I was visiting California, so palms trees were to be expected. Not, however, in the middle of the desert.
Welcome to #hike2 of my 52 Hike Challenge for 2018: Lost Palms Oasis Trail. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about this challenge, check out my #hike1 post.
Hike 2 began not long after hike 1, in Joshua Tree National Park, on the same day. The trail began in the lower desert portion of the park about a 40 minute drive from the high desert section. This part of the park has no Joshua Trees, but lots of other shrubs and cacti, including an entire garden of these crazy things, called Cholla cacti:
Lost Palms Oasis Trail begins at Cottonwood Springs, which is full of palm trees, which seem entirely out of place amid the desert landscape. Normally, there is a visitors center, but we were there on the first day of the government shutdown, so all the services were closed. It didn’t stop the tourists and hikers, though; there were quite a few folks at the Springs.
Once we got onto the trail, though, the crowds shrunk a bit. This hike is nothing fancy; it’s 3.6-3.7 miles out and back (for 7.2 ish round trip), and it’s a steady up and down tromp through the desert. Most hiking sites say it’s moderately difficult, and I imagine it would be in the blazing sun; there’s no shade on the trail except at the Oasis. We were blessed with partly/mostly cloudy skies. The last descent into the canyon that holds the Lost Palms Oasis is treacherous, but the rest of the trail is pretty chill. Not to say I wasn’t sucking wind occasionally (I totally was), but there’s plenty of down to go with the up.
But I get ahead of myself. On the way out, a few features of note included several sections of hiking through a wash through soft sand, and about a billion different kinds of cacti. This was one of my favorites – from afar it looked like a red pouf.
Closer investigation revealed it was definitely not poofy.
I will confess, at about 3 miles in, I was starting to feel the fact that I hadn’t hiked in several weeks. Then we came up a little rise and this view was laid out before us, which gave me a boost:
When we reached Lost Palms Canyon, a little spur took us to a view of the Oasis from above:
Weird and random, right? Then it was down into the canyon, which, on my rapidly tiring legs, was a slow trek. Once down there, we marveled at the huge palm trees, climbed a few more rocks, and had lunch in the sunshine. Lunch featured oranges picked from a California backyard, and an attempt to eat avocados before they were ripe (not recommended).
Then it was back the way we came, and this part of the hike quickly became about adapting our paces to the other folks out on the trail; as the day got older, more people appeared. I briefly led us astray as I followed some girls ahead of us onto a trail that wasn’t the one we wanted, but Shawn brought us back on track. And as we neared the end, I realized the importance of drinking lots of water while in the desert; though I had been drinking, it wasn’t enough, as my leg muscles started to cramp. Luckily, I was able to drink more and keep it from getting too bad.
Later that day, when we looked at our hiking ap, Shawn remarked that we actually made pretty good time, which was a pleasant surprise to me, since, as the one leading, I was sure I was going way too slow. This brought to mind another moment from a hike a few months back when I encountered random strangers – twice – on a loop trail, and on our second meeting, one of the guys looked at me in surprise and exclaimed: “wow, you made good time!” I’ve decided I like it very much when I hear that phrase. 😉
Moral of this hike? Drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, wear a hat, don’t rush. Take time to stop and smell the cacti. And pack a yummy lunch to eat under palm trees in the middle of the desert, which, no matter which way you look at it, is pretty cool.