February 16, 2015

Lost Palms Oasis

There's something about the desert that makes everything dusty and saturated at the same time. Colors look sun-kissed and a little worn beneath the hot sun, but the sky is the kind of blue that makes you revel at how big the world is and how small you are. It's a rich blue that I'm convinced only gets that way in the desert.

That last bit might not be true, but I have never seen a blue that looks like a desert blue.

Where better to enjoy that bright blue sky than on a 4 hour hike through the desert? Of course, going to my favorite place in the world (Joshua  Tree, if you had any doubts), we decided to travel to corners unknown to us -- a part of the park that we had not yet been.

After tweeting at the park, asking for a hike suggestion, they let me know that Lost Palms Oasis was one for the books. The cool thing about the park is that it's the meeting place of two deserts -- so the plant life and wildlife in both sections of the park are different. Intrigued, we trudged our way an extra hour to get to the Southeast corner of the park and made our way over.

There are a couple of things to note about this place.

For one, the entrance is highly deceiving. You're met with big, beautiful palm trees that tower over you like ancient desert warriors. They were beacons of light and signaled the nearness of water. But that's about it -- as soon as you get onto the trail, the palm trees disappear and you have absolutely no shade until you get to the oasis.

For another, if you go early in the morning, you can apparently greet some big ram sheep. They use the oases in the parks and do most of their roaming in the early mornings, so there's no camping allowed on the trail. You can easily go back about a mile and camp at the Cottonwood campgrounds if you wanted an early start, but still -- very different wildlife from the other side of the park!

And another, you need more water than you think. We went on a particularly lovely day -- it was in the mid-eighties and there were a cooling breeze. But I still drank my way through about 4 water bottles on the hike alone (and then guzzled down two more in the car).

It was insanely sunny and I got a bit dehydrated (yes, even after all that water -- sad), but the hike itself was beautiful. I was met with cacti I had never seen before, like this tall beauty. I have no idea what it's called or why it's evident in this desert and not the other, but it blew me away.

Look at these colors!

This shot was an accident, but I decided to include it anyway because you can see a bit of what I think is a spider web. Some sort of desert web-ness. 

As you so long, you realize that you are walking down a riverbed. And, if you're like me, it suddenly makes sense why the trail was closed in 2013 and 2014 due to flooding. Unfortunately for us, there was no sign of water anywhere -- but, still, you're walking along a riverbed!

It was hot.

I don't really know what to say other than it was hot and sunny. I couldn't find shade so I sat on a rock to get a drink of water and rest my weary, weary legs. I need to get back into shape, apparently.

Parts of the trail were steep and narrow. This bit was a small dirt path going down the side of one little mountain-hill and onto the next. But after the first leg, you get to a place where you are reminded that where you're walking was once a river.

After a grueling 2-3 hours, after going up and down hills and baking in the relentless sun, you finally make your way to the canyon. And from there, it's an even steeper way down to the oasis.

I wish I could tell you that the palm trees were resting next to pools of cool, cool water. Unfortunately, I can only say that this view was the best view. There wasn't any water when we got down there, and it was a little bit disappointing.

Though, to be fair, I thought the hike was well worth the time and commitment. The desert is absolutely beautiful, and though the oasis was dry, the actual hike in itself was the reward. 

Though, the palm trees are rather pretty, are they not? They seem so out of place in the middle of the desert, but I would thank everything good if I were lost in the desert and found my way to palm trees. They always signify water, shade, help, something. Sometimes, that little shred of hope is all you need.

You can sit and enjoy for a while, but remember, you have another hike back ahead of you. So rest up, drink up, and head on back. But be careful! Especially when you're making your way down to the oasis and back over the first leg of the hike back. 

I had the misfortune of falling...twice. My hand got a little scraped up, and I have a lovely line along my leg (though that one is from not paying attention and running right alongside a cactus). Looking at the photo, it totally looks like no big deal. But it burns! When I shower, the wounds (so dramatic) burn and ache. I swear.

Luckily, the hike back doesn't take as long as the hike there. When you see this little sign, you almost want to jump up and cheer. You are almost in the clear, and almost back to the car. You can take your pack off and let the wind dry what is most definitely going to be a sweaty back.

Too much information? Nah, not for us!

The sun is much lower at this point and bathes everything is a beautiful, golden light. Rocks that were once almost bleached white in the sun now turn into golden gems stacked alongside the desert. Cacti take on a new life and you wonder if you look as sweet beneath that sun.

Big, beautiful, healing sun.

That sometimes gives you the weirdest tan lines imaginable.

From there, before you know it, you're back at the entrance. Once again you see big palm trees rustling in the wind. They look a little sleepier with the setting sun, getting ready for the trail to close to hikers and open to the wildlife of the desert.

They stand as guardians, watching over all those who pass through. They wave goodbye to those who made their way all the way, and wave good luck to those who are just getting started.

The hike definitely isn't easy, but it's one that I'd highly suggest to anyone who's up for a 7.6 mile hike. It's not terribly difficult, though there is a significant amount of climbing as you get closer to the oasis.

But! The sights are well worth the journey. And once you're done and you're making your way back towards civilization, you're greeted with a gorgeous sunset, and mountains that ache to be remembered.

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  1. These photos are amazing! I love hiking through the desert...I used to live in Las Vegas, and I always found the desert surroundings to be so peaceful. I definitely need to make my way to Joshua Tree! :)

  2. Oh man it looks hot but also very beautiful! I love how colorful this post was! :)


  3. I am pretty sure I would have died if I had tried to take an almost 8 mile hike. I don't think i should be allowed to do anything like that until I've managed to run at least 4 miles in the blistering heat. Your photos are gorgeous too!

    Cielo | <a href="buildingtheconfidence.blogspot.com>Building The Confidence</a>

  4. Wow. So pretty! You could sell these photos! And I liked your commentary :P I have a thing for the desert and I think I'd definitely love going here. Reminds me of New Mexico :)


  5. Wow is right!! Its absolutely gorgeous and so unique, I would love to visitt


  6. Ahhh thank you!! I miss the rain and having different kinds of weather. But while everywhere else is cold and wet, I can't complain about the sun!

  7. Yes, definitely. The desert is so peaceful and calming. Joshua Tree is one of those places that lets you freely roam the desert and discover little bits that you might not have otherwise been able to see. I love it! Please please do go :)

  8. Thank you lady! Hahahaha it was suuuuper hot. Such sweat.

  9. LOL to be fair, I haven't run 4+ miles in a reeeeaaaally long time. The great thing about hiking is that you get to go your own pace and while this one wasn't easy, it was totally worth it. I choose hiking over running any day!! (I'm also such a bad runner)

  10. Aww thank you lady! <3 I haven't been to New Mexico is a really long time, but ah, desert states! You should totally go if you get the chance. It's 2-3 hours away from LA, but you drive by a big ol' dinosaur on the way there. :)

  11. I hope you get the chance to! Joshua Tree is one of my fave fave fave places.

  12. I should try it then! I expect the worst but you never know!

  13. All these pics rule. I wish I could visit!


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