from the car park, we saw the Olympic mountains on the horizon. That particular morning the navy jets were doing their flying training over the mountains and in the second image you can see the black speck above the mountain which is a jet plane.

We did lovely 2-mile return hike up to the Deception Pass bridge via lots of trails to calm beach inlets along the way. Once we finally reached the bridge it was suggested that we walk on the windy bridge then I realised I had a slight fear of heights and quickly turned around! :/

On our way back to the house we stopped by Fort Casey and checked out the lighthouse in all its Christmas glory. In the darkness of an early winters evening, we drove across the 525 (the main freeway) to Coupeville to see this super cute historic town with lots of stores set in historic buildings it is definitely worth a visit, just for its quirkiness.

On Christmas Eve we took a drive over to Port Townsend via the ferry to check out what we could of Olympic National Park. The park is gigantic just like any national park and takes days to explore which is part of the magic. I really want to go to the Hoh Rainforest though in the time allocated it was too much driving which is a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles yes from the Twilight fame. I am already planning our next trip to Forks (again from Twilight) so we can check out the rainforest and explore this incredible park. We travelled past Dungeness National Refuge and went for a hike to the spit which is gigantic at 5.5 miles long and getting bigger year by year with a wild beach with huge waves on one side and a birder’s paradise on the other with the calm waters.

We made it to the Olympic National Park visitors centre in Port Angeles and spoke to the staff about what it would take to explore the vastness of this place. Hurricane Ridge required chains this time of year so we took a wander to the forest behind the visitors centre for a tiny peek into the grandness of this National Park.

On the way back before driving onto the ferry we checked out Port Townsend for some pics and then the trip back on the ferry was magical with the sun setting with many colours painting the clouds. I love this blue house we drove by, complete with a dragon wind compass.

Christmas day came and we really were working up an appetite for our shepherd’s pie, wine and chocolate feast. We walked up the beach on a 3-mile walk to as far as we could go and turned around. It was an excellent beach for dogs off their leash and my favourite was a black pug with a neon pink puffer jacket – styling! The kids loved climbing the trees on the beach and enjoyed us daring them to jump from the log and land on the beach, Missy here got some air but landed right in the water on the shore – oops cold feet!

Our last day on the island was a very windy 3 degrees celsius so we decided to have a picnic in the woods. The kids were super keen to go so we grabbed the opportunity and off we went. This morning after my shower I looked out the window and found this buck out in the garden enjoying his breakfast. Today we went to South Whidbey State Park for a wander through a magical old growth forest! The trees were breathtaking and I was in awe of the nature that exists in this small little forest from the tiny fern leaves en masse to the 500-year-old cedar.

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I am hugging an old growth giant, to take a picture in all this shade and green was quite difficult to get the light right and it is hard for the kids to hold my heavy lens so this is the best I could get including the bag as a prop for size comparison 😀

Everything is covered in green moss or ferns it was such an incredible and soul fulfilling experience sharing space with these trees who have been here for so long. The fungi were everywhere especially where trees had been cut or fallen, I read this interesting article about the future of some of the old growth trees in the campground and why the campground is closed.

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We found the 500-year-old Ancient Cedar and I am giving it a blurry virtual hug as you cannot go near the tree so people do not harm it and the roots. The forest was saved in the 1970s by a group of tree huggers (my people) who literally hugged the tree to save it from logging. My boots are now trashed after all the trail walking over mud, sand and rain and these Tevas really did an awesome job keeping my feet warm on all these hikes!